Professional Learning: Does it work?

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I have been doing some research lately into Training Evaluation, and quite unexpectedly have become intrigued at how we measure professional development and whether it really works.

A lot of time, money, effort, resources, blood, sweat, and tears goes into PD. We as educators provide and receive PD regularly, but does it change our learning stances? A learning stance could be viewed as our own theory of learning, which impacts how we will continue to develop professionally. These stances cannot help but impact how we choose to change, or not make changes in our own practice.

Sometimes, educators might believe that we have the ‘right’ way, or that ‘we know what works in education’, or ‘we alone understand what the students need’. I do think that these stances can become problematic, in that they can prevent us from learning, growing and evolving with our students. If we are thinking about student learning, in addition to justifying money spent on PD, then we need to think about this uncomfortable area.

Also, in education we may focus more on the design of the Professional Learning, including learning principles, sequencing of training material, and job relevance. However, one area where we may be able to improve includes an increased emphasis on trainee characteristics including ability, skill, motivation and personality factors. In addition to work-environment characteristics including supervisory and peer support. All of which have tremendous impacts on learning, and perhaps this is a reason why schools tend to maintain their ‘culture’ over time. It becomes more of a situation where the learning gets changed to fit in with the culture, versus the culture changing to retain new learning. I think that this embodies a ‘transfer problem’. Can we truly transfer our learning from our professional development, and if so, how would we measure that?

Some interesting information that I have processed include 3 prevailing strategies that can be used used that could prevent us from making substantial changes to learning. (I will need to re-evaluate where I found similar information).

I have re-applied them with my own questions about how we as educators possibly deal with new information.

3 Strategies to avoid Change:

  1. Finding ways to reject the new content we are being presented with
  2. Modifying any new content to make the changes less demanding. This includes modifying the content as close as possible to current practice so that we can say we already teach that way, and
  3. Pinpointing only the content that we can easily implement. This means that we teachers will use elements of the content that we can easily apply to our teaching without changing it fundamentally.

I can’t help but wonder what this all means for education. Myself, I can see #2 and #3 happening quite unconsciously. After all, learning is very hard. Learning new things is uncomfortable. It can be very easy to look at a new professional development opportunity assume that it is already quite similar to what we already do – thereby missing key information that could be important.

I have many questions regarding the 3 strategies as well.

First, are they merely proof of the human condition and how we want to learn in ways that help us to feel comfortable? If we remain comfortable, what are implications of this for our students?

What about our educational institutions? How can our schools actively create cultures where we teachers value this feeling of being uncomfortable with learning? Does this behoove educational institutions to create new organizational cultures? How can leaders work to shake up learning cultures that need to change? Who, or what variables, decides whether a learning culture needs to change anyway?

At what point can we take a step back, feel confident in what we are doing, and give ourselves that pat on the back for working so hard and having a competent learning stance? Can we do that? Should we do that?

How do motivation and prior experience impact whether we will allow ourselves to become uncomfortable with learning? And finally, how do we accurately measure the transfer of learning in the first place? Can our learning stances change?

Finally, if we knew the answers to these questions, would it change the way we provide Professional Development for educators?

Does PD work and how do we know?

Certainly a lot to think about. Much more than what can realistically be discussed in a small blog post.

What are your personal insights on this? 

 

Deborah McCallum

c 2016

 

Syrian Refugees: Allowing Stories to be told in the Classroom

I have begun to think about how I would make sure that my practice is fair for helping Syrian Refugees in classrooms.

First, I don’t know their stories, and can’t ever own them either.

I think that there is pressure for teachers to know all, and be in complete control of the underlying stories that are told in the classroom.

As a result, there are stories about Middle Easterner’s that have already become reinforced in our Canadian schools. I think we need to try and figure those out, and figure out why they have become our stories. Understand that we cannot possibly own these stories. Therefore, I think about promoting critical literacy, deconstructing stereotypes, and acknowledging my lack of any knowledge about their experiences, thus allowing them to own their own stories.

Paying attention tothe stories that we think we aren’t telling.    Considering that the Middle East does not come up in Canadian Curriculum for elementary school students, I would say that this counts as promoting ‘stories’ that promote oppression.

I think that as teachers we need to take risks, make mistakes, but also remain accountable. Accountability need not be about following pre-packaged lesson plans, teaching to a test, and using reproducibles.

Perhaps the most important things we do, is address the misinformation and ‘stories’ about Middle Easterners that we have in Canadian society.

Practically, I think that asking students who are Middle Easterners, who have either been here for a while or are new refugees, should have the time, space and opportunity to share their own stories, in their own time.

I would also want to ‘check’ that I as an educator, am not shaping their stories to match our own ‘stories’ that are full of misinformation. Therefore, I think it is important to facilitate activities with students that disrupts our stories. Disrupt the stories we get in the media. Allow students to have their own stories and honour this.

