Friday, January 10, 2014

Over the past year we have been talking a lot about taking risks and not being afraid to fail. We have encouraged our teachers to think outside the box and to do things that they have not tried in the past. The discussion of grading practices has come up several times and we have had discussions on grading content rather than behaviors. Our #ALedchat had led to discussion and reflection for many of our teachers on their teaching practices and for some, this has led to dramatic and what I consider transformative change in the classroom. One of these teachers is Mrs. Kellye Self. Mrs. Self teaches government to seniors and in the past has struggled with getting this group engaged and motivated to finish strong. After a great deal of reflection and planning, Ms. Self decided to change things up a bit this past semester.

Instead of traditional sit and get instruction that can be found in classrooms across the county, Mrs. Self decided that students would engage with their curriculum through activities, videos, and assignments that they chose to complete. Students were given a grading scale up front that explained to them the requirements of the class and what would have to be completed to achieve their desired grade. Mrs. Self also dropped traditional testing methods. What?? No test?? That is right. Mrs. Self has students schedule times during class and outside of class to come see her for an "interview". During this interview, Mrs. Self and the student talk about a predetermined concept that the student has completed an assignment on and a grade is given based on the student's knowledge of the content. This conversation allowed Mrs. Self to truly know if the student had a solid grasp on the content. When it came time for the semester exam, Mrs. Self knew that she had to design an exam or assessment with a similar format. But how can you schedule interviews with 100+ students during the scheduled exam week? Below is her explanation of her exams.

As you know, my students were tested for their exam using oral essays.  They were given questions in advance for each unit we have studied and when they logged into Moodle, the test itself chose which 3 questions they would answer.  They then had to upload their answer to Moodle within 90 minutes.  They still had to come to school during their exam time, but many chose to complete their interviews at home and upload from there – I encouraged that because they would be more relaxed, they wouldn’t have noise distractions and the upload times were bound to be faster from home.  Here is an example from today’s students.  She did well on all of her questions – on this one, I particularly like how the cat jumps into her lap, momentarily distracting her from the process.  She pulled right back in like she hadn’t been interrupted at all.  Her answer was pretty good too!  J

 For your reference, here is the question she is answering:

Describe at least three different types of government. How would you define and distinguish them? What are the similarities and differences?  Identify at least one country which has each type of government you identify.  What are the specific characteristics of representative democracy?  Using those characteristics as your guide, is America a representative democracy?  Explain.

Here is a second example:
Mrs. Self did an awesome job! We appreciate her willingness to find new ways to teach and assess her students. This is not easy and takes a ton of time, but I would say it is well worth it for the students.

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