Tag Archives: Assessment

“Miss, did I do OK?”

“Miss, did I do OK?”

This my least favorite question, not because I don’t want to give feedback to my students, but because the question itself often reveals that the student has not yet connected with the purpose or the outcome of the work we’re doing.  I see this especially from my dev ed English and reading students.

My goal is to help students understand the assessment tools we use so that they can gauge their own success and understanding.  Without such independence, they won’t be able to increase their reading and writing proficiency to the level demanded by our college courses.

Two tools I use are the SPUNKI prompts and a self-assessment checklist.

The SPUNKI prompts are used to help students talk and write about what they read.

  • S I am surprised that . . .
  • P I’m puzzled by . . .
  • U I found it useful that . . .
  • N It was new learning for me to know . . .
  • K I already knew . . .
  • I It is interesting to know . . .

Source: On Course Workshop  accessed June, 2016

The self-assessment checklist below helps reading students see growth in their own use of our literacy tools.

My Reading Report

Comprehension Pre-test _____ Comprehension Post-test _____              Gain  _____

Vocabulary Pre-test _____ Vocabulary Post-test _____
Gain _____

My TP vocabulary book ________________________

Highest Newsela Lexile _____   Average Newsela Lexile _____

My Reminders for Active Reading
(20 minutes a day minimum)

Before:

  • Predict
  • Activate prior knowledge

During

  • Summarize
  • Make connections
  • Check for understanding
  • Take notes

After

  • Evaluate what I learned
  • Revisit my predictions

Once students complete the checklist, they can participate more fully in a conference with me about their own learning.  This discussion is a precursor to a final reflective essay focused on their mastery of the course competencies.

By the time they’re finished, I want them to be able to say “Miss, I did well, and here’s how I know that.”

 

MEAGs & Innovation of the Year

This week’s writing ideas for Write 6×6 center around how we as members of the college community have worked to improve student learning or ways we improve our own work with students or colleagues. A nomination for the Innovation of the Year award was submitted for the Maricopa Engineering Advising Guides. An official announcement should be out next week to learn how our nomination fared.

Maricopa Engineering Advising Guides

During and after the great recession, I got more serious about my role in advisement and how to better help students looking for secure and meaningful careers.  I made an intentional choice to improve STEM advising because I researched and learned the increasing need for a modern workforce well versed in science, technology, engineering and Mathematics. It was important to me that our students had the best possible advising to aid their success in achieving jobs that would sustain them in the future. One of the better ways I knew to magnify the quality and quantity of advisement was to streamline advising for engineering students. Engineering pathways are among the most complex and lengthy educational paths our students navigate. Mistakes, which are frequent, cost students and advisors time and money. Trust me when I tell you how much time it used to take to get it right.  Advisors had to use multiple source documents to provide accurate information and that took time and lots of print outs. Building on the work of Paula Cheslik, GCC Engineering Faculty who had information sheets that showed students how their GCC classes transfer to ASU, I built a 2-page “Advising Guide” that efficiently combined four distinct source documents into one. Enhancements included information on course sequences, prerequisites, GPA requirements, and options for concentrations that maximize transfer success and keeping students on track to graduate. The guides were used at GCC, reviewed by a host of people, and refined for three years before launching them Districtwide this past summer with the help from faculty and staff. Now every engineering student at any of the Maricopa Community Colleges has a guide they and their advisor may use with consistently accurate information. The companion “Tips for Success If You Want to Be an Engineer” helps students as early as high school be informed and ready for our engineering pipeline to ASU. Hooray! I feel really good about creating a new, highly- beneficial resource with help from a diverse group of dedicated individuals committed to student success. Special thanks to all those who took time to be involved improving and implementing the guides and resources, especially Paula Cheslik, Bassam Matar, Dr. Karen Conzelman, Dr. Ibrahim Naim, Kathy Silberman and Jay Franzen. You can view the Maricopa Engineering Advising Guides here!   Filed under: STEAM Tagged: Assessment, Write 6X6

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.

