Sunday, October 11, 2015

A New Year with #AssessPeel

We are far enough into the new school year now to have "written" our progress reports (for a semestered secondary school, anyway) and I am happy to be entrenched in a few things related to assessment and evaluation, both in my own classroom and with the board. Here are some of the highlights which I hope to share in more detail as the year trucks on.

1. Peel Teacher Assessment Working Team

Last year I was pleased to be asked by my vice principal to join the PTAWT as a representative of our superintendency. Each superintendent has a group of schools that they represent so there are about 10-12 teachers on this team (plus the coordinating principals and superintendent) and 3 facilitators (the assessment instructional coordinator and 2 instructional coaches).

The teacher group meets 3-4 times in the school year, as does the administrator group (PAAWT) and then we we have a chance to meet as a whole group at the end of the school year. This started in second semester of last year and both groups identified similar areas to work on, but obviously our team is focusing on the in-class portions of the topics. We are currently working on overarching learning goals (OLGs) and learning goals using Rethinking Letter Grades (a resource by a couple of teachers in BC) to work with OLGs and should be moving into learning goals more specifically at our next session.

OLGs are known as Big Ideas in the book mentioned below and are essentially the broad spectrum learning goals of a course (usually 3-5 goals) that marry the skills (dos) and content (knows) of the course (while curriculum documents usually have a lot of this separate and do not over-arch the entire course).

2. Rethinking Letter Grades

I eluding to us using this resource with the PTAWT above, and I am also using it on my own time and with my schools assessment working team. I had a day with my science teacher team in mid September where we used some of the suggestions for creating big ideas (OLGs) for our Grade 9 and 10 academic courses. It is definitely a process and we were more efficient when we got to working on the Grade 10 course. What I love about creating and using OLGs is how easily it lends itself to other things, such as backward design of the course and bringing a focus to every class and evaluation used. It can provide a lot of structure, if you let it.

What the book really does with these ideas is lead you to creating a Learning Map - essentially a rubric for the course! This can be used to determine a final level/grade for each student at the end of the course and to map progress along the way. This is the stage I am now working on. Trying to come up with what each OLG looks like at each level (in student friendly language). I am a big fan of throwing grades out as much as possible. It should be about the learning (and the progress made), not about some number that we say a student achieves. A lot more motivation comes to students who can look for meaningful (specific) things they can work on to improve, instead of trying to use numbers to motivate them (many kids are not motivated by their marks at all).

3. Co-Facilitating a Book Talk

Our instructional coordinator of assessment has asked me to co-facilitate a book talk around Rethinking Letter Grades with her this month. It is running on 3 Wednesdays after school from Oct 14-28. We have also pulled another of the teachers from the PTAWT to join us and a few of my colleagues have signed up for the sessions. We are still hoping to add a few more participants, so if you are a Peel teacher and interested sign up on My Learning Plan ASAP.

4. Proposal for OAME

Last year I made an attempt to become a presenter for OAME around my flipped classroom and assessment practices but was unsuccessful. This years conference has a focus essentially around "diving into things" so I have submitted a proposal around the above mentioned book. My fingers are crossed and I am thankful for getting to do this book talk first so that I will have some ideas around a flow to use for the session if I am approved.


  1. What's a PTAWT? I'm not familiar with this term, but I'm in Peel too! How did you like the book? Should I get a copy?

    1. That's the acronym for #1. It's a board team of secondary classroom teachers.

      Everyone that I know who has looked at the book has liked it. It's written by teachers for teachers. It's an easy read that introduces a great process (not an easy process, but a good one). We're doing a book talk on it via Twitter that you can register for. Look for the link on the #AssessPeel hashtag.

    2. Right! Missed the heading. Gotcha. :-)

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