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Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Totally Buried In Your 'To Do' List?

Many years ago I made a conscious decision to take care of myself. It may sound foolish because it is so obvious but it wasn't to me. It came about because I witnessed a professional development leader 'give' a session where what was shared had little to do with what was said but everything to do with 'how' it was said. The person's entire being seemed to radiate exhaustion, impatience, and a total lack of self-care.

As I witnessed the day, I reflected that everything that was shared – and it was worth knowing and doing – was totally discounted because of the non-verbal messages being received.

I realized I wanted people with whom I worked to understand that what I was sharing would actually make their life in classrooms and schools easier. I could 'tell' that story but I also had to 'be' that story. That was a long time ago. I still hold the lesson close to my heart. And yet, like all lessons, it can be obliterated by time and life.

Today, as I began to work, I realized that the peace of this season was eluding me. In fact, I was totally buried in my 'To Do' list. I spent some time in reflection.

Instead I decided to breathe. And take time to let my life breathe. And, just in case you need an invitation to breathe and help to do so as you reflect on your 'To Do' list, I am sharing a link to a website. Today was my first visit and I appreciated the invitation to enjoy an audio recording that would help me 'breathe peace.' It did!

May you take time to relax and enjoy the peace of the season,


PS As a result of my reflection today, I've decided not to share the fabulous resources of our International Delegates until January –  in case it is adding to your 'To Do' list. If you want to go to check them out when you feel so inclined just go to www.assessment4learning.com

PPS This is a painting of the Northern Lights that I did while visiting Yellowknife, NWT, recently... they just take one's breath away! 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

And the snow is falling

I've been posting gifts from the International Delegates over the past few days. Today I'm taking a rest from assessment and sharing a painting instead. The snow is falling and the holiday season seems to be so very near :-)
I hope you can take a moment in the crazy-busyness that is December in schools to pause for a breath and a wish for a peaceful, health-full holiday for all!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Some Gifts From Susan Brookhart! Leader of the Team from United States

Thank you to everyone who has registered and is planning to register for Assessment for Learning: Canada in Conversation with the World. It is exciting to see the rapidly growing list of registrants. We are thrilled with the response with registrations coming in from all across Canada!

The Canadian Symposium is also a first! We are gathering those who work on behalf of classroom educators - our Ministry of Education colleagues, superintendents, and national organizations – to take a close look at what we are doing across Canada right now as each jurisdiction works to meet their own unique needs.

Another delegate I want to feature – knowing that many of you are familiar with her work – is Sue Brookhart. Sue also led the United States team to the International Symposium in Norway. She writes about assessment topics for teachers, administrators, and other educators.  Here are some links that you might enjoy following:

·         Assessing Creativity
·         Starting the Conversation about Grading
·         The Many Meanings of Multiple Measures

Sue is the lead for the team from the United States which also includes Heidi Andrade, Margaret Heritage, Maria Ruiz-Primo and Caroline Wylie.

Think about how fabulous the conversations will be as we gather the international delegates together with 250 Canadian educators for Friday, April 11 (eve) and all day Saturday, April 12, 2014, in Fredericton, NB! You can register here.

All my best,


PS For those of you who would like to attend all five days – we were only able to invite 36 people from across Canada to the Canadian Symposium. It is my hope that the conversations we are currently engaged in online and plan to continue in Fredericton, NB, in April will grow and include more and more people over time. How can you get involved right now? Considering joining me as part of the online conversation!

Tagboard: https://tagboard.com/AforLConversation/160953

Monday, 2 December 2013

Discover Michael Absolum and Clarity in the Classroom

Michael Absolum is a member of the New Zealand team attending the
International Symposium in Fredericton, NB. He will also be sharing his ideas and perspectives during the Saturday morning plenary at Assessment for Learning: Canada in Conversation with the World

As I followed the links Michael provided to the Assessment for Learning conversation, I found myself once again enjoying the amazing collection of resources on the New Zealand Ministry of Education website. 

I also found his blog. You might enjoy reading the blog entry titled, Evaluation is the Thing. The other thing you might want to know is that Michael wrote a powerful book titled, Clarity in the Classroom: Using Formative Assessment for Building Learning-Focused Relationships. You can find it in New Zealand hereor you can find a Canadian version here. You can also find it on Amazon.com or Amazon.ca. Check and make sure you are getting the version you want.

