Thursday, October 11, 2012

Keeping Score

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had the fortune, thanks to my employer Littleton Public Schools, of attending the Learning Forward conference this summer.  At each conference I attend, my hope is to leave having attended one session that substantively informs my practice.  At this conference, I attended many, my favorite of which was "Feedback: the Hinge that Joins Teaching and Learning", by Jane E. Pollock.  Pollock co-authored the first edition of Classroom Instruction that Works:  Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement.  One section of the text addresses the value of feedback, a section which Pollock's session expanded upon.

Among the topics of this session was score sheets, a component presented by Ian Mulligan from Regis Jesuit High School.  I'm thankful to Ian that he was not only willing to share this strategy, but also to email me the exact document he uses.  The document is a grid on which, each day when students enter class, they record, among other things, the date, the day's learning goal(s), a pre-learning score, and their understanding as they leave class.

I've implemented this strategy as it satisfies all three of my professional learning goals.  Not only does it give students an opening exercise, as each day they are responsible for writing down that learning goal as soon as they enter class, it is also an excellent source of student reflection and feedback for me.  Often, I walk around the room at class's end, checking to see how their understanding as they leave class compares to their pre-learning score.  In doing so, I find out if they are clear about what our purpose is each day. I also know how/ if they are growing using the teaching methods I employ. This strategy also asks them to reflect each day on their learning. Periodically, I check these score sheets as a way to get a bigger picture sense of how, if at all, they are evolving as learners and what I may need to reinforce in upcoming lessons or units.  In short, I love Ian's idea.

Interestingly, I collected these score sheets from my Honors class at week's beginning as we are wrapping up our biggest unit of first semester and I wished to check in with their learning and to obtain their feedback.  In other classes, learning growth has been consistent, with pre-learning scores registering lower than their understanding as they leave class nearly every day.  Unlike what I've found in other classes, I discovered that, for many of my Honors students, their pre-learning scores were high and their growth was minimal or, in some cases, non-existent.  Just as these students experience minimal growth on tests like CSAP as they enter at a higher level of performance, they enter class with a higher level of understanding and are exhibiting less growth than other students.  My concern, then, becomes their reflection on our class time.

Can a student still feel his time is well-spent when he leaves without a higher understanding level or with only minimal growth?  How can I continue to challenge them to continue to grow as learners given their high levels of achievement and understanding?

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