Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Intentional Learning

It stands to reason that if we connect meaning and personal investment to what we want students to learn and know they WILL master it. We see that with them knowing song lyrics and titles, movie trivia and of course game trivia of all types, from electronic to actual team sports and many other things that interest them.
The challenge of course is creating lessons that connect that 'meaning' and the how and why they would/should want to learn "it" is where we are at today in society.  Do we need to demonstrate and model that it is a 'mystery', that we don't know the answers ourselves and that they are the ones who need to discover or dig in and find the answers? Sometimes I think we just 'give and give' them info and since they haven't vested anything in it themselves, it is never learned for some and for others, after the test it is forgotten. I know, I know, this is hard to get them excited and pumped up but somehow this to me seems like the way to go for some, if not all, students.
When I was a classroom teacher for all subjects I was able to tie a lot of the concepts together which was a lot of work but really pretty successful. For instance when learning about Egypt in Social Studies, we would make projects such as pyramids and masks and other artwork, we had math lessons that related to Egypt and of course many writing opportunities. Of course there were still some students who struggled (with behavior mostly) but I believe they were more successful learning this way than to have all the subjects separate and not coorelated with each other.
I believe that personally connecting that information and standard that we want students to learn to the child's past and current experiences and future life has got to be one of the key points that will help students get excited about diving in and learning what we think they should know to be successful.
And THAT right there is the challenge! But I am hopeful that it can be done.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Repair Kit for Grading: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades                                                                        Julie Sjol

After reading this book, I have to agree that there is a need for a change in the grading system but I wonder what the implications are if that isn’t consistent in all classes, in all schools and even in all states. I have more questions now than I had before reading the book.  It made me wonder if my student’s grades would have been different during my years of teaching 6th grade if I would have implemented the idea of using other measures of central tendency and didn’t accept zeroes at all.

I do believe that a student should be graded on what they have mastered by the end of the grading period, but I also know of many students who are not good test takers and would have much lower grades if homework wasn’t included in their grade.  I agree that maybe you wouldn’t be able to say they have ‘mastered’ the curriculum or concepts but the student probably does have a good work ethic if all homework and assignments are complete and they are able to “locate information and answers” because we all know that can be an indication of future success.

I feel that a new way of grading is going to have to be gradual and in steps so that everyone from students and parents to teachers and college professors will understand this and it will ensure that students are college ready.

Another thought:  I do question the idea of using ‘professional judgement’ because I wonder if that will be fair. I wonder if a student could get an unfavorable grade or the opposite, depending on how well the student gets along with the teacher. 

My favorite fix is #15 – allowing students to have a key role in assessment and grading.  When students are allowed to be involved in the grading process they will more likely to know what’s going on, to self- advocate, to reflect on their own behavior and habits, and to make necessary changes to improve.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Thoughts on Ch. 1-2  in “A Repair Kit for Grading”                                              Julie Sjol

While reading this book, I can’t help but have some very conflicting thoughts go through my head. I do agree with all of the “Fixes” in Ch. 1-2 so far, but I have also been thinking “Yeah, but…..” as I read it.  I guess this is a hard concept for me to wrap my head around because I wonder “how is a teacher to grade some things that a student is just learning and they have not developed the skill yet AT ALL.  And “how is the teacher going to get some students even motivated to do an assignment in a timely manner if there are no consequences at all for late work or for disruptive and/or dishonest behavior ”. 

In the perfect world every student would have his/her own individual education plan and they would be allowed to move at their own pace and do their own ‘projects’  or ‘assignments’ that demonstrate mastery of the skill but even then we would still have the students who have no interest, and/or no motivation due to circumstances in their lives or due to mental/emotional issues.  Of course, the school addresses these issues the best they can but most of the time the parents have the ultimate power in whether their child gets psychological help, whether they have any stability at home, and whether their child even stays in school after they turn 16.

Being able to connect what the student is learning in the classroom to the real world can be challenging and for many students they will STILL demonstrate apathy.  So yes, providing that ‘support’ is critical and that is where we need to be improving.  I think that support for the learner, the educator, and the parent is critical.