Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Interims - Continued

We continued our discussion of interims this morning.

So, what is the purpose of the exercise? Yes, we do have a legal obligation to report, but if we are doing it anyway, could it be more meaningful but still flexible and manageable? How can we put together a process that helps students learn better (tied to outcomes?), communicates important messages from the teacher (DEW line perhaps?) and answers the questions that parents have (should I be worried or not)?

Does a flexible format or layout create more opportunities for meaningful communication? (ie. Generic or department-specific; checkboxes, anecdotal space, and/or comment lists.)

If we begin with the end in mind, what do we want students, parents and teachers to understand at the end of the process? (ie. What would teachers like to say; what would parents like to see; what would students need to know?) We ended our session this morning hoping that some good suggestions might come from departments as they look for what would make the interim useful for them.


Ms. Panas said...

What do I want students, parents, and teachers to understand at the end of the October interim process? By this point, about 6 weeks in, I know most of the students' names and have seen some of their work, but have no summative assessments or marks. What I know at that point is a sense of their work habits (Is work generally being done? Does the child participate in class? What is attendance like?), and an idea of how well they are handling the concepts and tasks I have given them. I have perhaps a hint of who may struggle with the class and who might be at risk of failing, but I have no concrete evidence yet.

Parents, I think, want to know if their child is "doing well"--but what this means differs by the parent. Is my child passing? Getting an A or a C+? Is my child coping with the task demands? Is my child behaving her/himself in class? What is my child good at and struggling with? This is borne out in parent-teacher conferences by the responses I get from parents when I ask, "What would you like to know?"

Students seem to want to know a number of different things as well. They want to know if they are passing, and how well ("Satisfactory progress" or "Excellent work!" or "Struggling with tasks"). I would venture to guess they also want to know what their teachers think of them ("A pleasure to teach" or "Needs to be less social"). Perhaps some also want to know a specific grade.

Linking this conversation back to the posts on differentiation, why not send home a form to families ahead of time, asking them to be specific about what they want to know--with some caveats re: grades, etc. We could have some categories to choose from such as "Behaviour in Class," "Work Habits," "Task Completion," and "Academic Progress." Maybe we need to educate parents ahead of time and more explicitly about what they can expect from teachers at the 6-week mark (how many times we've seen the kids, formative and summative assessements, focus on developing work habits).

These ideas are just a quick brainstorm, but might facilitate some interesting conversations between parents and children. What if the kids had to predict what teachers would say, and then teachers confirmed or clarified the student's perceptions? I do this with my Work Habits evaluation at the end of each term, and it makes comments on report cards simpler. It's also interesting to see how students perceive themselves and who is totally off the mark.

If we made it clear up front what teachers can tell parents, and the parents chose the responses they were most interested in, we might be surprised at what we find.

BTW, I am planning to be on the interim revision team, so we'll see what happens. Your feedback on these ideas is appreciated!


ordinary vices said...

We have just had our parent teacher interviews which is after the first interim. I like this approach as it has the potential "structurally" to address performance through learning skills before marks have been structurally placed in the system. I am keeping track of the 5 learning skills that are outlined on the ontario report card among others (organization, teamwork, homework, independent and initiative). I think this is similar to Joanne's contribution about what people want to know. At the interim I can say that the performance is consistent(bad or good) by or inconsistent. Cooper? argues that it is the inconsistent performances that are challenging to both teacher and learner

I don't calculate marks (seniors only) and put them on the back for students. I am having them calculate marks...on the interim I wrote "ask ____ (name)"

I have just looked at anne davie's article (picking up on Gordon's communications theme) on communications and I am thinking about asking students to collect evidence for their understanding for various topics in the nature of matter section. We will do the labs, activities and it will be up to them to show me their understanding...I will have a traditional paper and pencil test on the same material. This could triangulate nicely if I have some sort of oral test.

Let us here in the wild wild east know how the interim revisions went.


Anonymous said...

I love the idea of involving the students in the first interim process (and in all reporting). In our discussions we played "What if" and even talked about a more flexible electronic version where departments would discuss what they'd like on the check boxes and the comment portion would be expandable so you could write what ever you wished and not to edit what you wanted to say or what the student needed to hear into a little box with a fine tip pen. I loved the idea because I could fill them in outside of class if I needed and wouldn't need to create a "fully student centred" lesson while I filled in interims.

I really think teachers/students would benefit from a discussion on what were the key ideas/learning goals/work habit performances/lifelong attitudes and skill development should be reported on and in what way.

Tim's comments on inconsistency is so true. This past week I was able to say to several students, "I have good news and bad news. The bad news is you didn't get any of the quiz correct but the good news is that you only made one mistake! This we can fix really easily because you have corrected all you other inconsistencies and have only one left before you'll be able to do them all correctly."

I found this website on "Engaging Teens in their Own Learning a valuable read on Tuesday.