Monday, February 15, 2010

Formative Assessing to the Extreme (A Follow-up)

I just wanted to take a moment and give an update to an earlier post regarding my attempts to check everything my students do as a means of formative assessment.

There is good and bad. 

The good? I know almost immediately what I need to address with the entire class or, by looking at a student's work on three or four problems, what I need to address with that particular student. This alone far outweighs any of the "bads" that follow.

The bad? Some students still show no work, or do no work, regardless of all the "atta-boys" and "atta-girls" I can give. For some of these students, yeah...I know they can do it. For others? I am not so sure, and I need to KNOW.

The good? I keep a tally of how many things each student showed me they could do each day. Show me you can do it, you get a check. Make a mistake, I go over the problem with you, ask you to rework it, and either bring the problem back up to me, or shout out the answer to me, in order to get your check.

The bad? Some students just want a check next to their name. I do not like this aspect of it. "How many checks do I have?" I guess I can't really expect them to get too darned excited about calculating the volume of a square pyramid when you are given an edge of the base and the slant height. This is one area where I would gladly take some suggestions as to how I might handle this better.

The good? Seems to work great for the kids who always do what you ask, and for about half of the kids you normally can't get to do anything.

The bad? Some kids just won't do anything. And for some of the things I must ask the kids to do, I honestly don't blame them. The only job I can think of where you will need to calculate the volume of a square pyramid when you are given an edge of the base and the slant height is in the math teaching industry, and I doubt any of these kids will go in that direction.

The good? Lately, I am checking anywhere from 2 to 6 things a day, maybe 10 to 15 things during a week. It really is taking less time than I thought. 

The bad? I am still messing with the number things I am checking for each day. This past week, I looked for things like, "Can you calculate the volume of ______?" or "Can you calculate the surface area of _____?" How many do you need each day? Do I include some of the same types of problems each day, this way, you are showing me you can do this over a number of different times? I do know...

The good? I find it is easy to check over the "synthesis" types of problems, the problems where they need to put it all together. I am also finding that my students are improving at presenting and organizing their work, which adds to the easier part.

The bad? It takes longer than the other problems to check over, so I am tending to get lines. I am thinking of going to each group for these problems.

Will I keep doing it? Without a doubt. I feel I am able to give more specific feedback, better feedback, than I ever could before. I also feel I have a better handle of each kid's tendencies...when I go to grade their summative assessment at the end of the week, I can look for those things. I think the jury is still out on my IEP and 504 kids. Overall, their first attempts at the summative assessments have improved, so that is good. However, they generally do not complete everything for whatever reason (mainly, distractions). I think this is helping my ESL students, too, but that data is kind of sketchy. With my ESL students, I am more aware that ever of language difficulties (slant height vs height, for example). Nevertheless, this opportunity for one-on-one time with them is valuable.

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