Chapter 4: Describing Success


This chapter’s “hiking boots” are more complicated because it assumes you have students to collect and create sample work with; therefore, I will hypothetically list the features in assignments that as a teacher I would want to see.

The chapter begins with a broad statement: “Students learn in different ways and at different rates” (33). This is a general statement, but one that teachers should keep in mind while creating lesson and unit plans, as well as teaching these lessons and units. The chapter focuses on the importance of defining success for your students as something that is not static; success looks different for every student, and each student will be able to show want they know in different ways, and this means that the assessment or assignment you have planned may not be the strong suit of a student. Davies asserts that the best way to show the diversity of success is to show as many student work samples as they can to show that there is no single expectation.

Davies lists the reasons that teachers can use sample work in classroom: “[to] develop criteria for different kinds of evidence of learning with students, provide better quality feedback, help others understand learning, [and] increase the accuracy of one’s professional judgement” (43). I agree that there is a variety of ways to use samples and exemplars, but I do not entirely agree with the reasons she provides. While I agree that it is important to establish criteria for assignments and have the students involved in the process, I believe that a teacher needs to make a decision to include criteria that the students do not mention. These criterions should be explained fully to the students and they should understand the importance of each criteria in an assignment. I believe that the other reasons are accurate and vital to student improvement. Providing better feedback can stem from having a clearer sense of what is important to the student and what the student wants feedback on. Samples can also help others understand learning by being able to visualize what a project should look like or have as a main theme. It can also provide a starting point and the student may be able to come up with more ideas based on the samples provided.

As I mentioned before, in my ECS 300 field I taught an extended poetry lesson. Before we asked our students to begin writing Remembrance Day poetry, we showed them some samples that we got online from a class with a similar age. These samples helped the kids remember what had been expected of them in the past, as well as brought forth an array of topics to write about and the styles of poetry that they could use to do so. From showing and discussing the features of the poems, students were able to add to the previous brainstorming list created by the entire class. Ideas of how family members were affected, what it must have felt like, the reasons for becoming a soldier, the symbols associated with Remembrance Day and why we remember all became more clear once they had seen other students’ work. Along with the rubric I provided for the students, they were able to produce creative and critical poems that played on these ideas and were displayed in different poetry types from name poems to haikus to sonnets that challenged each student individually. Because of the huge success from this assignment and my own positive personal experiences with samples, I am a firm believer that that if you cannot show your students how an assignment should be completed, you should not be teaching that assignment.

My questions for you: as a new teacher how did you begin your student sample work collection?

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