 

Finding Inspiration from Isolation

This year marks the three-year anniversary of my teaching solely online as an Adjunct Faculty at GCC. At first glance teaching from the comforts of home might seem like a win-win situation, but I can assure you there are many setbacks, each of which deserving its own article. The most obvious and problematic setback is that of isolation. I don’t get to see my students face-to-face unless it is via a rare Skype conference. I don’t get to have my treasured lunch outings with Gary or Andy. I don’t even get to participate in Assessment Day or Adjunct Appreciation. I am, by most respects, a ghost in a machine that sometimes sends out e-mails and makes videos to remind the world I exist.

So where do I find inspiration in such a situation? Fortunately, even behind a keyboard and monitor, there are those who have managed to help keep me improving my courses and teaching, and grading all those essays.

Although not a part of GCC, my wife’s support is essential to my improvement. She is a workaholic, a zealot for her career and passions, and a stickler for punctuality. Her work ethic and drive have, over the course of our fifteen years together, rubbed off. I do my best to seize what opportunities come my way now, one example being that I volunteer as an emergency substitute teacher at my community’s local school. When my schedule permits, I get to work with and teach children ranging from kindergarten all the way to High School seniors; it is a blessing, and something I would not have pursued if not for my wife’s example.

Despite being a solid twenty-hour drive away from campus, I still treasure my conversations with the faculty at GCC. This includes both full-time faculty and fellow adjuncts like myself. Alisa Cooper has been my bedrock ever since I left the desert valley. Her drive and curiosity about new and exciting technologies has prompted me to reform how I approach online learning, all for the better. During her time as my direct supervisor she pointed me in the direction of opportunities and helped me correct and learn from my mistakes. Thanks to her I am now a video fiend. I’ve started my own youtube series of power lectures, and made myself less of a digital phantom to my students by posting videos and voice overs regularly. This continued with Beth Eyres who took over for Alisa after “Dr. Coop” (#cooperize) moved to the CTLE. Beth has helped me feel like I am still connected to the English faculty and community at GCC. She often informs me about events that I can take part in from a distance, like this blog. Most importantly she has made me feel like a contributor. I have worked as adjunct for four colleges in my ten years as an educator and she was one of the first supervisors to make me feel like my opinion mattered. Helping to create and develop the online English 101 shell has been one of the best experiences of my career, and I have Beth and her faith in me to thank for that.

Inspiration, even in isolation, is not hard to find when you stay in contact with the right people. My family at home and my family at GCC continue to be the right people to help me improve and better myself every day.

 

Developmental Education . . . My Own

Four years ago Mary Jane asked me to take a late start ENG101.  It was a last minute request . . . those happen a lot in our ever-growing, ever-changing department.  I said of course, and I was scrambling to pull my things together.  I asked for a copy of her syllabus to help me and was startled by a new term:  Google docs.

When I asked MJ for clarification, I had no idea that I would be opening a door to one of my greatest areas of personal growth.  She took about fifteen minutes to show me how she supported the writing process, not with blue folders and feedback sheets (a la Joy Wingersky), but with Google docs.

God bless the sixteen victims, I mean students who helped me learn the process that semester.  I made mistakes in giving directions and in organizing their files and in how I wanted to give feedback.  At the same time, however, I got hooked on the formative assessment that allowed me to coach any aspect of their writing from any place at any time.  Two of the students even thought it was cool that I was using something they’d used in high school for the past two years.  Glad I was catching up!

Since that spring, I’ve become a Google maniac!  I’ve used Google docs with dev ed students in learning communities; with all levels of reading and children’s lit; with ENG071 students (mostly ESL); and with future teachers.  My former students get help from me with psych or history papers by sharing a Google doc.  Teaching buddies like Roxanna Dewey and Alisa Cooper share their Google doc successes and challenges, and I learn something every semester.

The world always comes around full circle, and it did so Friday with Google docs.  In a CTLE training I got to sit next to Lauren Brandenburg, an adjunct who teaches English at North.  She reminded me that we had met briefly last year as I gave her some tips for becoming residential faculty.  While she was in my office, a student had stopped by to get help with his Google doc.  In five minutes the student had gotten support and had also modeled Google docs for Lauren.  She was hooked!  She told me that since that day she has been successfully using them with her own students.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines developmental as “of or relating to the growth or development of someone or something.”  I’m totally developmental in the area of Google docs, and I love it!  Thanks, Mary Jane Onnen!

