“There is no persuasiveness more effectual than the transparency of a single heart, of a sincere life.”
by Joseph Barber Lightfoot
I love opening my classroom doors virtually, as I believe it makes parents realise the great amount of things that are taking place in the classroom. It encourages them to spend more time with their kids, and talk about what’s going on at school. Apart from that, it makes them feel more respectful and take my work more seriously. In addition to that (yeah, there’s more to add =)), it provides me with lots of new ideas and motivation from the members of my PLN. They always give me good feedback and push me and motivate me to continue working hard (that’s why I love learning collaboratively, remember?).
Up to not so long ago, I have always used class blogs to share my students’ work. First, two years ago, I started a class blog in response to my 6th grade students’ need to improve their writing. Last year, with my 5th grade students’ blog, the aim was different. The blog was created to post their productions related to our project about animals.
By the end of the year, after attending one of @shellterrell’s workshop about wikis, I started to see the benefits of using them. I have never paid much attention to wikis before and was not really interested in the topic. However, Shelly made us realise that wikis are more collaborative in nature than blogs are, and as it is a hyperlinked collection of individual pages you can decide the order in which you present the information. It is not presented, by default, in reverse chronological order as blogs do. This made me become aware that my class blog: Into the Wild would have been better presented in a wiki. It would have been more visual and easier to navigate. (Here you can find more information about the differences between blogs and wikis)
Wikis are very easy to create. If you can word process, you can use a wiki. This, plus, Shelly sharing her own wikis, really motivated me to create my own. I gave wikis a very little try with my second grade students, and I just loved the experience. So, I’m planning to use them more this year. My colleagues have also become interested in them, and have asked me to teach them how to create their own. It is the first time that some of them have shown an interest in teaching with technology. For that reason, this has been a trully inspirational workshop not only for me, but also indirectly for my colleagues. It has had a true ripple effect.
“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”
by Albert Einstein
I’ve been trying to change the way in which I assess my students for a long time, and I’ve never got down to it seriously. I’m afraid today you have forced me to put hands at work. I would love to do away with numbers and letters, and focus completely on progress and achievements. However, I know it requires a lot of thinking and hard work.
Going over the related links Shelly presented in her blog, I got to read about the use of rubrics for giving students constructive feedback. You may have a look at the info here. This reminded me, that last year, I attended a workshop at school about the topic too.
At that moment, I realised that this was what I was looking for. So my short term goal is to prepare good rubrics for the assessment of my students’ speaking, writing and receptive skills, and also for the attitudinal part. At my school we have to mark students on this aspect too. We call it “nota de concepto”. (I’m planning to share them here when I’m done with them.) And of course, my long term goal is to use them to assess my students this year, and focus on progress and achievements, rather than on grades.
If you have never seen an assessment rubric before, here you can see some examples. A rubric is a document that describes the criteria and different levels of achievement to evaluate a specific task. I believe that they are very good for assessing students’ progress, since they:
- provide the students with the information about what they are supposed to achieve in a clear and simple language
- are visually organized
- promote a learner’s autonomous role
- indicate what’s right and what’s wrong
- are easy to use and explain to the students
- help teachers to make rational judgements about students’ work based on the quality of the job done
- reduce arbitrariness and teacher’s time spent grading
- give information about students’ strenghths and weaknesses
What do you think? Have you ever used rubrics? How did it go? Have you got any other ways in which we can assess students’ progress and achievements without focusing on grades as we always do?