PodcastPodcastTch Talks 28: Playful Assessment

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How might student learning improve if assessments were innovative, authentic, and playful?

Learning can — and should — be fun, but when it comes to assessment, teachers can be very serious. However, there’s no need for the fun to stop when the assessments come out. On this episode of Tch Talks, Dr. Yoon Jeon Kim, a research scientist at MIT Teaching Systems Lab, and Louisa Rosenheck, a designer and researcher of educational technologies in the MIT Education Arcade, come together to discuss how thoughtful design of authentic, creative, and playful assessments can engage students, help them to learn and grow, and allow them an opportunity to demonstrate their skills and abilities in a more personalized and meaningful way. YJ & Louisa — both self-proclaimed “assessment nerds” — discuss types of playful assessment, assessment tools, connections between assessment and social and emotional learning, and their shared goal of empowering teachers with assessment literacy. Perhaps, moving away from traditional assessments and embracing a little whimsy in the classroom just might be a key leverage point to impacting the way students learn in schools. Listen in to find out more.

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What to Watch 2018: Sarah’s Sizzlin’ Strategies

what to watch this Summer on Teaching Channel

The temperature is on the rise, but nothing’s quite as hot as Tch Laureate Sarah Brown Wessling’s strategies for student success. Whether you’re inside and staying cool, or just chillin’ by the pool, watch these Tch videos to build your strategy toolbox this summer.

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Back to School Starter Pack End-of-Year Reflection: Your Final Checklist

End of Year Reflection

Congratulations! You made it to the end of the school year.

Are you excited for summer? Are you already thinking about the next school year? Here at Teaching Channel, we sure are!

At the beginning of the school year, we launched our Back to School Starter Packs, a set of checklists and resources organized by grade band to help you start the year off on the right track. If you missed these packs at the start of the year, don’t fret! We’ll be refreshing them for back to school this fall.

In the meantime, we’ve created an End of Year Reflection to help you think about your year and plan for the next. While it sometimes feels better to simply shut the door and forget, if you take a moment now to reflect and plan just a little, your future self will be happy you did!

Take 5 (or a little more) to Reflect

Head over to our Back to School Starter Pack page and download the End of Year Reflection (you must be logged in). Print it out, and use it to assess your year in the areas of Classroom Setup, Lesson and Unit Planning, Class Culture, and Self-Care. We’ve made it simple and quick to use — just a check-list and a few spots to take notes — so no excuses. You can do this now and save yourself time later!

After you’re finished, you may even want to take it a step further by joining the conversation in Tch Video Lounge. Our interactive video, Take 5: End of Year Reflections, asks you and other educators to take stock of your experiences this year. Share your thoughts and see what others are saying about their triumphs and struggles. You might just learn something new.

Speaking of learning… be on the lookout next week for our blog series, I Want to Get Better At… We’ll be sharing resources for learning about four key topics this summer: Differentiation, Collaboration, ELLs, and Assessment.

If you try our End of Year Reflection, let us know how it goes in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!

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Gretchen Vierstra taught middle school for ten years in the San Francisco Bay Area. During her 15+ years in education, she’s also been a department chair, new teacher coach, curriculum developer, and policy analyst. She is Director of Educational Content at Teaching Channel.

Tch Tips: Four Ways to Gather Student Feedback

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As another school year comes to a close, I’d bet that you and your students are looking forward to summer break. While these last days of school can be crazy, they’re often reflective as well.

You’ve probably asked students to self-assess their learning, and you’ve probably been busy assessing their learning in final projects, portfolios, and report cards. Of course, all of this assessment of student learning is important — but remember, you were the one who guided them on their learning journey!

As an educator, it’s just as important to take time to ask yourself about your year.

  • What went well?
  • What will you change next year?

And, while you still have your students in the classroom, why not ask them for a little feedback? Sure, this idea may seem scary at first, but with the right setup, you can truly learn a lot from your students.

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Rethinking the Role of Teacher: 3 Practices to Elevate Student Engagement

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I’d be very surprised to find a teacher that has fallen asleep at night thinking, “In what ways can I bore my students tomorrow?” However, school is changing — and with it, so are the roles of teachers and students.

Rows of individual student desks with a teacher in the front of the room are becoming a thing of the past. Collaborative and flexible workspaces with multiple teachers and support educators are the new norm.

The way we consume information has also changed, and teachers are no longer the sole sources of information with a duty to impart knowledge to our students. Students are consuming media and information every day — from the time they wake up until the time they fall asleep. They ask Google a question to be met with an instant response.

How might we adapt our roles as educators to facilitate learning and thinking in an impactful, purposeful way in this new learning environment?

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Three Ways Digital Portfolios Shift Your Assessment Focus

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 “What gets measured is what gets done.”

I hear this mantra often in the educational world. While some people might read it and sigh, thinking about all the testing our kids have to go through, I see it differently.

Why accept the current frame, that assessment is a tool merely for evaluation? What if assessment were a process that is fulfilling for students and teachers instead of draining?

How might we rethink “What gets measured is what gets done,” and shift our focus toward documenting students’ potential instead of merely passing a test?

One approach I find effective for this work is digital portfolio assessment.

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Five Assessment Myths and Misunderstandings

Tchers' Voice: Great ideas from passionate educators just like you

Walking around the classroom, clipboard in hand, I moved as quickly as possible, diligently checking for homework completion, assigning five points to those who had it done, two-and-a-half to those who had it partially done, and zero to those who didn’t do it. It was super scientific and truly measured learning… (he says sarcastically).

Luckily for my students, since then I’ve grown quite a bit in my understanding of assessment practices, and as I look back at them over the past 14 years, it’s not with disgust (although that would be justified at times), but with hope — and the knowledge that change is possible. I author this piece not to judge current practices, but in the hopes that some of the ideas below might shed new light on ways to take a fresh approach to assessment, and improve learning for all students.

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Doing Poorly on Purpose: Why Smart Kids Choose Not to do Well in School

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As a teacher myself, I feel your pain when a capable student chooses — yes, chooses — not to perform well academically. Cajole as we might (and do…) to convince kids like these on the merits of academic accomplishment, many of them look at us with that blank expression of adolescence that speaks volumes in its silence.

What they don’t say are things like these:

  • “School is irrelevant to what I’ll eventually do in life, and we both know it. Tell me how linear algebra will help me become a better attorney.”
  • “If you really cared to help me, you’d let me test out of what I know how to do so that I had time to pursue stuff that is important to me.”
  • “The reason I don’t do the homework is that I’ve already proven to you through my class performance that I understand this stuff. Wouldn’t you be as frustrated as I am if you had to do such meaningless work every night?”

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More times than not, smart students who choose to do poorly on purpose have very good reasons for being disillusioned with their middle and high school experiences. And these students may be on to something. Research on gifted students and other high achievers has shown that many of them know 50% or more of the grade-level curriculum before it’s “taught” to them.

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Tch Tips: Three Ways to Formatively Assess Content and Language

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As educators, we all know how important it is to assess student learning. Often, formative assessment strategies focus on student understanding of content learning. But what about language learning?

Whether or not you have ELLs in your classroom, our students are always improving their language skills. Why not try a formative assessment strategy that checks in on both language and content?

Here are four ways you can assess all students for content and language learning in your classroom:

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