Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tracking Growth of Understanding

One of the student self reflection pieces I do in my classroom is have students track their growth of understanding.  I feel that it is part of my job to teach them a way to do this.  At the high school level we often assume a certain level of maturity, but we shouldn't.  Many students do not know how to self reflect and ask questions to guide their learning forward.  I ask my students if they know of a student who finished high school with really high grades, but then struggled at University.  Almost all students will put up their hand.  I tell them that it is important to be able to reflect on their learning and be able to identify any red flags that will hinder their success.  In University no one is going to teach them this skill, so it is important to learn it now!

Once again, I got this idea from Dr. Marzano, in his book Formative Assessment and Standards Based Grading.  He has a couple of examples of student progress charts.  One is found on page 82, another on page 87.  I first started by using the one on page 87.  I had a chart for every outcome for every student.   They kept these in a personal folder that were left in the classroom.   What I found with this particular chart, was that it was simply taking up too much space (I could only fit two outcomes on a page) and therefore was a lot of photocopying.  Another example of a continual progress report is found on page 103.  There is a free reproducible found here.  This is what I ended up using.  Our PLC group adapted it to fit our needs.  Here is a sample of one of my student's progress reports:
We left approximately 5 or 6 lines for each outcome.  We also added a column for reflection.  When a student received a graded assessment back, they were to chart their results.  Since I was assessing an outcome using the same rubric, a student could easily track if they were improving their understanding or not.  It is crucial, however, that the student charts their scores in the order that THEY completed the assessments.  

We talked about how they would want to be maintaining or improving each time.  We talked about if they dropped on an assessment, they should be asking themselves "why".  "What did I know the first time that I now don't understand?"   "What do I still need to learn?"

On occasion, an assessment would not test all four levels of understanding.  Maybe the maximum score on a particular assessment was 2.5.  I had students who received the maximum score star this in their charts.  That way, if they had a 4, 2.5* and then a 4, they would know that they didn't actually "drop", it was simply the maximum they could score.  

 I had students tell me that this chart helped guide them when preparing for a comprehensive assessment.  They knew which outcomes they needed more work on and which they had a pretty consistent understanding of.   This also helped them when an opportunity would arise in class to have a redo (I would have a few days a semester where it was "student's choice" assessment day).  With a quick glance of these charts they could see which outcomes still needed to be worked on. 

These continual progress reports are also great for students who typically struggle and take longer to become proficient with an outcome.  They will (hopefully!) be able to see growth happening.  Even if they are moving from a 0.5, to a 1, to a 2, it shows growth and we will celebrate this growth.  I had a student my first year of doing this who hated math, thought she sucked at it, and wouldn't try.  Once I got her to realize that she was actually learning, her whole attitude changed.  Yes, she was only at a level 2 after the outcome was completed (completed as in formal lessons done, my outcomes are never completed until the end of the semester!), but she had started at level 0.5.  We celebrated her growth.  She walked away with a smile on her face and a positive attitude followed her to class from then on.  

I will continue to use these growth charts, in all of my classes from grades 9 - 12.   Even if one student benefits from them it is worth it!

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