You can also download some interesting templates on his website. He has provided both the blank templates as well as some examples of the template in use. 

Enjoy the gifts!

All my best,


PS Registration for Canada in Conversation with the World has been busy. It is going to be so much fun!

More Gifts! John Gardner - International Delegate from UK

 We are so excited that registration for the Canadian Conference - Assessment for Learning: Canada in Conversation with The World begins today! 
I hope you can join us!

For each day of this month of gifts and gift giving, I am going to feature an International colleague who will be part of the Canadian conference in Fredericton, NB April 11 (eve) and April 12, 2014. John Gardner is a member of the UK team.

John Gardner was a founding member of the Assessment Reform Group and helped prepare many of their amazing resources, which can be downloaded here. Currently he is a member of the United Kingdom team to the International Symposium and works in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and England. One of the links he provides on his delegate page takes us to a paper he co-authored focused on Assessment and Social Justice. It examines the role assessment plays within a social justice context.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Another International Delegate - Dany is from Canada

Dany Laveault was selected for the first International Conference on Assessment hosted by Rick Stiggins in 2001. Since that time he has represented the Canadian perspective on assessment for learning at every International gathering including the one to be held in Fredericton, NB in April 2014. He, along with Ann Sherman, have been instrumental in preparing the application for a SSHRC grant. When you visit his delegate page you will find out more about him, as well as accessing his report to EQAO in Ontario, in French, as well as download a report on Early Reading Strategy (2003) for which he is a panel member. You can also watch an interview about his work and find out a little more about one of the Canadian team delegates to the International Symposium.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Lisa Rodgers: New Zealand International Delegate

You might want to explore some amazing resources from New Zealand. Lisa Rodgers is a member of the New Zealand team - you can find out more about Lisa if you follow the link. She is on the Literacy and Numeracy Task Force.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Education has a fabulous websitewith many, many assessment resources. You might like to view some of the Reports on formative assessment or view Exemplarsfor several different subject areas. Each section includes a description of what the work shows, relevant curriculum links, the learning context, and ‘where to next.’ For example, for dance, if you explore Level 3 you will see a progression of development, clip 5 shows students as they practise the Te Tangi a te Manu pattern. There are also many other resources to support educational leaders. These interviews with educators give us insights into how New Zealand is responding to the challenges that face us all. One example is Louise Miller’s interview about pedagogical leadership in mathematics as a mentor-teacher. Lisa Rodgers is a member of New Zealand’s team to the International Symposium and will be a part of Assessment for Learning: Canada in Conversation With the World.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Be Careful... Self-Regulation of Learning? Behavior?

I've been hearing a lot about self-regulation lately but the conversation seems to have taken a turn. I'm used to reading research focused on self-regulation of learning. Assessment - particularly assessment for learning - is an integral part of self-regulation.

But the conversation and the strategies I've been hearing about don't seem to be comprehensive enough. So today I went looking to find out what was going on. It was interesting to see that the self-regulation that is being talked about in some circles arises out of the world of teaching self-management of behavior. This is certainly important and I know there are vulnerable learners who benefit an immense amount from this work.

On the other hand, I think we need to be careful not to assume that self-managing behavior is enough for all our learners. We need to go further - we need to teach students, in a very deliberate fashion, how to self-monitor their way to success. That is what we do when we show students samples, engage in conversation about quality, and co-construct criteria for important products or processes - evidence of learning. When we mindfully build the language of assessment in this way, we teach students the language they need to self-monitor their learning. We also teach students what quality looks like so they can aspire and achieve success! This is self-regulation of learning and assessment for learning is the pathway that will get us there.

If self-regulation is of interest to you, you might want to read this seminal article by Pintrich and DeGroot (1990). If you are interested in the shift from focusing on behavior to focusing on learning strategies, you might want to read this classic piece by Lorrie Shepard. It is titled, The role of assessment in a learning culture.

