Visible Learning: surprising discoveries for new teachers

One of the blogger initiative questions this week is: All new teachers should learn___before entering the classroom. In my opinion every teacher, new or not, needs to become familiar with John Hattie’s work on Visible Learning. Of all the strategies, programs, etc. that are in our teacher toolbox, we should be selecting strategies that make the most impact on learning and achievement. Hattie conducted a meta-analysis of more than 800 studies and some of the results are surprising.

The single most effective strategy a teacher can implement is for students to set goals and monitor their own progress.

My mentor is a university professor in middle level education. She has often asked me to present my latest adventures to her MLE curriculum students. I presented Hattie’s work on Visible Learning for Teachers and many students were enlightened.

“Knowing a student’s learning style has been driven into our heads and now you are telling us it’s not as important as we think,” one MLE student commented.

Certainly learning styles is best practice, however nearly everything works to some degree. Why not first implement those strategies that maximize our leverage?

I think Hattie’s work directly connects to the strategies involved in implementing standards based grading. Jump to slide 19 of the presentation for proof.

Click above to view the Slide Rocket presentation

PowToon Presents: Standards Based Grading

My venture into standards based grading is going well. Open House is next week and I created a 2:30 minute PowToon to introduce the concept to parents. I’m preparing remarks afterwards to explain what it will look like in the gradebook as well as how students will track of their own progress. I hope everything goes according to plan!

Is the pure joy and delight of learning without judgment forever gone?

 Inmo—a dear colleague, mentor, and educational leader—responds to the potential perils of SBG and assessment. With voice so elequent, it deserves its own post.

As you know I am one who not only thinks outside the box but also one who lives outside the box and has spent most of my life looking for the box that others talk about. Having said that I want to provide another lens for you to view your thinking on SBG.

“Creating wonder in the rabbit hole named school” as the subtheme to your blog title theme is something to “wonder and to ponder.” It would be of great joy for me to read your blog about the wonder of student learning in a non assessed driven educational community and to see the joy of learning that comes from an approach to teaching without both educators and students being assessed on what they did or did not learn or how well the teacher taught or did not teach. Is the pure joy and delight of learning without judgment forever gone?

I understand how schools are expecting educators to use SBG but since I went to a school through 6th grade where we did not get grades on projects or for the classes, it is always hard for me to “grade” a student. I went to school to learn, to have fun, and to see my friends. Once grades entered the picture learning took a divergent path.

I can honestly assess students and I can honesty assess student work and I can give honest feedback to parents. For me to give a grade to a student is something that is still hard for me to do as an educator. I have taught both at the college level and in private schools where grades were not given but assessments and feedback were. Such assessments and feedback take a lot of time and great reflection on student work to write and I assess students as individuals and not as a collective. Plus such assessments use way less math and fewer students fighting for “points” they think they should have received.

You and I have done research together on student perception of teachers. It would be “curiouser” to explore how students view assessment, esp. SBG. Although, I think most students would be somewhat biased in favor of grades since most students have never gone to school without getting grades or being graded.

Wouldn’t it be great if students knew the standards they were being “graded?” I believe that students should know the standards or goals of why they are being “taught’” what they are being “taught” and in the same view they should also be allowed to provide feedback or suggestions on how they get assessed.

I know many educators may not support these concepts – but such concepts and strategies have been practiced for decades and are still practiced in some schools today. So as curiouser is to curiouser I suggest you create a small advisory board of your students for some basic feedback on your thoughts posed on this blog posting.

When you write, “ I’ve created standards based student goal setting sheets (they can be found here), and I know how to score using the 4 point rubric. The hurdle is “How do I report grades based on Marzano’s 4 point scale and not freak out the students and parents?”

Why not change the “I” to “my students and I” and get some of their feedback?

I have my 50th high school class reunion in a couple of weeks – it will be fun to see how my friends, the other non graded students in my generation are doing today and wonder if we would have been more successful if we had received grades. Most of the 50 years since I graduated from high school I have been an educator. I have seen many changes in education during that time span come and go and the current focus on assessment assessment assessment is one I hope does not stay for long.

How do we balance assessment, grades, rankings, etc. with the joy of learning? Thoughts?

Standards Based Grading in a percentage based world

I’m participating in the math blogging initiative and thankfully the list of writing prompts is not intimidating. I could write about how I chose the name for my blog—I am extremely curious and I want my students to be too. But I really want to talk about something else. Something that has piqued my curiosity.

Standards based grading. It’s what I want to implement this year and yet I need to do this within the limitations of our district’s percentage based gradebook reporting system. It appears my colleague from the other middle school and I will be the first in our district to implement it. I’ve been reading blogs and Marzano’s work all summer so I think I know what I’m getting into. But I need your feedback.

I have the formative and summative assessment pieces identified with the standards, I’ve created standards based student goal setting sheets (they can be found here), and I know how to score using the 4 point rubric. The hurdle is “How do I report grades based on Marzano’s 4 point scale and not freak out the students and parents?”

The following idea isn’t pure SBG, but it’s the best workaround for now.

If a teacher is “stuck” in a percentage based report card environment but wants to report standards based grades, Marzano offers a conversion chart:

Scale Score Percentage Score
4 100
3.5 95
3.0 90
2.5 80
2.0 70
1.5 65
1.0 60
Below 1.0 50

I plan to set up a weighted gradebook as follows:

  • All formative “assessments” are 4 points, based on the scale.
  • All summative assessments are 100 points.

The weights are:

  • Formative: 0%
  • Summative: 95%
  • Practice: 5% (The practice piece is an FYI. It is incidental to what I am trying to accomplish.)

The formative category allows me to keep a running record on how each student is progressing towards mastery.

The summative grade is determined by the students’ current level of mastery based on the most recent formative.

For example:

Susie’s initial formative assessment for Standard 6G1 is a score of 2. In the gradebook I create an assignment “6G1—Area 1”. The assignment is “worth” 4 points and it is placed in the formative category with no weight. I then create an assignment for the summative category 6G1—Area. Since Susie’s first score is a 2, according to the conversion chart, I enter a grade of 70.

Four days later Susie takes another formative assessment on 6G1. This time she earns a score of 3. In the gradebook I create an assignment “6G1—Area 2,” assign it to the formative category with no weight and enter her score of 3. Since Susie is now at a 3, I overwrite the previous summative entry with a grade of 90.

At this point the gradebook entries are:

2 formative assessments for standard 6G1—Area 1 and Area 2

1 summative assessment for standard 6G1—Area

Plus any homework practice logged as completion

In effect there will be one summative for each standard plus at least 2-3 formatives for that standard. I know two to three formative assessments may not be enough for some students to demonstrate proficiency or mastery. If need be, they can arrange a time during homeroom or after school to “show what they know.”

In the end the 95% weighted summatives will be averaged and the 5% weighted practice is factored in to the students’ grade. Since the summatives all have the same 100 point score, no standard is “worth more” than another.

Do you think it will work? What’s your experience with SBG?

Accepting a challenge!

I’m accepting samjshah’s challenge! To promote math blogging, each week for a month he’ll be sending a

 mystery prompt (but it will be rich and evocative and you’ll want to write about it) — and given a week to write a blogpost on that prompt.

Woo Woo!