Posted by Andrew K. Miller on Apr 8, 2013 in ASCD, Blog | 0 comments
This post originally appeared on InService, the ASCD community blog. ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) is an educational leadership organization with 160,000 members in 148 countries, including professional educators from all levels and subject areas––superintendents, supervisors, principals, teachers, professors of education, and school board members. View Original
When I work with educators on their professional development needs, rubrics frequently come up as something that teachers want to understand better and be able to find quickly and easily from a variety of sources for immediate use in the classroom. Often, however, rubrics found on the Internet are not of good quality—they may not be grounded in learning targets or the language may be too vague and confusing for students. The good news is that there are many great resources and tips out there to build your own rubrics. Here are some ideas to start.
Use Common Rubrics. For some students, school is one of the few stable routines in their young lives. Let’s support this safe and supportive culture by using common rubrics across subject areas or grade levels. This will help to ensure that each teacher is looking at student work objectively and lets students know that the expectations are the same regardless of the classroom. These common rubrics might be based in content or even 21st century skills. Students will appreciate these common expectations and common language around learning.
Decide Between Checklists or Rubrics. I used to fall into the trap of having too many numbers in my rubrics. I listed different numbers of sources, sentences, and so on, under each level, from approaching to exceeding a standard. Numbers don’t indicate quality. Focus on quality indicators when creating rubrics. However, if students need to have a specific number of something as a nonnegotiable, then create a checklist for them. Ask yourself, is this better on a checklist or a rubric?
Use Them! Rubrics are useless unless you use them. Why do students often throw them away or lose them? Because they don’t see the value in them as a learning tool! It is critical to have students use a rubric for an entire curriculum unit, project, or even over the course of a year. Use rubrics to set goals, provide peer- and self-assessment, and reflect on learning. Through intentional and meaningful use, rubrics can become a tool that students see as invaluable.
Focus on Learning Targets. Unless you are truly assessing creativity, it may not be appropriate to list creativity on the rubric. Similarly, neatness may not be appropriate if it isn’t directly related to the content or core discipline you intend to assess. Make sure you focus on learning targets, which could be standards or specific criteria, when you create the rubric. Articulate what the learning will look like in terms of approaching, meeting, and exceeding standards.
My biggest recommendation is to collaborate with others to create rubrics that are specific to your school, district, and learning targets. Whether they are state, Common Core, or 21st century standards, some of the best rubrics can be developed in-house. Use these tips as well as books from ASCD to support your work in building the best rubrics.
Posted by Andrew K. Miller on Jan 28, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments
This post originally appeared on NSTA, a blog that supports science educators in implementing science best practices in a variety of ares. View Original >
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) call for a conceptual shift in teaching and learning. Yes, content is changing in the upcoming NGSS. In addition to traditional subject matter, science and engineering are now integrated into the standards, where students will learn about the principles of engineering and engage in the engineering design processes. In addition, many concepts are cutting across content. For example, the concept “systems and system models” is used in the exploration of nuclear energies as well as ecosystems. Also, scientific and engineering practices are aligned multiple times with the disciplinary content. The NGSS calls for a deeper understanding and application of content. The focus is on core ideas and practices of science, not just the facts associated with them.
While many teachers are already teaching for application of knowledge as well as engineering and core concepts, these key features will cause a deliberate shift in instruction requiring all teachers to reflect on their practice. Project Based Learning (PBL) is a learning model that not only aligns to these key features, but also strongly supports NGSS-based teaching and learning.
First of all, let’s clarify the difference between projects and PBL. Instead of a curricular add-on at the end, the project is the context for the learning. Students are given an authentic task and a student-friendly driving question to investigate over the course of the project. Within this project, the teacher scaffolds the learning for students and arms students with skills through traditional labs, lectures, and other instructional activities. Instead of teaching all content and skills before the project, the teacher teaches through the project, which is engaging and relevant to students. Using a “need to know” list generated by students, and revisited through the project, the teacher gives lessons and instructional activities to meet the needs of students. Students learn 21st century skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. The project has an audience outside the four walls of the classroom, and students create a variety of products for this authentic audience. These are just some of the essential elements of a PBL project.