Rethinking Assessment of Learning

Teachers are working hard to make sense of grading and reporting structures in order to better reflect what students know, do and say. They are rethinking assessment of learning to better communicate their informed professional judgment about what students have learned. There was a powerful research study done by the Assessment Reform Group called, Teachers Role in the Assessment of Learning (2007). You can download a copy here. You might also enjoy watching this 17-minuteweb conference clip with your professional learning community.

All my best,

PS You will need to sign in but please know your contact information will not be used unless you sign up for a newsletter and in that case it will ONLY be used to send you the newsletters.

 PPS I am having a wonderful time with friends and colleagues in Yellowknife, NWT this week. Here is an unfinished painting I am working on... gosh those Northern Lights are so incredible! I'm trying to figure out how to capture even part of their beauty with watercolours:-)

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Five Steps to the BEST SCHOOL YEAR EVER!

It’s the end of August! And we are celebrating a new school year! Beginnings are so fabulous – such a time of hope and planning for success. In honour of this time we’ve prepared a series of blogs to support your planning for success using assessment in support of learning.

This month we also celebrate the anniversary of the launch of our free Members site
We have over 5900 members. We’ve been digging through all the things there are to READ and to VIEW and refreshing the collection. Our selections have been deliberately designed to support educators as they engage in professional learning whether as a high school teacher, a middle years teacher, an elementary teacher or a leader at the school or system level. If you are new to our members site  then you might be interested in knowing we ask you to sign in because we have video of students and teachers and we want to provide a safe, sharing environment. 

I hope this is the best year ever!

All my best,


PS In the next few weeks we will be announcing our brand new online conference line-up! We are very excited. Contact Laura if you want some advance planning information.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Better Choice? On line Grading Programs or ??

Like a growing number of teachers, Erin M. has a classroom blog. Sandra Herbst connected me to Erin and I am so thankful. I love the way her students use Voki to create avatars. Their avatars can now be their safe presence on the blog. Parents and others can listen, read and view their children and the rest of the class. It is a incredibly powerful demonstration of learning. Then, combine this with a student-parent-teacher conference and a written report that communicates the teacher’s professional judgement with regard to the students progress and growth. What do you have? Parents who are incredibly informed regarding how well their students are doing in relation to curriculum expectations.

I have to wonder why systems feel they have to use online grading programs especially since the commercially available options do such a poor job of informing others. Go to Erin’s class’ blog and then look at the information available through any of the commercially available on-line grade books. Ask yourself, which does a better job of communicating the richness of learning? I’m not saying a class blog is sufficient; I’m saying it communicates a whole lot more than an online grade book. In Canada, given our complex learning outcomes, we deserve better than marks and grades that push us towards inappropriate evaluation practices in our classrooms and tell parents so little about what really matters.

On a final note, Erin’s blog contributes to the larger discourse about public education. I was reviewing the stats the other day for one of my blogs I realized that on any given day it has more than 5500 views. Think about that! Not only do educators have an opportunity to engage in this conversation, we are also providing a way for our students to engage and demonstrate the kind of learning they are engaged in classrooms.

Friday, 23 August 2013

The Anniversary of my First Day of Teaching and Baseline Evidence (Step 3)

Today is the anniversary of my first day teaching. I was 20 years old. I had moved to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. I found myself on a handpicked staff of amazing teachers. It was the beginning of the first of many amazing years teaching in the North.

There is something very special about teaching in the northern part of Canada. It is an opportunity to make a difference not just to students in classrooms but also to the community. Like other teachers who choose to teach in the small rural and northern communities, I found myself involved in professional activities in my school and across schools. We depend on each other so everyone needs to contribute. And, as much as I gave, I received so much more. I also met my husband in Yellowknife – this is what we looked like way back then. Memories are so great!

Next week I will be back in Yellowknife working with educators as they prepare for another year of making a difference. I will be able to visit with and work alongside colleagues I taught with years ago and who continue to be in my circle of friends today.

As teachers we learn to build relationships with our colleagues, our students and members of the school community. And, as a result, we learn as much as we teach. And, it is through being learners ourselves that we teach some of the most powerful lessons.

The first learning I deliberately set out to do each year is to understand and appreciate the gifts, talents, and knowledge of every single learner no matter different they are than I am. After all, I must first seek to understand before being understood.

