Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chappuis, Chapter 1

Last year I had the opportunity to attend a conference for teachers in their first three years. One of the breakout sessions focused on teaching students to self-assess and set learning goals.

The session was led by Jan Chappuis, who wrote Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning. Self-assessment and goal setting is one of seven strategies Chappuis presents for helping students take ownership of the formative assessment process. Attending the session greatly affected how I taught during the second semester, particularly by providing students with clear learning goals in their own language and offering examples of strong and weak work, Chappuis' first two strategies. As a result, Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning made my summer reading list.

In the first chapter, Chappuis takes time to emphasize the difference between formative and summative assessment. For her, formative assessment must involve feedback, while the product of summative assessment is a grade in the grade book. She also points out that these two type of assessment are not exclusive of each other. This is probably not news to many readers, but what seems innovative to me is that Chappuis places greater importance on student use of the formative information than the teacher's use. A teacher can provide remedial instruction, change differentiation grouping, provide individual tutoring, or any number of other adjustments in response to formative results. Yet often these changes are met with resistance from students: “we already learned this,” “why are you putting me in the 'dumb group' now?” or “why do I have to work back here with you when everyone else is reading?”  Students who are aware of their formative results and understand what the results say about their understanding of classroom material are more likely not only to readily accept reteaching and remediation, but are also more likely to meet benchmark. Two instances stand out to me from my previous semester teaching that reinforce this belief.

Tonya Arnold taught me this first trick that completely changed the way I examine test results and what information I share with my students. When I did administer a test, which was rare, the process was very summative: write test questions based on what I think students should know after a unit; review possible test questions in class; administer test; grade test; record grades; return tests and ask if students have any questions; when met with silence, begin the next unit.

Now, every summative test I give is also formative. Every test question I write is individually linked with a specific learning goal from the unit, and there are multiple questions that address each learning goal. The next change comes after I grade the tests, when I use an excel spreadsheet to tie each and every test question to it's learning goal and tally it up to give students and me an individual and class percentage of their performance on each learning goal addressed in that unit. In class, we compare this to the same learning goals students were presented on the pre-test. Bam! Student immediately see, “wow, I scored 12% on such and such learning goal before this unit, but now I'm at 86%! I'm awesome” or “geez, I got the same percentage on such and such learning goal before and after this unit while the class average increased by 60%. Maybe I should actually do all those [not-so] stupid assignments Mr. B gave us . . .”

Admittedly, we still moved on to the next unit after students saw these results, but students had an open invitation to work with me outside of class and retake the test to bring up their scores. No one took me up on it. So I need to be more proactive in getting students to remediate on their own time and provide this feedback throughout the unit. There is room to grow, but this is a great starting place.

Here's a sample excel spreadsheet in excel and open office format if you'd like to adapt it for your own students. It completely blew my mind as well as the minds of my students – hopefully it will do the same for you.

The second instance of worthwhile feedback that came to mind was our second round of state testing.  I presented students with data from their test results, which is automatically broken down by strands.  I placed the students in differentiated groups by the strand they scored the lowest on.  Each group worked on different tasks for the week - those who had low vocabulary scores received explicit instruction in context clues; students who scored poorly on literary text got to make flash cards of different literary terms.  When we took the test, all but nine students improved their overall score, and 15 more students passed the exam, meaning they have one less hurdle to jump in order to graduate.

But the real proof is in the strand scores.  Students in differentiated groups averaged a 6 to 10 point increase on their target strand, compared to a 0 to 4 point increase in non-targeted strands.  Not only were the activities helpful, but I would argue students saw how those activities would help them pass the test - the activities were directly related to areas they struggled with.  As a result, students were more invested in the process.

Next year, I want to do this more than twice.  There is an added bonus when giving students formative assessment.  Chappuis (2009) quotes Sadler (1989):
The indispensable conditions for improvement are that the student comes to hold a concept of quality roughly similar to that held by the teacher, is able to monitor continuously the quality of what is being produced during the act of production itself, and has a repertoire of alternative moves or strategies from which to draw at any given point.
Students understand why the teacher is reteaching and how it will help them, and while learning are monitoring the quality of their work - whether it is a strong or weak example, demonstrates proficiency of the learning goal, and helps them make progress.  Sounds like a pretty good deal.  

Chappuis offers seven strategies to make this happen.  I mentioned these earlier this year.  As these strategies are the topic of the remainder of Chappuis's book, I'll be posting about them in greater depth in the following weeks:

Where Am I Going?
1. Clear learning targets
2. Models of strong & weak work
Where Am I Now?
3. Offer regular, descriptive feedback
4. Teach students to self-assess & set goals
How Can I Close the Gap?
5. Design lessons that focus on one learning target at a time
6. Revision is focused
7. Students track their progress and self assess

Chappuis, J.  (2009).  Seven strategies of assessment for learning.  Portland, OR: Educational Testing Service.

No comments:

Post a Comment