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Posts Tagged ‘formative

This teacher’s generous sharing is a good example of an open classroom practice.

It is also an example of Cuban’s description of practitioners often being experience or practice rich but theory poor.

The teacher shared some excellent ideas on how to go “gradeless”:

  • Poll students to see where they are at
  • Empathise with the mindsets of students
  • Stick with policies and model practices of going gradeless
  • Get buy-in and support from school leaders and peers
  • Communicate clearly with students and their parents

However, there are areas where experience, practice, and experimentation are not enough.

What the teacher describes are “gradeless” is actually a type of formative feedback; the former is somewhat intimidating while the latter is more mainstream. It is important to lower or remove barriers when trying something new. That principle is fundamental in managing change.

The teacher also had poll responses that puzzled me. For example, what is the difference between “learning biology and also getting a good grade” and “both learning and getting a good grade”? Is the latter about learning in general? If so, how is that option relevant?

Options in a poll or quiz should not be ambiguous or overlap conceptually. This is fundamental to poll and quiz design if you are not to confuse students and if you want to get a clear idea of where the learners are at.

No teacher or teaching is perfect. We need to take the roses and rotten tomatoes thrown in our direction in equal measure.

After reading this piece on formative assessment by Steven Anderson, I decided to focus on formative feedback instead.

I sum up and oversimplify formative feedback in four broad and overlapping activities. These are driven by the questions:

1. Where is the learner now?
2. Where does s/he need to go?
3. Why does s/he need to go there?
4. How might s/he get there?

Three questions for formative feedback.

The problem with generalisations is that people start and end there. I do not share these questions to drive dogma. Instead they are distillations of the collective experiences and wisdoms of progressive educators everywhere.

Post production note: I originally had just three elements — I did not have the WHY at first. This might not seem like a logical formative question, but it is an important one to ask to keep the learner’s motivation up.


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