 

How Do You Rank in Terms of the Top Ranking Capabilities of Successful Graduates?

successLast Friday, February 19, from 8:30 am to 11:30 am, I attended a presentation/workshop with Dr. Geoff Scott from Western Sydney University. I wasn’t given much information about the presentation other than I was invited along with the other Center for Teaching & Learning Directors, Instructional Designers, and Faculty Professional Growth Directors in the district. In fact, I wasn’t really looking forward to it. Who wants to spend a Friday listening to someone talk about assessment. Not this girl. Turns out Dr. Geoff Scott, Emeritus Professor of Higher Education and Sustainability at Western Sydney University and a National Senior Teaching Fellow with the Australian Office for Learning and Teaching is on a fellowship trip visiting colleges and universities across the world. Maricopa was lucky enough to be his only community college stop. His focus was on “Powerful Assessment in Higher Education” and it was quite entertaining. Of course it helps if the presenter has a funny accent and throws out words like bloody, whackit, popo, and mucking around. For example, he told us we have to detoxify the POPOs on our campuses: The pissed on and passed over. I really got a kick out of listening to him and time flew by. Mostly because he was an excellent storyteller. His delivery of the content came alive and was very informative.

The one thing that stood out for me was a list he shared with us that came out of the research they did. They discovered what the top ranking capabilities were successful graduates. The list made me think about my own successes and how my own capabilities contribute to that success. It also made me think about my colleagues that I work with on a daily bases. It reads like a dream list to me, as not everyone is as capable in all 12 areas, but it is something to aspire too. Have a look for yourself. Where do you stack up? How successful are you in your job?

Top ranking capabilities successful graduates in 9 professions

  1. Being able to organize work and manage time effectively
  2. Wanting to produce as good a job as possible
  3. Being able to set and justify priorities
  4. Being able to remain calm under pressure or when things go wrong
  5. Being willing to face and learn from errors and listen openly to feedback
  6. Being able to identify the core issue from a mass of detail in any situation
  7. Being able to work with senior staff without being intimidated
  8. Being willing to take responsibility for projects and how they turn out
  9. Being able to develop and contribute politely to team-based projects
  10. A willingness to persevere when things are not working gout as anticipated
  11. The ability of empathize and work productively with people from a wide range of backgrounds
  12. Being able to develop and use networks of colleagues to help solve key workplace problems

Who is More Nervous on Test Day — The Teacher or The Students?

You’ve created amazing and interesting lectures, outlined clear objectives, assigned appropriate reading, used technology in creative ways, conducted review sessions – you may have even told the students what will be on the test. That should be enough to ensure they will succeed on test day, right?

Much to your dismay, scores were not what you had hoped. What went wrong? Do the students just not study, do they not care? What was missing?

After my first experience with this, I started looking into what could be done to identify the needs of the students better. This is where I began learning more about using informal assessment tools.

Informal assessment is a way of determining what students are learning and where they need more guidance by interacting with them without using a “test” or “quiz” to find that result.

I began by using the 321 Summary at the end of each class. It is a simple questionnaire:

  1. Write three things you learned today.
  2. Write two questions you have.
  3. Write one thing that was helpful today.

This tool provides feedback both ways – for students to assess how I did in helping them learn the material, and for me to answer any unresolved or confusing points. It also helped me learn what teaching style I should use for certain individuals to get the most from the lecture sessions.

Asking students to reflect on the class period and ask meaningful questions about it gave them the potential for better retention of the material. It also provides them with the opportunity to practice their critical thinking skills.

I generally use Canvas to respond to their questions before the next class. If there is a common theme in the questions, I know I need to spend more time on that in the next class.

As an Adjunct Faculty member, I do not have an office or office hours, and therefore, students really don’t have the opportunity to come and see me individually without making an appointment and finding a private place to meet. It’s been a great way for students to communicate important personal or other issues they have that would normally be covered during office hours.

I have found that by communicating with the students in this fashion, they become more comfortable with me and the class earlier in the semester, and I learn more about the students that can help forge a better experience for us all.

Oh, and by the way … The first semester I used this tool, average test scores went up by 8-14 percent. Students were surprised at how “easy” the test was. While the students didn’t realize they were being “assessed,” they were able to master and retain the material more effectively.