Category Archives: Canvas

Humility + Assessment = Success

I have always been fascinated by assessment, unfortunately I know not everyone shares my feelings on the subject. I have had colleagues who consider it a dirty word. They dread the thought of it, and treat it as just another hoop to jump through when the time comes to participate.

A pre-test here.

A post-test there.

A journal reflection.

Or the ultimate avoidance, just saying a regular class assignment is, in fact, assessment.

Unfortunately, those who avoid confronting the challenges of assessments are not helping with the end goal, to improve student education through meaningful analysis and feedback.

The reason that some fear to participate in a group assessment and decide to take a solo route is that assessments are looked at as inconvenient or difficult; however, these approaches often overshadow efficient strategies for approaching this dilemma, strategies that which rely on one, simple trait: humility.

I love my standardized rubric for essays. It isn’t perfect, but it is consistent, and students appreciate that. The rubric is based off of one that is required to be used in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. That system consists of 16 colleges and every writing instructor uses the same rubric for their essays. I was lucky enough to see that rubric be initially implemented as well as its evolution over the last decade into its current form.

Now there was significant pushback when the rubric was first forced upon the faculty. Arguments ranged from “but I don’t grade essays with a rubric” to “my rubric is already better than this one”, but top to bottom it was adopted.

It is difficult to adjust teaching habits, but understand that a standardized rubric doesn’t change the way we teach, it simply unifies the way we grade. In that way, a standard rubric is even less intrusive than requiring a specific assignment for assessment.

So what is gained from using the same rubric for every essay?

Starting on the class level, it is easy to get a snapshot of student’s skills improving (or not improving) over a semester. It also allows the teacher to see if the class as a whole is struggling in a specific area (I’m looking at you point of view slips). This lets allows class needs to be addressed on a holistic level through lectures. I do this with my youtube series “English Power Lectures”, but setting aside 15 minutes when essays are handed back to address major problems does the trick as well.

When multiple faculty start to use the same rubric the assessment becomes that much more valuable. Now trends can be seen over a much larger group of students, it is also possible to see where one class struggles and another doesn’t. With this knowledge, teachers can share techniques for dealing with that particular issue. This is the beauty (and truly the purpose) of assessment. It serves as a common tool and focal point that can start an analysis, conversation, and implementation of course wide improvements.

Now implementing something district or even school wide is difficult, so start small. Talk to a group of fellow faculty (or adjunct faculty) and do your best to develop a rubric that works for multiple assignments or essays. Use that rubric in a course and compare notes. It won’t be perfect, but assessment can always be improved upon. It may be difficult to unify your grading techniques with others, but remember that teaching isn’t meant to be a solo endeavor. Instructors are stronger as a community, and students will benefit from that community. All it takes is a little bit of humility.

 

Announcements on CANVAS

 

I have found utilizing the Announcement option on CANVAS has been an effective way to reach my students. After every class meeting, I create an announcement based off the date. I include what we covered in class (linking any power points and videos), along with posting the next class period’s homework.  If students are absent, I also link any recording sheets or articles they will need.

I have had many students provide feedback on the fact that I use this feature in a face-to face class. It helps them stay on track, especially since most of them all have smart phones. They do have a paper schedule, which we always go over in class, but this provides another type of support.

Another benefit is students do not have an excuse on not having their homework completed if being absent.  It is still due, absent or not.

It is also a great way of holding them accountable…..I refer them back to CANAVS and the date in question.

 

 

 

Using Rubrics to Get the Desired Result

Today, I am known as a guy who loves all things technology, am married to Canvas and wishes Bill Gates would finally come over for dinner.

The driving force behind this technological leaning does not lie in my love for the electronical arts, quite the contrary, it lies in my beginnings as a History teacher.  During this stage of my career (my  first year) I wanted students to constantly grow to improve.  I did this through a variety of projects, but one in particular was done every single week: the weekly 15 page essay.

Essays are incredible tools that can help students and can really get involvement and buy in.  I used a variety of methods to allow for an interest in writing.  What I did not expect was how grading 248 essays every single weekend for a  year would affect me.  I began looking for ways to quicken the grading process and limiting questions on what they had to do and then more questions about why they got what they got.  I did what any self respecting 20 something year old would do…I ran home to mama.

My mother is a former English teacher and she said one word to me: rubric.  Using a rubric saved me tons of time in grading since the majority of comments tend to be similar and I could just use the one I gave in the rubric as a guide.  They also helped the students to better understand what was required for a certain grade.  Rubrics saved my weekends and I will forever be grateful to both my mother and rubrics.

Today we have online tools such as the Canvas Rubric that allows us to automatically give scores by choosing the comment from a grid.

This grid speeds up grading, gives comments to the student and speeds up the process incredibly.  Creating the rubric itself is simplified by using your current rubrics, borrowing from other teachers or using websites such as Rubistar to give you the wording you need and then copy and paste that wording into Canvas.

All in all, I did learn a whole lot from my first year teaching, enough to fill a book.  When it comes to a lesson that I use constantly and see as a way to help instructors, rubrics come right up to the top of the list.  If you have never used one, please try it.  Adding Canvas to the mix will make it even more useful.  If you wish to try, please contact canvas@gccaz.edu or try this useful site!

 

When life gives you lemons, take a walk??

stephanieThis is a guest post from faculty member Stephanie Sawyer, M.S. | Fitness and Wellness. Last week was tough for many of us, and Stephanie had a great way to handle it.

I wrote a PAR blog about yesterday’s Canvas situation. I shared it with one of my mentors, Louise So, and she thought you would get a kick out of it. When life gives you lemons, take a walk?? Enjoy! Stephanie

After my refreshing quarter-mile walk from the parking lot to my office (I know this because my I-Runner app calculated the distance), I was greeted with a district-wide message stating that Canvas was down. Not believing that such a thing was possible, I logged into Canvas to find that it was true. I didn’t panic at first because the class in Canvas that I needed to access didn’t occur until the evening, still several hours away.

However, as the hours passed while I went about my day teaching other classes, the panic started to set in. I kept thinking that it was just a matter of time before Canvas was restored. Unfortunately, that was not the case as I was now two hours away from a two-and-a-half-hour night class. I needed access to two power-point presentations, a Discussion Board activity, and an interactive, web-based activity, which were all on Canvas. I can “song and dance” a class as well as any of my colleagues, but two-and-a-half-hours is a little long.

As I started looking for my power-points on my office computer, I realized that they were on my home computer since I had created them before becoming full-time faculty and having an office computer. Therefore, I had to hike another quarter-mile back to my car, drive home and e-mail myself the power-points from my home computer. This event took about an hour in all. In addition, I had to run to the copy center and print out copies of everything that was on Canvas.

I am happy to report that I made it to class on time, had all of my materials on hand and accumulated over 14,000 steps for the day. The lesson learned was to not always rely on technology, to have a backup plan and make sure that there are master copies to retrieve in a pinch.