Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"Skills Check" Quiz

This past school year my department head was introduced to a new style of quiz (origin unknown - if you know who in the board she got it from please let me know and I will give credit where credit is due). We use them as an opportunity for a specific skill check - generally knowledge-based but sometimes the level 3/4 questions will involve using the skill in a new context. There is no use of marks

The "quiz" is set up with a learning goal at the top with success criteria listed (I now look back and would probably argue for myself that the SC is really just 1 or 2 criteria split into levels). There are 4 questions on the quiz, set up in a chart (3 columns - the question with work space, feedback & reflection/corrections) starting with a level 1 type question and ending with a level 4 type question. A sample (from MCR 3U0) of the front of one of mine is shown in the image below (I put the level 3 & 4 questions on the back).

The focus of this style of quiz is on the feedback.

If a student is struggling with the level 1 question than I will focus my feedback there and stop. The feedback is descriptive (tells the student what they are able to do and what the next step needs to be - as well as where to get the help with it) and manageable - if they are struggling with the level 1 question then giving feedback on other questions will likely be too much.

What really sold me on this particular format is that it became easy for me to record a level for the student at the end - I had already done most of the thinking when I planned and created the quiz. This was mind-blowing for me because so much of the hardship in the adjustments I was making in my assessment journey was the extra time I was spending giving feedback and then figuring out levels.

Granted this is just a quiz and it cannot be used for all purposes. But it's a start.

Finally, when I return these to students I do not take them up (because the individual feedback they need is on them) but students are giving time to do corrections/reflections, redo the next question, and are then encouraged to hand it back in. I will then check their corrections and if they have succeeded at that level will look at the next one and provide them feedback on this.

The hardest part for me? Continuing to work on the classroom culture where this kind of practice is valued and more students take the opportunity to resubmit.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Portfolio: Who Do I Hope to Become?

As part of my Teacher Leadership Part 1 AQ we are to build a portfolio of artifacts that reflect who we are as a leader and who we want to become. In this entry I will be reflecting on who I hope to become as a leader and where it might take me.

I would like to be able to feel more confident with dissonant conversations that come up in the office/lunchroom going forward. I find that when I am able to prepare for these types of things I do a little better but I do not always think well on my feet and come up with diplomatic but pointed ways to say things. I will be working to improve this aspect of my leadership-related skills in the near future.

I am planning to complete Part 2 and the specialist of this 3 part AQ course going forward and hope to continue to build myself up as a leader by getting better at seeking feedback from others about my practice. This is a good portion of the data we will need to collect for our TLLP project, so I believe that being the lead of this project will help me to do that more often. I particularly feel that it is important for me to learn to take action based on that feedback.

Going forward I continue to believe that leading by example is the most important thing that a teacher-leader can do. We need to share our triumps AND failures with colleagues (deprivatize our practice), be willing to take risks (and learn from each part of it along the way) and, most importantly, we must be willing to ask the difficult questions (just because we have "always done it this way" doesn't make it the best/only way).

We must be willing to stand up for students, to seek change and be willing to learn from others.

Here is the leadership philosophy I developed for the course that I think reflects who I hope to be as a leader.

Portfolio: Future Endeavours

As part of my Teacher Leadership Part 1 AQ we are to build a portfolio of artifacts that reflect who we are as a leader and who we want to become. In this entry I will be reflecting on a role that I might like to take on in the future with my board.

I used to talk a little about seeking a department headship position. And there was a time where I thought the instruction technology resource teacher position was of interest to me. But in the past couple of years I have come to realize that I am not sure that a headship is what I would really be passionate about and the ITRT position might be fun but is not where I would find excitement.

What my journey (much of which is outlined in the previous portfolio posts) has lead me to realize is that the instructional coach position in my board is really what would interest me. The co-learning stance that they seek, the current focus on numeracy (and, by the way, numeracy does not equal math!) and the ever growing focus on assessment and evaluation speak way more to who I am as an educator. And I think that I would learn a lot about myself and about the profession.

