Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Entry #8 - Bless, Address, or Press

Katie Mason, in Entry Six of her blog Katie's Blog, discusses teacher driven assessment. She stated "In my opinion, I think that we would wear ourselves out if we graded every piece of writing and offered consistent and meaningful feedback". She went on to say "Most students, who are apathetic to writing, will not take the time to read all of the comments and critiques written on their writing". I think both of the above statements hold truth in many classrooms, but I also think that teachers grading every piece of student work is not beneficial for many other reasons.

When reflecting on assessment practices and what I have learned throughout this course, I have come to believe that assessment must be strategic, purposeful, and very clear. When we do assess students of any age they must understand completely what and how they are being assessed. As educators, formal assessment can provide us with specific feedback as to where our students stand and more importantly, where they need to go. I think it very important to take that information and instead of having the mindset "this student must be able to... by ..." we must turn that around and think "what can I do to be able to help this student...". When assessment is used in that way, it is much more reflective and purposeful.

I also think it is important for teachers to use informal modes of assessment in their classroom. Tompkins (2012) wrote that “teachers need to ask themselves whether assessing each piece of writing will make their students better writers, and most teachers will admit that such arduous critiques won’t” (p.104). If this is the case, we as teachers can be observing, taking notes, or simply conferencing with student to gain a better understanding of what they need and what we can do to help. Using these methods of assessment are much less intimidating and will make our students better writers, rather than assessing them for a finalized grade only.

Mason also discussed in her blog the importance of communicating with students versus giving work a final grade and stopping there.

"In my other classes, I assign much of the writing as a grade. I do not critique their actual writing though. Instead I skim through the writing to get the gist and grade them based on the relevance to the assignment. If the student is writing and is missing the main point, I will occasionally write questions back to them, in an attempt to get them to be more thoughtful"

Tompkins (2012) would agree with Mason in that assessment should be clear and communicative, and not only based on grammar, mechanics, etc. Students need feedback that lends them to ponder, using higher level thinking skills to debrief on how they can make their writing piece stronger. It seems like that is what Mason is using in her own classroom. Instead of only assessing writing mechanics, she is trying to get students to make connections and elaborate on what they have already written. I think this is a pertinent part of assessment.

Just last week I was working with my writing group to discuss ideas we had and the starts of our Genre Pieces Projects. I was lucky enough to have a group that essentially broke down every single idea I had, giving me other viewpoints, only to build back up each part of my project much stronger than it was initially. They cause multiple moments when "uhhhh..." was the only thing out of my mouth, and many moments when I felt like I was completely starting from scratch! In the end, that informal peer assessment helped me to create ideas that I am proud of and genuinely look forward to expanding upon!

My hope as an educator is that I will someday have the ability to take a student who is anxious about an assignment, struggling with it, or giving up all together, and give them the motivation, confidence, and ability to think through their anxieties to build amazing pieces of writing!!

1 comment:

  1. You did a great job here of finding a key quote from Katie's blog and then using this as a means to further explore your own understanding of where the limits are between useful feedback and feedback-fatigue.

    I also appreciate your reflection on how a writer can resist the feedback when it requires the her to truly re-envision her work. I commend you on being willing to take up the challenge.