Step 3 is about collecting baseline evidence. It’s an important part of learning about one’s students. It’s not sufficient. I also need to learn about what matters to each one. What do they love? What do they care about? How can I tap into their expertise? Because, if this is to be a powerful learning community, then I, as the teacher, am the one who needs to carefully help every learner be appreciated and valued.

All my best,


PS Now here is the scary part... if that other picture was the baseline... here is the AFTER picture. Couldn't we just do an "We used to.... but now we..." And guess what, we do! On the anniversary of the day we met:- )

It's Our Anniversary! Come Celebrate Our Free Members Site

FOUR years ago we started our free membership site! Our goals were simple. We wanted to support educators to understand the power of assessment for learning to support ALL students. We wanted to make it more possible for more people to learn about these ideas no matter where they lived. There is a collection of resources for you to access and enjoy. Many of these are available because of the many educators who have learned along side us over the years and welcomed us into their schools and classrooms.

Here we are! Four years later we’ve gone from a few members the first few months to now having more than 5900 people accessing these resources regularly. While most members are from Canada, we also have members from around the world. Joining is easy! Just choose a user name and password. We've reorganized the content around postings to READ and postings to VIEW. We will be adding postings to LISTEN and to DO in the upcoming months. We usually add regularly but with our new revamped members site we will be making additions monthly. We have changed this structure to deliberately mimic our site for University graduate and undergraduate students (and professors).

We get lots of requests from people for permission to share the materials in other forms and for other audiences. We also see lots of sharing of links from individuals to their entire networks. We love seeing the spread of the blog views via twitter and the e-newsletter move from country to country around the globe. We are pleased to be able to continue this service for one more year.

This free service was made possible because people volunteered their time and expertise and Building Connections Publishing gave a percentage of their profits to support this work.
One unintended consequence of sharing free resources is some people see to think that all the resources should be shared freely. We wish that was possible. One day perhaps it will be if an organization chooses to fund this important work. In the meantime, it is the paid resources that fund the free resources. If the paid resources are pirated, used without permission, plagiarized, or passwords shared beyond the purchaser, even with great enthusiasm for sharing the work, the result can be fewer resources to fund the free members site.

You can contribute to this important work in three ways:

1.     You can help us by sharing links to the free materials and letting people know where they can go and sign up for themselves.
2.     You can contribute by commenting on the blogs, sharing your ideas, and sending in your questions.
3.     Lastly, you can contribute by purchasing resources that you need that are not on the member’s site and by using them according to copyright and legal permissions.

In the coming months we look forward to an even more fabulous FIFTH year of support. We have plans to share more practical ideas, more video clips, more research, and more responses to emerging questions.

We are also excited as we put together the final details in preparation for the launch a brand new membership site designed for universities - graduate and undergraduate courses - so that pre-service and graduate students can have access to the latest information and ideas.

We look forward to continuing this amazing conversation. Please keep in touch!

With our best wishes,


Thursday, 22 August 2013

Planning for Evaluation - Step Two of Getting Ready for the BEST Year Ever

For the past few days we’ve been working with more than 90 educators to build assessment plans. There have been very powerful conversations. Sandra Herbst, Brenda Augusta and I have commented on how great it is to eavesdrop on thoughtful interaction between participants as they deconstruct their curriculum in one subject area and think through how to express it in student-friendly ways in order to prepare for evaluation.

If you weren't able to be here for the past few days, you might also want to think about planning to evaluate.  Here is Step Two as you get ready for the best year yet!

Now we are working with more than 120 educators in two and half days of learning here in Canmore, Alberta focused on involving every student in the assessment process. 

Whether working in high school, middle school, elementary or in a leadership position in schools and districts, the commitment to learning is obvious. As the two and half day session ended yesterday and as the two institutes in Fredericton ended, educators expressed excitement as they anticipating beginning the new school year. Isn’t it amazing?
Every year, in spite of knowing all the challenges that face us as we work to support each learner, we get excited. And yet, it isn’t surprising at all really. We’re in this job to make a difference and every single year we get a whole new opportunity to do it even better. I am so proud to be a member of this profession!

