Assessment That Works (Or at least seems to be working)

Ever since our Middle School English department began using the Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Workshop model, #TCRWP,  as a way to teach our curriculum, I have been torn about ways to “authentically” use technology in everyday practice.

I wrote a while back about my excitement about charts and notebooks and books, and have been struggling with how to use tech in ways that make sense to my classroom. However, much of my focus has not been on technology, but more on conferring and finding my way around workshop.

As we start our second full year with the TC units, I am starting to feel more comfortable with the structure of workshop. The mini-lessons, checklists, and the run of the class are becoming more and more familiar.

So this year, I have two new goals: continuing to hone my conferring skills. I am working with our literacy coach to get the most out of each conference. We are recording my sessions and debriefing on what I am learning, but that is a whole other post and I will share videos and ideas soon.

The second goal for our team is assessment. How do we gather the data we need for the most effective teaching? We want it to be formative, have little to do with grades or evaluation and allow us to offer timely individualized feedback to match each student’s needs.

Although the year is still young, we just went through a powerful and effective assessment cycle with our first reading unit. And I want to share.

Basically, we wanted to get a peak into our students’ notebooks. When explaining the system to the students, I used the analogy of checking the oil of a car. I spoke to my class in depth about the purpose of this type of assessment and worked diligently to detangle assessment from stress, anxiety and grades.

The idea was simple: show us your understanding of each skill, show examples of these skills from your notebook and discuss what you still need to learn and ask any questions you might have.

I explained that assessment is just as much for the teacher as for the student. That by sharing what you don’t know and asking questions, you are showing your teacher what to teach you next.

I am not sure if what we came up with is “authentic” use of technology, but it got the job done for us, felt natural and ubiquitous, and allowed us to give feedback back to kids quickly and gather the data we need to teach.

The photos are pretty self-explanatory. Take a look:

Students used their devices and google docs to show snippets of their work and show their understanding of the skills.

Then I used my hybrid-data-collection-system to monitor their learning, take notes to inform teaching and send them timely feedback. The program you are seeing on the iPad is called iDoceo.

Here is a video that walks you through the “marking” side of this process:

There is no perfect model and every school and every teacher needs to find their own systems, but this seems to be working for us at this time.

Do you have any questions? Any suggestions?


10 thoughts on “Assessment That Works (Or at least seems to be working)

  1. avatarIan Tymms

    Thanks Jabiz – nice to share this because it feels pretty good as a system for gathering feedback and using it effectively and efficiently for learning. What I’m enjoying is the nice hybrid of really cool technology, like I idoceo, with the old school note taking that I’m using while conferring. There is something nice about finding the right technology for the right job.

  2. avatarAnne Marie Chow

    Really nice job capturing the work we are doing and the thinking behind it. I am so privileged to be part of this team! I am doing this work in the same way except my notebook is Evernote. I quickly add hashtag next steps on a student’s note which I can then easily search and form small strategy groups.

  3. avatarPaula Guinto
    Twitter: paulaguinto

    Awesome documentation and naming the steps of the workflow. Thanks for capturing it. Really love the process as well. Been really appreciating the design of our recent assessments too. They feel more authentic where we truly honor the killer pillars and the great work of the kids. Wow. What a journey. We have come a long way. Grateful for it all. #resumeoffailure and this #bodyofwork Sweet.

    1. avatarsamantha

      Wow Jabiz! This looks extensive. I want to have a play around with Hapara and Idocu. Thanks so much for all of your explicit info on how you guys use it:)

  4. avatarIan Tymms

    Just been reading Dylan Wiliam Where he says the best assessment isn’t just assessment for learning but it’s also assessment as learning. That’s part of the power of this process too.

  5. avatarBen Sheridan

    Jabiz, well written post. Love the walk-through video… really captures the process. Just curious, why give feedback via iDoceo rather than the comment feature in G-Docs? I don’t necessarily think that one might be better than the other… just curious as to your reasoning. Thanks man!

    1. avatarJabiz Post author

      Great question Ben. And the answer really has to do with timing and efficiency. Commenting on the GDoc simply would take too long, especially when “marking” six classes worth (120+) kids.

      And at this stage of our data collection., this assessment is meant to inform teaching more than specific skill based feedback. The quick holistic comment validates the kids’ work, gives them a compliment and a next step. The actually feedback is then taught through a conference in person.

      But if you have fewer kids and more time, then yes a more specific comment can be left on GDoc. Having said that, it is nice to have all your comments etc…in one place, in this case iDoceo.

      1. avatarBen Sheridan

        Cool Jabiz, thanks for sharing your reasoning. I absolutely agree with keeping as much as you can in one place. A constant struggle when working across multiple platforms!

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  7. avatarBrian Bennett (@bennettscience)
    Twitter: bennettscience

    Can you explain the post it notes on your clipboard? I carry one around during class and I struggle with keeping both accurate and meaningful notes in place. Do you have a system for keeping notes brief and descriptive? Also, do you focus on misconceptions? Things going well?

    Just curious about how those play into the overall assessment even if they’re not a part of the formal process you’re outlining.


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