Assessment for Learning
A blog for busy K-16 educators where we share ideas, strategies, and best assessment practices
that move the learning forward.
Cathy Box, PhD
that move the learning forward.
Cathy Box, PhD
Another way to make the learning targets clear to your students is to provide examples of strong and weak work. What quality work looks like should never be a secret. Have you ever assigned a project for your students and the work they submitted was way below par? It's possible that the learning targets and criteria for success were not clear. Remember - it's about helping students learn the concepts with depth and to the best of their ability. So show them examples! I use this strategy with writing assignments and the quality of work has gone WAY up and my time spent grading and providing feedback has gone WAY down! It's a win/win.
After you have converted your competencies or standards into user-friendly language, do the same for the rubric you'll be using (and you do use rubrics for projects, right?)
1. Identify words and phrases in the adult version of the rubric that your students might not understand. Convert the definitions into wording your students will understand.
2. Phrase the student-friendly version in the first person.
3. To introduce the language of the rubric to students: Ask students to work in groups to brainstorm ideas to answer the question “What do you think a good _______________(your assignment) looks like?” “What skills would it require to complete?” (You may need to prompt them to remember similar assignments in the past – what made them successful, or what was a stumbling block.)
4. Record their responses on the board. Keep the list in their language – don’t paraphrase it.
5. Tell students that they have developed a good list or set of criteria, and that they have done exactly what teachers and other content experts do when they are creating a rubric to judge an assignment. Tell them that their list includes many of the same characteristics on the experts list.
6. Show them examples of strong and weak work. Let students work in groups to extend their list.
7. Record their responses on the board.
8. Introduce the “expert” rubric and have students match their list to the expert list. Describe criteria that students had not included on their list. In so doing students identify what they already know, link the descriptions of quality to the language of the scoring guide, and realize that the concepts on the rubric are not totally foreign to them.
Remember that students should have a rubric that clearly describes quality work before they begin the assignment. Then let students practice by using the rubric on examples of strong and weak work as described in Step II.
This is a powerful strategy that lets students practice using the rubrics and helps them see what real quality looks like and what is expected. The conversation that ensues as a result of this activity is priceless.
Make sure that all samples of strong and weak work are completely anonymous. You may want to ask students for permission to use their work as a teaching example and then save it for next year, trade with another teacher, or use with a different class, but be sure to black out the students name. Or create your own examples, inserting the kind of errors students typically make.
1. Students work independently at first – this is not an exercise in offering peer feedback. That process comes later.
2. Distribute the student-friendly rubric. If possible, focus on one trait at a time.
3. Begin with a strong example (but don’t tell them it’s strong) and distribute or display the sample. Read it aloud if appropriate.
4. Ask students to score the example independently. After students have had the opportunity to settle on a score individually, ask them to work in small groups to discuss their judgments and the reasons why, using the language of the scoring rubric. ***This is very important. The purpose for the activity is to deepen their understanding of the scoring rubric, so as they are discussing, walk around the class reinforcing students’ use of the rubric’s language and concepts to support their judgments.
5. Next, ask students to vote as a class and tally their choices: How many gave this a 1? A 2? A 3?, etc. Ask for volunteers to share what score they gave and why. Encourage them to use language from the rubric. Refrain from expressing your opinion at this time.
6. After all groups have spoken, share the score that you would give it and justify your rating.
7. Complete the process again with examples of weak work.
Now have your students complete their own assignment using the rubric. The quality of work will improve greatly, now that they know exactly what quality does and does not look like. YES it takes time, but it is worth it.
Adapted from Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning by Jan Chappuis. 2009 by Cathy Box, Lubbock Christian University
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I am a former science teacher and currently work at Lubbock Christian University as the QEP Director and in the School of Education preparing future teachers. I am passionate about helping teachers find practical ways to improve learning!