Just as the draft NGSS calls for deeper understanding and application of knowledge, PBL demands the same. When teachers design PBL projects, they pick power standards to focus on, standards that usually take significant time to teach and focus on depth, not breadth. The NGSS are being designed to be those type of standards and thus easily used when designing a PBL project. In fact, a teacher designing a PBL project might target one of the crosscutting concepts, as that concept permeates the entire year of content. PBL calls for in-depth inquiry into the content. Students investigate a rigorous driving question, and do so by unpacking it into many subject questions. In addition, they must apply this knowledge as they construct products that answer the driving questions and complete the project. The product reflects a deep understanding of content, as students have reflected and revised throughout the learning process. It’s not just one encounter with the content per se, but multiple encounters.
As we notice the new engineering focus of NGSS, we might consider design challenges, a key component of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. However, design challenges are not necessarily PBL by default. One can take a design challenge, add some PBL essential elements to it, and make it into a PBL project. A common design challenge is to build an effective bridge, either physically with toothpicks, or digitally using a tool like SketchUp. However, there are some components that need to be added to it to make it truly a PBL project. Right now, the bridge is a great activity. In fact, it can be a great activity within the PBL to scaffold material. To make it PBL, students could make recommendations for retrofitting a local bridge and present this information to city officials and engineers. Yes, the product might be a bridge design, and yes, students may engage in a toothpick contest along the way. The difference is the work goes outside the four walls of the classroom, and actually is an authentic situation, where students are engaged in real-world work. As the design process and other components of engineering are leveraged in the NGSS, PBL projects can be designed to teach and assess these standards.
The NGSS will need to be met with pedagogical models that can leverage the required depth of understanding, and PBL can meet that challenge. PBL provides the strength of inquiry, rigor, and relevance that can capitalize on the key components of the NGSS.
Posted by Andrew K. Miller on Sep 14, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments
This post originally appeared on CompetencyWorks, a group designed to support the development of a community of people knowledgeable about competency education. View Original >
Competencies have the potential to truly shift assessment practices in the classroom. If you took a sampling of the current assessment practices, including grade-books, you would see a variety of system in place. From elaborate weights and point systems, to standards-based and rigorous, assessment practices rub the gambit. With a competency-based assessment system, we have the opportunity to create exemplary, equitable assessment practices for our students.
Objective Targets – Competencies are hinged on targets in the content area. When designed well, they are aligned to state, national, or common core standards, and explain clearly the evidence needed to master. The competency promotes evidence of learning, regardless of how the learning is shown. Because of this, students are allowed to show learning in a variety of ways, because the competency isn’t hinged on the product of learning, but rather what needs to be in that product. Teachers who use competency-based grading system must truly understand what evidence of that learning is. In other words, the target must be clear. When teachers are creating assessments, they aligned to objective targets, not subjective products. With this, we can be confident that the assessment is accurate and objective, regardless of product.
Embedded 21st Century Skills – Districts and schools across the nation, and internationally are quickly embracing 21st century skills as a critical learning parter to content standards. From critical thinking and problem solving, to communication and collaboration, these skills are transferable across content areas and learning environments. Competencies must articulated these skills, and, more importantly, thereby leverage them as crucial to the assessment process. When teachers create and plan assessments aligned to competencies they are targeting 21st century skills. They are assessing them, and including evidence of those skills as well as the content knowledge.
Freedom to Fail – Much of our current assessment practices are still anchored in antiquated grading of practice. Much of the work that occurs in the classroom is formative, intended to check progress of students, encourage differentiation, and give targeted feedback to students. Why is it often graded? I know where this comes from. As teachers, we need leverage to encourage student work, but this is the wrong way to go about. What happens if a student does mediocre, but then performs well on the summative assessment? When the formative is counted in the grading, then the summative, which is supposed to show mastery of competencies, is negatively impact. This is bad assessment practice. It does not reward students at their best. When we embrace Competency Based Assessment, we reward students at their best, and allow them the freedom to make mistakes and improve along the way.
As schools and districts continue to adopt competency based assessment systems, they will be forced to wrestle with old, and often inequitable assessment practices. This work has the potential to be a catalyst for assessment reform that serves all students, rewards them for rigorous work, and honors them at their best.