All my best,


PS I haven't been able to paint very much with all the teaching I have been doing but I can think about painting:- ) Here is one of my earlier paintings.... the first one is from 1999 and the second from 2011.... I am doing an "I used to but now I..." reflection as I look at them:- )

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Getting Ready for the New Year - Step One

Sandra Herbst, Brenda Augusta and I have been having a wonderful learning time with August. Last week in Fredericton, NB and this week in Canmore, Alberta we have been surrounded by the most amazing, dedicated groups of educators. The four institutes are all different but the enthusiasm is the same.

We have been working on a variety of topics related to classroom assessment. This work has reminded me to share a powerful set of steps to Get Ready for the School Year. This is Step One!

All my best,

PS Here is a painting I did on the way from Fredericton, NB to Calgary, AB. Painting calms my mind. What do you do to calm your mind and bring into the present moment?

Thursday, 25 July 2013

When It's Time - A Gift for You

I hope you are enjoying these special times. It is a gift to take time to do whatever brings joy; there is nothing more rejuvenating. In addition to my family, one of the things that brings me joy is painting and listening to music.

Here is a photo of one of quick watercolour sketches I've enjoyed painting while listening and enjoying our local music festivals here on Vancouver Island.

Like you, I am beginning to think about THINKING ABOUT the upcoming school year. I'll think about thinking about it for another week or so while I enjoy some more family time. 

I did pull out my suitcase in preparation for the August sessions in Fredericton and Canmore. And doing that got me thinking about you so here I am watching a Mary Tyler Moore rerun and doing this blog post:-). 

When you are ready to start preparing for the coming year, download your very own copy of this popular classroom assessment planning guide. I prepared this resource to help teachers plan for the upcoming school year. It gets rave reviews so I am happy to share it again. Please feel free to send this link to your friends and colleagues. 

After all, we all know that taking time now can save us so much time later.

All my best,


PS At this point our August events in Canmore, Alberta and Fredericton, New Brunswick are almost sold out! If you want to claim one of the few remaining seats, call our office now 1 800 603 9888.

PPS If you want to do some 'refresher' reading consider revisiting some of the fabulous documents prepared by the Assessment Reform Group.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Humans crave purpose and meaning. We need choice.

As humans we crave purpose and meaning. We need to understand the why of something. We also need to have choice. If you want to learn about powerful ways to teach self-regulation, you might want to read an article that Sandra and I wrote for Education Canada magazine available online. It is titled, Co-constructing Success Criteria:  Assessment in the Service of Learning. In this article we write about why. Instead of telling the learners what is important or what needs to be done or what ‘should’ be happening – instead of training them – we need support their learning. To do that we need to engage and involve them using assessment in support of learning – their own learning and the learning of those around them. There are examples from high school, primary and leadership perspectives.

I’d like to close by sharing a favourite quote by Brian Andreas, “Everything changed the day he figured out that there was exactly enough time for the important things in life.’ You might want to check out his amazing art and writing.

I hope you are finding exactly enough time for the important things in your life.

All my best,


Friday, 17 May 2013

Slowing Down to the Speed of Life and Learning

Sandra Herbst and I are in New Zealand. We spent a Mother’s Day Sunday in Wellington, which is the capital and has about 500,000 people. The pace of life here and in other communities in New Zealand is remarkable. We spent time at the waterfront market and walked to the parliament buildings. We took the cable car up to the botanical gardens where we enjoyed lunch at their cafĂ©. There were families everywhere with lots of children. The pace seemed to slow down to us. It was the speed of life and learning. 

Schools are a reflection of society and its values. And there are differences between New Zealand and Canada in terms of the number of children living in poverty, the violence in schools, literacy rates, and overall student success. It makes me wonder.

I wonder about the decisions in Canada that promote educational choice for all when it is really only choice for some.

I wonder about banning testing on animals but increasing testing for children.

I wonder about schools having to teach more and more as we try to stem the tide against obesity, violence, and crime yet we don’t have enough time to teach literacy and numeracy any longer.

I wonder whether Canadians have lost more than we’ve gained in our race for more mobile devices, faster connection speeds, and pursuing our ‘online lives.’ 

