Conferences are a way to share information about student achievements. There are a few conference options presented in the book:
- Offer feedback about student achievement
- Set goals
- Communicate progress
- Demonstrate competence
- Feedback Conference: This is when a teacher gets together with one or two students at a time and offer feedback about their progress/performance. They may have some sample work or even a test to have a point of discussion.
- Goal setting: This could be with students or parents or even both. This could be a short-term goal or a long-term goal. This could also be used to set behavior goals if that is something that needs to be addressed.
- Progress: This can also be done with students and/or parents. Parents will probably expect to have conferences about their child’s progress. This could be done with report cards and/or student work samples.
- Showcase: This is for the students to show their achievements. Portfolios will be useful with this kind of conference.
- Intervention: This is when there’s a concern with a student’s progress.
If a student is to be involved in a conference, where they are to make some sort of presentation, it is important that they are prepared for this throughout the year. The book strongly promotes student involvement in the assessment process so if students are well-versed in their progress and achievement, you could have a successful conference with student involvement.
Another important aspect of conference is preparation and knowing exactly what the purpose of the conference is and planning it accordingly. This is something I had not thought about. My conferences are usually with some notes that I want to remember and addressing any concerns the parents may have. But, I can see how knowing the ‘why’ of the conference and preparing materials accordingly will help with having a successful conference that will benefit student progress. This is the same with student conference – having a clear purpose in mind before conferencing with the students will definitely make it more effective.
Student portfolios are designed to capture student learning. They can be used in many different ways and the purpose of student portfolios should be clear before beginning one with the students. Here are a few ways portfolios can be used:
- Growth portfolios: Student’s progress will be shown throughout this kind of portfolio. These portfolios will not only showcase the best work but the lesser quality work to show growth and progress.
- Project portfolio: This will show aspects of a certain project – e.g. note-taking, research etc.
- Achievement portfolio: These will showcase student’s best work.
- Competence portfolio: These will have work that shows a student’s mastery of a certain learning objective or skill.
- Celebration portfolio: These will show accomplishments and work that the students are particularly proud of.
It is encouraged to involve the students in the process of work selection and have the write a self-reflection on the pieces of work presented in the portfolio. This allows the students to own their learning process.
This is not mentioned in the book but I also wanted to mention that digital portfolios are now becoming common place as technology use is prevalent in almost all schools. This gives a much different dimension to portfolios and something that most schools should consider as it is another effective tool to showcase student learning and achievement.
At the beginning of this chapter, there’s a little excerpt of a teacher’s confession about her grading system. She begins with how no one ever challenged the final grades that she gave to her students. Her grade book was closed only accessible to herself with no accountability. She admits that her grades were somewhat subjective, and she included effort and behavior as well as test performance. I think this is something to think about. I’ve been teaching for thirteen years and ‘grading system,’ is not often discussed as part of teacher orientation. More often than not…actually in most of the schools I’ve worked at (that’s 7 schools!) I am left to create a grading system for myself. And like the teacher in the book, no one’s really challenged my grades.
It is the responsibility of the teacher to communicate the most accurate reflection of student achievement. And one crucial way that this is to be done is to ensure the learning target is clear and that assessment and reporting is done with the big picture in mind. There are three guidelines the book suggests:
1. That grades should be used to communicate student achievement and not be used as a motivational tool. I think whether we want to or not, it becomes a motivational tool as there are students who are set on achieving a high grade point average. But, for the teachers, it should never be a threatening point.
2. Grades should reflect the students mastery. All other factors of school should be separately reported. This includes aspects like student behavior or their effort.
3. Grades should only reflect the current level of achievement.
Some other matters mentioned in the chapter that I found useful are the modified report for special needs students and involving students in the process. With modified report grades, the grades should align with the student’s IEP. Also, there should be an explanation along with the report card on what the modifications are and how the student was graded. The purpose of involving students in the report card is to be transparent with their achievements and to give them the opportunity to make improvements in the areas they are weak.
This chapter discusses the record keeping side of assessment. I have been teaching for 13 years and I don’t think I’ve had much discussion about the best way to keep a record of student learning. However, it is a vital role in the accuracy of keeping track of students’ progress. Some of the topics discussed in the chapter were quite obvious but they were necessary reminders for effective record keeping.
One of the first decisions that need to be made in record keeping is to differentiate formative and summative assessments and which specific assessments should be used for assessment to record. This decision should be made in the planning stage of a unit.
Another decision to be made is which information students will keep track of that would benefit their learning. This was an interesting angle that I hadn’t thought of in my classroom. But, since the students are invited to participate in their learning, it is a natural step for the students to keep track of their learning. In my math class, I believe this happens informally when they’re doing homework and class work. I purposely have the students mark their own work so that they are able to know if they’re not understanding a concept if they’re getting answers wrong. Also, I ensure that we look at the solutions together so that the students are able to see where they went wrong.
Everyone has their own system of scoring and recording the assessment results. The book provides three guidelines for record-keeping. First one is to organize entries by learning targets. This is when you record a specific score or result for each of the learning objectives or targets. Second, is to track information about work habits and social skills separately from the scores for learning targets. Lastly, to ensure that raw scores are recorded as this will give a more accurate portrayal of performance than percentage or a symbol.
Other things to think about regarding assessment is knowing where to keep the scores. Will it be digital? Will it be in a gradebook? How will it be organized by units? Semesters?