Since school is the source where our sense of self becomes negotiated with the stories that others have, I see a great deal of potential for this in the literacy classroom, and the processes associated with storytelling, and story writing. I think that these processes could help students to explore their own self-concepts and explore the conceptions that others have. Also to explore how they impact personal identity. My hope is that this would help to disrupt the stories that get reproduced through the school curriculum, the null curriculum, and media.

Most important part of this process would be myself, and all teachers feeling okay with learning and knowledge that is upsetting, confusing, angering, and even disruptive of our common discourses of Canadian Nationalism.

We can admit that we don’t, and can’t own the story. Knowing that it is okay not to know.

 

Deborah McCallum

 

The Underlying Stories we tell in Education

There are underlying stories that come to life when we look at what we teach and why we teach it. We as educators choose who will speak, what information will be highlighted, how the curriculum will come to life. We essentially choose what underlying stories we will tell when we choose whose voices will prevail. 

We often hear that we should include all voices of students in our classrooms. This is impossible.  When we hear that we need to include all voices, it can either make us feel very hopeful and work toward unrealistic goals, or full of despair that there is no way we can meet that goal. We don’t need this kind of pressure.

What we need is to ‘reframe’ what we are learning. Reframe how we interpret the student voices that we choose to hear. Perhaps choose voices from different perspectives and backgrounds, to change the underlying stories about how we make sense of the world. We may not even realize that the curriculum is only a guideline, or that we favour certain voices over others. 

Including ALL voices is not realistic. There are countless differences in the classroom, and countless intersections of differences. Next, even if we could acknowledge every single difference in the classroom, we could start contradicting ourselves.

The voices that we do include however, form together to create the ‘story’ of our learning. The ‘story’ of the people. The story of our curriculum, the story of our biases, stereotypes, and the story about who’s voices are the most important. Stories that hide a deep level of racism that we are unaware of.

Most often, we focus on the accomplishments of the privileged. The privileged people in history, the privileged students in our classrooms, the privileged problems that math and science can solve.

As a result, the underlying story becomes a rich account of teaching and learning that is one-sided, privileged, oppressive and non-representative of the many differences that exist in our classrooms and communities.

If we included and focused on other voices that what we consider ‘normal’, then our underlying stories would change.

But we need to stop and check our own thinking first, for instance:

  • If we have students of colour in our classes, do we expect them to speak to racial differences only? If FNMI students look white, do we deny their cultures and histories?
  • Do we ‘add-on’ books about women in STEM careers and call it a job well done?
  • Do we assume that people living in poverty chose to live that way due to laziness, or poor mindsets?
  • Do we acknowledge the stories from the working class in the creation of our history?
  • Do we assume that it is the job of a second language learner to assimilate into ‘our’ story?
  • Does our math lesson only teach students to solve privileged problems?
  • Do we interact with teachers and students in way that disrupts our story about what is normal?
  • Is it enough to simply say that the Aboriginal peoples helped out Canada in the war during a Remembrance Day assembly, and assume that now students have the full story?

 

The fact is that it is easy to assume that the ‘other’ student is responsible for telling his or her story, and responsible for representing all ‘others’.

Also, just adding books and resources can be dangerous too because we end up objectifying the differences.

We falsely assume that there is a storyline that we must adhere to – a story that tells us about what ‘normal’ really is in the world. What ‘normal’ learning looks like. What ‘normal’ teaching and curriculum are.

Twitter is easy in certain ways, because you can follow people who you like or agree with the most. You can be continually reinforced for your own story about what is normal. You can use twitter passively and not seek out that which truly challenges or upsets your teaching and learning storyline.

We need to construct new stories.

Innovation alone won’t change the stories. Edtech itself won’t solve any problems. We need critical awareness of ourselves and how each and everyone of us is part of the problem everywhere.

Our ‘normal’ story about Canada is that it was built and led by strong, privileged white male settlers. Aboriginal people were here first, but their perspective is not equally represented in the curriculum. This story needs to change to recognize and learn new stories about Canada from the First people here. This is most certainly a story that need to be released.

What stories do you wish were heard? 

Deborah

C 2016

 

 

Reference

Kumashiro, K. (2001). “Posts” perspectives on anti-oppressive education in Social Studies, English, athematics, and Science classrooms. Educational Researcher, 30(3), 3–12. http://jwilson.coe.uga.edu/EMAT8990/CP/AERA300303.pdf

 

14 Considerations for Inquiry Based Learning

 

Inquiry is essential.

The fact is that students come to school with partial knowledges.  But the curriculum documents themselves do not address the parts that students know or don’t know. It has been built to present to us about the privileged people and only the most successful moments in history according to those people. Textbooks, websites and other resources generally reinforce this. It may not represent the real stories of our students.

