Monday, May 08, 2006

Assessing AS Learning

Students, as active, engaged, and critical assessors, can make sense of information, relate it to prior knowledge, and master the skills involved. This is the regulatory process in metacognition. It occurs when students personally monitor what they are learning and use the feedback from this monitoring to make adjustments, adaptations, and even major changes in what they understand. Assessment as Learning is the ultimate goal, where students are their own best assessors.
from Earl, Lorna (2003) Assessment as Learning: Using Classroom Assessment to Maximise Student Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA, Corwin Press. Viewed at

It seems to me that this model is of great value! I thank Darren for introducing me to it here. I have spent some many years sharing with teachers the concept of assessment of learning and the need for a greater move to assessment for learning but assessment as learning is a new term for me. I think that intuitively I was trying to wrap my practice around it but never seemed to quite catch it. Oh that I had been able to lay out the strategies and categorize assessment as learning years ago. My students and I would have been better learners for it.

I am thinking that this is what Anne refers to when she talks of students reflecting. She has looked at reflecting many times this spring; it's so clear to she and I how important that is; I wonder why those 'in charge" keep missing it. It was something that was never as successful as I hoped in the Teaching Professions program. And now that I've had time to reflect, I'm sure it was because I wasn't asking the right questions and/or scaffolding the experience properly.

I was really excited to see Darren"s scaffolding for his students. IMHO, he has really provided an exceptional structure for his students:

The kids think the "Significant Contribution" is the hard work. This week I've explained to them that the purpose of the "Significant Contribution" is there for a variety of reasons, but mainly to enable them to make their "Constructive Modifications" which is the real hard work. ...

The actual content generated this way may be small, in comparison to a "Significant Contribution," but it requires deep metacognition and critical analysis -- an awful lot of thinking and (hopefully) an awful lot of learning.

I am sure there will be an awful lot of learning going on if his students can move far enough from what I call "get the answer for the teacher mode". I'd be really interested if students are more interested in the significant contribution, not yet really understanding the power of the constructive contribution. I think I'd have difficulty moving students to that level; although now that I've studied his model, I know I'd be more successful. And I have no doubts that Darren has all the skills needed to encourage students in this "risk taking". And I think this is how students view the opportunity at this point since they so rarely experience this kind of learning.

In an earlier post, Darren mentioned his hope students would see the power of collaborative learning. I think the technology of the wiki is perfect for that and should really move the students in that direction.

The editing of others work, in the search to make a Constructive Contribution, will require them to look at several different problems in this way. If nothing else, I hope they walk away from this experience with an appreciation of the powerful learning experiences inherent in collaboration.
Clarence adopted the model and found:

These categories of possible contribution seemed to be something that the kids could understand. It gave them a structure of how knowledge building happens, either in strides, or in the drips and drabs of improving what we already know.
This is really powerful pedagogy!!! I am so excited to learn of assessment AS learning AND to be on the sidelines watching something really special happen as kids take control of their own learning.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

National Board Certification

I've been reading the Edweek blog Certifiable since its inception with great interest. I was looking forward to seeing if the journey of a colleague might be similar in any way to mine. The blog description reads as follows:
Emmet Rosenfeld is an English teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia. He has 13 years of experience as a teacher and writer. In this blog, he is chronicling his experiences as he works toward certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards.
For the first weeks, there were numerous comments on his posts and reflections. Recently there have been few.

I remember my certification process as the most difficult thing I have ever attempted. I recall saying at different points that this is really about what they want and not how I teach. And I think in many ways it was. BUT, I learned an incredible amount about my practice during the process, perhaps because I saw that as one of my goals. I had a sense of my practice but hoped I could feel more validated. My reading of the standards really excited me. I saw myself; I saw areas in which I felt there was lots of room for improvement. Had I had those standards when I began my career I would have been a much better teacher much sooner and for much longer! From the portfolio entries, I looked for the first time systematically, analytically, and reflectively at my practice. I watched myself with young people on the videos. And I worked to improve the area of assessment; one for which I knew there was great room for improvement. I was extremely proud of my demonstration lesson, although never convinced that I would pass. My extraordinary mentor was a wonderful coach and I truly enjoyed the collaboration that NBPTS encourages among it candidates.

The assessment center exercises were challenging. I'm not a "high stakes testing" person. And I left feeling that what they would read didn't really let them know what I knew, that 3 hours of testing couldn't represent what I had learned over the course of many years of teaching.

The day the scores were posted late in November brought great joy to me. I had accomplished board certification, had scored well above the minimum required. I had completed a strenuous, rigorous process successfully. Tears of joy overflowed.

Since my retirement in July of 2004, I have ementored 3 teachers as they worked to achieve certification. Each of them has viewed the process as demanding, overwhelming, yet important to their practice.

I guess I am wondering if I really don't understand Emmet's humor and seeming sarcasm in his blog, or why then he is attempting what many teachers see as a special process to validate their accomplished teaching, since he views it with seeming disdain. And if it is his perspective on this process that has left him without commenters? I am finding his journey doesn't resemble mine at all-- and I am finding I'm losing interest except in how his readers respond to his writing.

I am glad that standards have been identified to help teachers improve their practice. I'm happy that a respected national certification is available to so many accomplished teachers! And I'm proud to be able to use the acronym NBCT.