We know that we should be using “triangulation of data” to assess and evaluate students. We know that we can often find out more about what students know and can do by observing them, listening in on group discussions and through our 1:1 conferences with them. All teachers know more about their students than their mark book would show. However, when we want to use that knowledge to help inform a report card grade, we must have evidence that we could share with a parent if needed. We cannot simply say that we “remember” that their child could or could not do something.
At first glance we might think that recording information gleaned from observations and conversations is going to be time-consuming and onerous. How do I possibly write down the conversation as I am having it? Do I have to go home every night and record every conversation I had or observed?
If, however, you have intentionally decided what the learning goals and success criteria for a learning cycle/period are, then recording observations and conversations is easier because it focuses your data collection. Here are some ideas you could experiment with:
- You can use a rubric or continuum for learning over time instead of just for one assignment. For example if you are teaching writing, the craft of writing (organization of ideas, voice, sentence fluency, conventions etc) is the same for all writing. In reading, understanding the main idea, the theme, inferring, understanding character and the author’s style is the same for all texts. For history you could have a rubric about identifying conflict and change, and understanding historical perspective. In French you could have a rubric about pronunciation, using correct grammatical structures and responding to questions. For all subjects you can identify the big ideas for the subject and assess students on them over time.. When you are observing or conferencing you can highlight where the student falls on the rubric or continuum. I suggest colour coding and dating each observation. What is important here is that you are not penalizing a student if you don’t observe something but are able to note what you are observing. It requires no note taking. It is like creating a student profile.
- You could create a check-bric of ‘look fors’ (correct fingering in music; referring back to the text in book club meetings; flexibility in using math strategies; sportsmanship in PE; using scientific vocabulary during science experiments). Over a shorter period of time you would observe students to look for evidence of more specific criteria. I find that if I break my class lists into groups by color highlighters and then focus on the “blue” kids on Monday I am more likely to use this method.
- You can record student collaboration by having them use an ipad or chrome book to record their conversation and then listen to it later. At that point you could make anecdotal notes or fill in your rubric or check-bric. It has the added benefit of keeping kids on task.
- Instead of trying to record observations of all kids on a given day, decide to sit with one group each day. The hardest thing as a teacher is to observe without saying anything. It’s easier to take notes when you aren’t talking. Try it and you will find out a lot about your students.
- At your guided learning table, keep your assessment binder. After you have worked with some students take a few minutes to jot down what you learned.
Not every time you talk with or observe students will you need to record what you learn. At first you may gather too much or too little data. It takes time to figure out what the “just right” amount of data is. However, if when you are looking at your data for determining report card grades and you don’t have any data arising from conversations and observations then you may want to try something for next term that provides you with evidence and accountability.