I was fortunate enough to be exposed to this position by a great role model for a few years. She was very good at building capacity in the school and had a great learning stance (she was also an elementary teacher so felt she had a lot she could learn and also brought an interesting perspective to our work).

Last year I called on our IC so that I could bounce ideas off of him to build my first conversation-based evaluation for a senior math course. The result of this interaction was him sharing this gem of a resource with me.

Portfolio: Team Lead

As part of my Teacher Leadership Part 1 AQ we are to build a portfolio of artifacts that reflect who we are as a leader and who we want to become. In this entry I will be reflecting on how opportunities to lead an assessment working team have impacted me as a leader.

Along my journey mentioned in my previous post I mentioned that I was led along a path after being tapped on the shoulder by admin. Part of that path was to be part of the Assessment Working Team. This team worked on building capacity to lead others through discussions and work around learning goals, success criteria, overarching learning goals (big ideas) and learning maps.

This team inspired me to start an assessment working team at my school (I prefer this terminology to "committee" since we were there to learn from and support each other through our assessment journeys. This gave me experience with scheduling and planning monthly meetings as well as collecting data/feedback.

I feel that this opportunity has equipped me to lead our TLLP team. We are embarking on a journey to explore ways to use feedback based assessment (not grades) so that out students become autonomous learners while maintaining a manageable workload as teachers.

For this post I have decided to share where the "scratch work" of my science department grade 9 overarching learning goal work landed (this work was made possible by the working team's efforts and work. I think that showing some of the grunt work makes it a better example for others - your journey does not need to be neat and tidy. In fact it is going to be messy and will zigzag around into unexpected places along the way.

Portfolio: Assessment Leadership

As part of my Teacher Leadership Part 1 AQ we are to build a portfolio of artifacts that reflect who we are as a leader and who we want to become. In this entry I will be reflecting on how opportunities to participate in board assessment opportunities have impacted me as a leader.

At some point my admin tapped me on the shoulder and informed me that I was seen as a teacher leader and there was an opportunity I should take advantage of. After a brief pause of confusion, I said "okay!" and a series of circumstances have lead me to where I am now - a member of our Secondary Assessment Leadership Team (SALT) for the 2017-2018 school year.

This opportunity is going to give me a chance to network with colleagues in my board from almost every secondary school who have an interest in moving assessment and evaluation forward. We are specifically going to be focusing on final evaluations so that the board can build practices that are better aligned between schools and better aligned with Growing Success (2010) and our board assessment policy.

This network of resources will be valuable going forward as we will be able to connect colleagues at our schools with people who are working on the same course or subject - which will help break down barriers that sometimes exist in the secondary school world.

The SALT team is what lead me down the Learning Map journey. This example is my most recent one created. These are always a work in progress and I am planning to make use of them in my "gradeless" journey this year.

Portfolio: Facilitating Professional Development

As part of my Teacher Leadership Part 1 AQ we are to build a portfolio of artifacts that reflect who we are as a leader and who we want to become. In this entry I will be reflecting on how opportunities to lead professional development have impacted me as a leader.

I started to lead professional learning in my school  fairly early in my career (probably my 4th year) and usually it was to expose colleagues to a technology that I was using (i.e. Twitter) or explain the classroom strategy that I was using (i.e. Flipped classroom). It was my admin, at the time, that was asking me to share these things - I did not see myself as a teacher leader at this time.

It was the encouragement of an elementary peer, now friend, that got me to apply to present at my first conference (and by the end of this month I will have "presented" at a conference 5 times in less than two years). These opportunities have given me a chance to see first hand what sharing my practice can do for others (and have taught me some of the nuances needed to sometimes have dissonant conversations about education).

Here is the slide deck from my first conference workshop that I lead at OAME in May of 2016.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Portfolio: Shared Responsibility: Developing Autonomous Learners

I am taking the Teacher Leadership Part 1 AQ. Our culminating task involves creating a leadership portfolio by choosing items from each module of the course to share and reflecting on its contribution to my growth as a leader. I have chosen to share my portfolio as part of my blog.