Was it just a coincidence that we didn’t hear a cross word spoken to a child or to an adult all day? Or, are people gentler and kinder when time is accepted as the gift it is?

All my best,


PS Sandra and I have been planning our August events. We are SO EXCITED! There are lots of interesting people coming to both the Canmore, Alberta events and the Fredericton, New Brunswick events. And, with the recent assessment news in Alberta, across Canada, and in the United States, the promise of classroom assessment is outstanding! We are happy to be working in these interesting times.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Transforming Assessment - Focusing on Feedback

Are you interested in Transforming Assessment? So are New Zealand educators.

Today I presented to almost 200 New Zealand educators via the web as an introductory session prior to Sandra Herbst and I presenting in Wellington, New Zealand next month. Participants asked interesting questions regarding rubrics and determining quality.

One participant wrote, "Thanks so much for this morning – it really got me thinking and I was very interested in your ideas about rubrics. I think you are correct re the language, although I’ve never thought about it in that way before."

Another participant wrote, "Rubrics are an interest of mine, but unfortunately much of what I see are almost punitive, except at the very top, and I think of Dweck and fixed mindsets. So I very much appreciated your answer as it fitted my prior knowledge."
With thanks to the Learning Network and their generosity, you are invited to view the recording of this 45 minute presentation for a limited time. Click here for access. If you want to register for our session in Wellington, contact the Learning Network. If New Zealand is a little far then think about registering for our institutes in Canmore, Alberta or Fredericton, New Brunswick this August.

To read more about the ideas shared in this presentation, consider reading Chapter 2 in Making Classroom Assessment Work (3nd Ed) and Setting and Using Criteria (2nd Ed) by Kathleen Gregory, Caren Cameron and me, Anne Davies.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Preparing Diagnostic Assessments

Recently Melissa was on our members' site and asked me to respond to the following question, “Can you explain the best method of preparing a math diagnostic assessment?”

When one considers the best method of preparing a math diagnostic assessment, it is important to ask a few questions:

                  1. What is the purpose?
                  2. Who is the audience?
                  3. What kind of evidence (e.g., data or information) is needed?
                  4. How can you ensure for reliability and validity?
                  5. How can the findings be reported?

From a classroom assessment perspective, we think about diagnostic assessment as being about the gathering of “baseline data” through engaging learners in the tasks they are going to be learning more about. The purpose of diagnostic assessment from the classroom perspective is to understand what students know and what they need to know so instructional plans can be made with specific student needs in mind. Two examples:

Task: Students engage in representing their learning in relation to specific learning expectations/intentions. These tasks might be done by individuals, by small groups, or the entire class of students. There are many possibilities for performance tasks  based on grade level curriculum. Tasks could be anything from building patterns using manipulatives, problem solving and representing mathematical thinking in a variety of ways (words, symbols, graphs, equations and so on), or any other tasks that involve the application of mathematical concepts. Powerful performance tasks result in not only a product but also an opportunity to observe students and ask them to articulate their understandings. This collection of evidence from multiple sources collected over time (baseline tasks repeated more than once) provides for reliability and validity.

Test: Other times teachers take an end of unit test or quiz and ask students to do as much as they can and note which questions are easy, which are not too bad, and which are really difficult. It is helpful to ask students to use a common set of visual symbols (e.g., target) or colours (e.g., easy is green, moderate is yellow, difficult is red) to code the test items. Teachers explain to students that they don’t expect them to know everything because this is an END of learning test. Students are being asked to do the test so teachers will know more about what needs to be taught.

Other times the purpose of the diagnostic assessment is to identify trends and patterns across a large group of students so programs can be designed or to identify learning difficulties. These standardized diagnostic tests and tasks have their own quality standards. If these are the kind of diagnostic assessments you are interested in, you might want to read a column by Jim Popham titled, Diagnosing the Diagnostic Test.

Whatever you decide to do, think carefully about your purpose and ask yourself, “Do my planned next steps in terms of the diagnostic assessment support student learning?” If you can respond with a “Yes!” then proceed. If not, revise your plans. After all, diagnostic assessments are about supporting student learning first. Fulfilling the information needs of adults is a distant second purpose.

