Chapter 2: Building the Foundation for Classroom Assessment

Instructions:

Build a common list of the kinds of feedback you found supportive for your learning. Talk about the implications for your students’ learning and your teaching.

Take time to reflect. How can you use this information to help your students learn more? How can you begin to give up responsibility for being the main source of feedback in the classroom? How can you create opportunities for students to get feedback for themselves that helps learning?

Chapter 2 extends on some of the issues that were raised in chapter 1. For example, Davies explains descriptive and evaluative feedback more in-depth. Descriptive feedback tells the student what they can do to improve with specific comments and can be completed before, during or after the learning; on the other hand, evaluative feedback shows students how they have performed through a grade or symbol (i.e. checkmarks), but not how or why they achieved that mark. There is also a focus on the importance of building a safe environment to support the community of learners and establish classroom agreements pertaining to their learning habits. Davies also mentions the importance of making mistakes to create a learning loop wherein students learn, are assessed, and learn more as a result of the mistakes and feedback.

I believe it is essential to build a safe environment for students to feel comfortable in the classroom. I intend on doing many paired and group activities in the first few weeks of school to help my students connect with each other, and me as their teacher. I want to establish an open and honest classroom that will not judge each other, nor try to say what I want to hear instead of their true opinions.

It has been my experience that I learn more about any given topic and how I learn when I am given constructive and descriptive feedback, not evaluative feedback; therefore I will concentrate on giving my students the former type of feedback throughout their learning. While I like to know my grade and where I stand, that information does not help me improve or succeed and the specific comments do. I learn best when my teachers support my learning by asking me to go beyond the surface level of questions, use different critical lenses, tell me what I am doing wrong and some ways I can correct those mistakes. I have had times when there are no indications of acknowledgement for my learning on a paper, except for evaluative marks and a grade. As a result, I was left bewildered at my mistakes, frustrated for not knowing “what the teacher wants,” and having no idea as to how I could improve for the next assignment. I have found during my university career that going to the Writing Centre in Campion College is extremely beneficial to my learning. At the centre, someone will read my paper and make comments all over the pages. They want me to explain how I knew something or use evidence to justify my opinions. It provides me with an opportunity to speak with someone else and make sure my ideas are coherent. Having those specific comments and descriptive feedback acts as a guide in my next phase of learning and writing. As a result, I am a firm believer that people need to know what needs to be changed or discussed further in order to be successful. My classroom will reflect this idea as I engage them in revising and assessing processes in TAPS (Total group, Alone, Partner, and  Small groups). Through working in TAPS, my class will develop a better sense of community while working on improving their learning together. The idea of doing peer assessments also ensures that I will not be solely responsible for helping my students improve; my students will be accountable for assisting their classmates in their learning.

I have learned in my ELNG 351 class that mistakes are essential to learning. Kelly Gallagher’s “Teaching Adolescent Writers” discourses why it is important for students to see the process of writing, rather than just the final copy. Gallagher (2006) insists that students need to see that it is a difficult process, a step-by-step challenge, and not something that can be done perfectly the first time. For this reason, Gallagher suggests teachers first create a sample of the assignment together (this example is based on English courses but could be applied to other subject areas as well). As students recognize the amount of work and drafts that go into writing, they will understand that mistakes allow them to improve if they are given feedback. This relates to what Davies believes: “learning involves taking risks and making mistakes, and then doing things differently as a result” (16). From my high school experience of being shown a perfect example, I became afraid and ashamed when I made mistakes on my assignments; thus, as a direct result from my experiences and research, I want to create the samples with students and other opportunities for my students to make mistakes in our safe atmosphere in order for them to feel comfortable and recognize learning as a difficult and on-going process. Even a simple classroom conversation can be an opportunity for my students to assess each other’s contributions by asking each other to explain their ideas further, as well as make mistakes without being afraid of being harshly critiqued.

My questions for you: in your classroom, how do you allow your students to make mistakes? Are they given the chance to peer evaluate other students?

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