This entry is from the module entitled Shared Responsibility where we looked at parent communication reasons & strategies, inquiry-based learners, mental health & resiliency, and student success stakeholders and planning. The item I have chosen is the inquiry-based activity (lesson) that I developed as part of the Developing Autonomous Learners section of the module.

In this section I was forced to come back to an always-repeating thought "what does inquiry-based learning really mean in a math classroom?" So I did some research to find out what others thought this means and discovered that for a math teacher this really should be thought of in the lens of discovery learning or problem-based learning. The goal, in the end, is to get students learning/asking questions in the context of the learning so that it has more meaning and leads to better retention. For instance, the teacher can introduce students to a basic idea (i.e. factoring trinomials) and then use problems for students to work through so that they can start to identify patterns or methods that work. In this model the teacher (who I now prefer to call the coach) can answer questions, connect groups of students, do mini-lessons, or stop the whole class to discuss something.

Our assignment had asked us to submit an inquiry-activity. Going through the above process helped me to realize that I am doing more inquiry-learning than I had realized and then forced me to think through an activity more thoroughly. I now feel like I am better equipped to answer the question "but what does this mean in math?" and to be an instructional-leader in this area.

The assignment was to outline an activity, describe the assessment process(es) involved, and to describe how we would share the resulting data with others.

Here is the activity that I submitted for this assignment:

Inquiry-Based Activity

The idea behind inquiry-based learning is that students use an activity as a learning opportunity (to discover or uncover new learning). In many classes this might involve a topic that is introduced (or an open-ended question) where students come up with a question to investigate. In mathematics there is not necessarily a chance to come up with big issues to get students interested in the learning but we can use problems to get them to investigate a main idea and learn the details of that idea from the problems.


Prior Knowledge: Students have already learned what a function is and they have reviewed characteristics of 5 main functions (such as asymptotes, vertexes, etc).

1.      Review characteristics of 5 functions, address any concerns or questions.
2.      Get students onto to complete Domain and Range activity. Most slides in the activity have students submit work and then they will see the responses of 3 peers (so they can self-assess immediately) and teacher can see all responses to monitor class progress (so the whole class can be paused if needed or teacher can go to discuss with specific students). The activity progresses as follows:
                           i.          Graph is given and domain and range are described in words. Student is asked to describe what they think domain and range mean.
                          ii.          A graph is given with description in words. Students identify whether they agree or not.
                         iii.          Graph is given. Students are asked to describe domain and then range in words.
                         iv.          Graph is given and “select all” list using algebraic description of domain and range.
                          v.          Graph is given with algebraic description for domain. Students have to correct the domain.
                         vi.          Graph is given. Students submit algebraic description of domain and then range.
                       vii.          Algebraic domain and range is given. Students create a graph that fits description. ( x 3 )
                      viii.          Graph is given with MC question asking for which algebraic statement is false.
3.      Teacher leads a discussion to consolidate learning of domain and range and add full notation and review function vs relation.
4.      Students add domain and range to characteristics in chart from previous class.
5.      Students pair up to check each others domain & range and to give feedback.

Plan for Sharing Successes, Challenges and Next Steps

This particular inquiry will help to determine the preparedness of the grade 11s to discuss functions (based on introduction of domain and range briefly in grade 10) and on student preparedness to complete investigations (which is an important thinking skill in mathematics and ties directly into the math processes of reflection and connection and this particular task ties into representing). In addition it will help inform the grade 11 team for readiness to move onto the next lesson (immediate next lesson is an activity to practice using the domain/range vocab and we will do some algebraic lessons before coming back to characteristics of functions).

I will share the above with the current grade 10 team so they can make informed decisions about introducing domain/range and with the rest of the grade 11 team to get a conversation started about next steps for investigative thinking. If admin want to know how we are looking at skills continuum in mathematics I will also share this information with them.