Assessment Voicethread: Wrap-up

After three days of intense, informed discussion with experts, administrators, and teachers I’m still reeling with excitement from all of the ideas flying around in my head.

First, the authors who joined us really brought their expertise and shared it well.  Kim Bailey and Chris Jakicic made me pine for a copy of their soon-to-be released book with the tips and advice that they shared about Common Formative Assessments.  I plan to bring some of their ideas to my Professional Learning Team this week.  For me, the highlight was when Chris shared this nugget:

“Kim and I suggest that teams try to keep their common formative assessments short and frequent. We suggest 20 minutes or less for the assessment and weekly to every three weeks in terms of frequency. Assess only the high leverage learning targets from the essential standards.  When teams focus their assessments in this way, they are able to make their corrective instruction much more focused and effective.”

Wow, huh?  My team focuses so much on fitting a quarter’s worth of content onto one multiple-choice assessment that we never considered how much more effective smaller, more frequent formative assessments can be (not to mention, easier for a teacher to provide feedback).

In another discussion thread, that included lots of authors and educators alike, the subject of motivating students and assessment retakes was tackled.  Tons of great ideas were offered up, some more practical than others due to their reliance on school-wide infrastructure.  District administrator, Matt, said it best, I think:

“Fatigue will quickly set in as teachers spend every waking moment before/after school helping students.  It needs to be a collective effort at the building level.”

There were many more of these memorable moments in the Voicethread conversation.  I loved when Erica, a middle school ELA teacher, expressed her minor epiphany at the idea of assessment as a form of coaching for procedural skills like math and writing.  I enjoyed hearing Dylan William describe the importance of “decision-based data collection” that determines the type of data to collect after you know what you need it for.

While the number of actively commenting folks on this Voicethread was pretty high, it is also encouraging to know that the Voicethread was viewed over 100 times.  That’s a lot of future commenters.

Commenting is now closed on this conversation, but keep in mind that it will remain available to view on the Voicethread site for a long time.  I know that I will return to it when I need a refresher on where my own assessment strategies should be going.

What was your favorite moment?

One thought on “Assessment Voicethread: Wrap-up

  1. One moment? Impossible. I took away so many pearls of wisdom from the participants! I’m sure some are still forming deep in my psyche and will bubble to the surface once I’ve had more time to process.
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    I was really blown away by Dylan Wiliam’s simple explanation of decision-driven data collection over the currently-favored data-driven decision making that you mentioned. Simply put, first figure out the decisions we need to make, and then find the data to inform those decisions.
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    To quote him:

    “One of the dangers I see in many districts is that a focus on ‘data-driven decision-making’ (which sounds great) in practice leads to a focus on the data, rather on the decisions. In other words, people generate data, and then try to figure out what to do with it. It might be more helpful to characterize the focus as ‘decision-driven data collection.’ In other words, start with the decisions that need to be made, and then work out what data will help make that decision in a smarter way.”
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    He describes that this gives the data a purpose and focus. Also, teachers will be less overwhelmed by all the data we are collecting, and will know what to do with it because it had a purpose from the outset.
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    Kim Bailey then further defined the data we should be collecting as “instructionally actionable”. I really loved that term!
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    Other highlights for me included:
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    • Chris Jakicic’s description of her decision as a principal to forgo some of her time presenting information in meetings and repurpose that time for teams to work together.

    • Bill’s ideas for acknowledging work behaviors, such as the “On A Roll” awards. Also, I thought his ability to concisely summarize and then bring insight to the value of many others’ ideas on any given slide brought much to the discussion.

    • I appreciated “Mr. Monkey’s” probing questions about how to instill motivation for continuing a “march toward mastery”. This is so central to a student’s success.

    • Luke discussed the difficulty of the teacher’s knowing what exactly worked and what didn’t. “Just as it’s difficult to break down the learning process, it’s just as difficult to break down the teaching process,” he said. I find this so true, and it was affirming to hear.

    • In another slide, Dylan Wiliam stated, “Feedback that is too supportive & direct actually takes responsibility away from the learner.” This was another eye-opening statement from Mr. Wiliam for me.

    • Matt summarized several participants’ concerns and questioned “the idea of comparing assessment data to drive instructional changes.” He also made an astute observation about “the tweaks that make the difference rather than the sweeping changes.” This helped me with my frustrated feeling that the “small” changes I can do in my classroom aren’t “really doing enough”.

    I know these choices of comments are all over the map, and I could go on and on. Instead, I encourage people to check it out for themselves and come back and comment about what resonates with them.

    Thank you for hosting Paul, and thank you so much for including me!

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