Here’s a funny thing that is happening as I am progressing through my learning this summer. I am seeing parallels across things that I am reading, videos I am watching, and podcasts I am listening to.
I am taking the Student Motivation Course by Dave Stuart Jr. who is taking us through the implementation of 5 key student beliefs for maximized engagement and motivation in our classes. The chapter I am working on right now is all about student belief in belonging and the final lesson speaks about helping students make ‘small, little wins’ to give them confidence as they take on the identity of a successful learner in our classes.
This idea of small little wins is being reiterated by the interviews with and writings of Jordan Peterson, who I have been following. He has this phrase, ”aim low”, and in his interview with Joe Rogan from yesterday, Joe asked him to explain why he keeps saying this. Dr. Peterson explained that you can’t start lifting weights with 300 lbs, you have to start with the smallest you’re capable of and adding just a little more each week. This also integrates with the idea of the ZPD (zone of proximal development) of Vygotzky. You aim low but aim up and you’ll get there with those small little wins so that you can show yourself that you indeed CAN do it. Dave pointed us to this article by James Clear that reinforces the fact that students and people in general, need to settle in with an identity that will help them decide to work on the habits needed for them to be able to see themselves in that role, which for me is for them to identify as persistent learners.
I think that’s why portfolios are such a great idea. They should be implemented from the time a student starts kindergarten with short videos, pictures of the work they produce each quarter and self reflections that get students looking at who they are, who they want to be and who they are becoming along the way. With the proper guidance, they can make those little adjustments that are necessary to stay on track to the identity of being a persistent learner.
I applied this idea in a very small way this year at the beginning when I had students do a lesson about the worst presentation ever (borrowed from Jon Corripo). It taught them about what not to do in a slide presentation. I then had them revisit the previous years’ slide presentations in their Google drive and critique their own work, identifying the things they did most often that were not advised and then laying out what they needed to improve upon for their next slide presentations. As we went through the year I reminded them of the fact that I now expected these principles to be applied in their next Google slides that would be presented to the class and we had much better results by the end of the year.
Making sure to build our lessons in such a way that students are given the guidance to realize that they are taking those small, little steps to achieve those small, little wins, will help them to reinforce their core identities as persistent learners for ‘their future flourishing’, as Dave always makes sure to emphasize is our goal for our students.
So far nothing has come from my last blog post besides a short response from admin stating that elementary schools seem to be farther along in this gradeless system of evaluation of students. It did not seem that there was much enthusiasm to lend support for this much-needed change. This does not mean that I won’t be trying to shift to more self-assessment and student reflection on how they are doing.
Last night and tonight are student conferences and I am sitting here watching my students come with parents and tell them about how they are doing in my class. There is a table set up in front of my main table with a sign at the end that tells students to find the reflection they did in class the day before and to sit down with a chrome book and show their parents what it is like to work out of the Google classroom and Amplify online science.
They start out a little confused about what to do since I am the only teacher who is doing this, but before long they have sat down and begun to show their parents what we are doing. I can see the questions coming and the parents getting interested as the students share. Once they come to me most of the questions have been answered and we can focus on inquiry about behaviors or other concerns.
I really am enjoying this style of conferencing and it seems that parents are too.
So here is the text of the email I just composed and hit send to my principal:
Since this summer I have been learning about how to do assessment differently. I have read the book: by Starr Sackstein and have subscribed to the author’s Youtube channel (Watch her TEDxYouth talk here: https://youtu.be/_61kL5jeKqM ) with her video reflections about implementing a classroom without traditional points or letter grades for her assignments.
Obviously, she had to enter letter grades at the grading periods but she was given permission by her principal to use a coding system in a standards based grade book (Like JUMPROPE) for the assignments rather than points and percentages and she conferenced constantly with students with helpful feedback like the SE2R explained here: http://www.brilliant-insane.com/2014/04/se2r-feedback-forever-changes-how-teachers-students-evaluate-learning.html
She used projects with clear guidelines aligned with the standards they had to focus on and she interspersed mini lessons and discussions for concepts that needed to get demonstrated in the project. She conferenced on a weekly schedule about the learning, and sent them back to re-do and improve until the grading period came. By the end of the year she had students talking about their learning and not the points they had earned.
There is research to support the idea that when students receive a grade, they tend to shelve the learning and stop wanting to improve anything on that one thing https://medium.com/@hhschiaravalli/how-one-weird-finding-changed-my-perspective-on-grades-914f0ea480a9).
At the grading period she would give the students a reflection assignment in which they had to provide evidence of their learning according to the standards they had been working on and together they decided on the grade that they should have recorded in the grade book. All of this is also supported by the characteristics of growth mindset as well.
Here is a podcast with Mark Barnes speaking on his book Assessment 3.0 (which I have yet to get and read myself). He is speaking with the hosts of the podcast, a superintendent and his assistant from Pennsylvania.
And this is a TEDtalk by Mark Barnes explaining more about giving feedback instead of grades: https://youtu.be/JShsO5PvYG4
I would very much like to embark on this journey of downplaying grades and up-playing enjoyment of and awareness of learning to reduce the number of D’s and F’s in my DL classes. If you give me the go-ahead, I will be making a series of YouTube videos myself to document what I am doing, keeping data, and teaching students about how to take and give feedback. I will make my experience public to share with the parents and kids.
Let me know what you think and if you are ok with this, I will make a more deliberate, detailed plan of what I will do.
South Meadows Middle School
Dual Language Science teacher
503-844-1220 ext. 5878