As teachers plan their classroom assessment in support of student learning, they find it helpful to build an assessment plan. You might want to use the end-of-chapter activities in Making Classroom Assessment Work to build your own assessment plan. This third edition will help you figure out which tasks could be a source of important baseline data for you and your students. I recommend you pay particular attention to the end-of-chapter activities for Chapters 3, 4, 5, and 9.

All my best,

PS Consider attending one of our summer Institutes in Canmore, AB or Fredericton, NB to find out more about diagnostic assessments and building an assessment plan.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Report Card Planning

Sarah is working on a project related to reporting. (A while ago I tweeted about an interesting blog by Andrew Campbell that you may also want to read.)

As I reflected on the questions she posed, I invited her to get in touch so we could have a longer conversation. And, I posted the following quick comment...

I'm happy to talk some more about reporting... especially when we conceive of reporting as a process rather than an event and when we think about how children can be involved in communicating evidence of their own learning. Technology is beginning to make it possible for students to take control of communicating the evidence of learning and for teachers to communicate their professional judgement in relation to grade level expectations... two thoughts come to mind...

1. The person working the hardest is learning the most...why shouldn't students be working harder (and smarter) when it comes to reporting?

2. Teachers professional judgement is more reliable and valid than external tests when they have been engaged in co-constructing criteria, looking at samples of student work, scoring that work, checking for inter-rater reliability, and so on....

What happens when we help students understand quality, learn the language of assessment, and self-monitor their way to success??? Even young children can do this! We have documentation. We have research evidence. Why not have students deeply engaged in collecting and sharing evidence of their learning?

Why don't you post your thoughts also? Here is the link again.


PS This is a topic we focus on during our summer Institutes and is often what people ask us to focus on as part of our sessions with schools and districts. Get in touch with me via Twitter (on this blog page) or through Kathy Burns at our office 1.800.603.9888/250.703.2920 if you want to find out more.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Are you a primary teacher? Do you wonder if AFL can make a difference?

A few months ago I had the opportunity to celebrate the successful defense of Nancy Barr's thesis. She is a primary 
teacher in Saskatoon. She focused her research on primary children and their growing ability to articulate their 
understandings of writing. It is a fascinating qualitative study. It clearly shows the difference that assessment for 
learning can make for learning. I encourage you to enjoy it. It is available online.
I am including the abstract below.

All my best,

PS If you have a study that focuses on assessment for learning, please send me the link! 
I would enjoy the chance to read it.

By Nancy Barr


In this qualitative study, I investigated six grade 1 and 2 children’s change in their articulation about the quality of their writing throughout one school year of exposure to Assessment For Learning. The Assessment For Learning strategies included giving and receiving feedback, co-creating assignment criteria, one-on-one and small group conferences, and articulating work with peers and teacher, as well as considering work samples from previous students, supported student writing. In addition, writing samples were analyzed to search for authenticity in what students were saying about their writing and about what makes good writing. The research questions that I was investigating were: 1. In what ways do students articulate their understanding of accomplished or needed improvements in their written work? 2. In what ways is this articulation related to implemented Assessment For Learning practices? Research methods involved both naturalistic inquiry and grounded theory analysis. Data included a semi structured interview, used at the beginning and end of the school year; teacher observations; student writing samples; tape recordings of teacher-student (one on one and small group and whole class) conversations; and samples of student developed criteria. Transcripts were read and re-read to develop themes, searching for how the selected six students articulated their understandings of quality writing. In addition, writing samples were analyzed to search for authenticity in what students were saying about their writing and about what makes good writing The six children were chosen for maximum variation on beginning ability, and gender. Of the six students, all began, in September, by talking about appearance of writing – neatness, spaces between words, etc. By November, they were talking about quality of words, length of sentences, and were articulating methods for improving their spelling, and increasing sentence and story length. By June, the high achieving boy was talking about quality writing having “to make sense”. In this study, the boys improved as much, or more, as the girls. Although no generalizations can be made from such a small qualitative study, this is an unexpected outcome. An important finding of this study is the link between children’s ability to articulate about quality writing from having participated in Assessment for Learning principles, and their ability to regulate their own learning (self-regulated learning). Theory derived from this study points to a relationship between Assessment For Learning and self-regulated writing activity.