For instance, social studies, history and geography generally focuses on the privileged people who had the ability to win and ‘own’ history. Just consider the lack of focus on anyone who is not privileged in history. For instance, Women, FNMI, Slaves, Middle Easterners, and more. We hear about the achievements of the upper class, but none about the working class.

Just consider the fact that it was not too long ago that only men were thought to be able to think scientifically or mathematically? The last Residential School closed in the 1990’s.

Where does this leave our students who already know some of these things about the world? What about the students who have other equally important knowledge of the world as what is shared in curriculum documents?

This is precisely why Inquiry is an essential part of our curriculum! 

Without student and teacher inquiry, knowledges remain partial and limited. Biases and stereotypes prevail.

But how do you foster inquiry? How do we make it meaningful for students? 

14 important conditions for meaningful student inquiry:

  1. We create a culture of wonder for our students! Wonder walls, and wonder journals are just 2 ways to support this culture:)
  2. We lead students with Big Ideas vs specific expectations.
  3. We encourage questions! We encourage students to continue to refine and hone in their questions, and we model good ones for our students.
  4. We reserve closed questions for Google, but teach skills to help students read and synthesize information for open questions.
  5. We know that younger students need more structure. But as students get older, we enable very messy, rigourous and ambigous inquiries. This really pushes students to demonstrate flexible thinking, and metacognition, grit and more!
  6. We have clear expectations of students, including the expectation that they will need to demonstrate their new understandings from their research.
  7. We allow students to research that which is not ‘privileged’.
  8. We allow connections to their own lives –  even if it is not listed as a concrete expectation in a curriculum document.
  9. Sometimes questions require new background knowledge. Students background knowledge might be only partial. Therefore, we realise that we may need to take time with activities that help students build background information first. We know that teachers and students alike may need to investigate something completely new and uncomfortable first to continue!
  10. We emphasize the process of inquiry, and not merely the creation of the end product.
  11. We realise that different students will be focusing on different skills, and/or different numbers of skills. But we are okay with this because learning is happening!
  12. We hold students accountable to high standards. We expect high quality conclusions, connections, inferences and many other forms of comprehension.
  13. We – as in teachers and learners alike – are continually engaged in feedback and assessment FOR and AS learning processes!
  14. We become comfortable with the fact that this is not ideally done in 1 – 2 fifty minute blocks a week.

 

What do you wonder about the Inquiry Process?

If you have a moment, please take a moment to fill out this Padlet Wonder Wall:

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Deborah McCallum

c2016

In support of Libraries for Academic Success & Equity

Libraries are essential in building academic success and equity in our schools and learning environments. This is very easy when staff and students come from similar backgrounds and share similar languages, experiences and expectations. But what about the ‘others’? The one’s who do not share similar experiences, expectations, languages, and backgrounds?

First, what does it mean to have learners achieve academic success?

  1. Basic skills in reading, writing and math
  2. Basic knowledge of Sciences, nature, history
  3. Skills including critical thinking, analyzing, synthesizing, inferring, predicting, connecting
  4. Knowing that there are consequences for actions
  5. Flexibility
  6. Becoming a lifelong learner
  7. Participating in civic life
  8. Ability to keep up with technical changes
  9. Building confidence in a diverse and ever-changing society
  10. Adeptness at working and living with people different from ourselves
  11. Respecting cultural differences
  12. Embracing multiple perspectives.

 

Often, we as educators assume that we just need better instructional strategies to help learners achieve academic success. BUT, all of the best strategies in the world will not work if they are used in a setting where students don’t feel valued or don’t have confidence that they can succeed.

This is where Equity comes into play.

Libraries have access to resources, expertise and physical and virtual spaces to promote equity.

For instance, TL’s are skilled to organize instruction in ways that can positively build on relationships between students and classes. TL’s also provide adequate resources for students learning in first and second languages, and have the spaces to include students and value what they bring from home.

The Library also promotes citizenship, and helps students understand how we all came to belong. Library spaces have the power to address historic injustices, and connect issues of on-going colonization to the curriculum. The knowledge and resources make it more possible to engage all learners in meaningful discussions with historic specificities.

We simply cannot work with the ‘tools’ in our Libraries when we fail to understand the ‘why’ behind what we are doing.

Libraries are not about assimilation of students into dominant power structures. Rather, they are spaces with professionals who are able to analyze racial inequality, and understand that cultural differences are not temporary disadvantages that lessen over time. TL’s know that we need to go beyond ‘tokenism’ of the First Peoples in Canada. The onus is not on Aboriginal students and teachers to explain themselves.

Students who easily fit in with dominant cultural practices are fortunate to always see school reflected back to them, but TL’s know about social positioning, and work against normal power dynamics to hear all voices.

Further, new spaces, including MakerSpaces, are not used to continue to traditional narratives of education. Rather they are truly flexible and open spaces that promote other ways of expressing ideas and knowing the world around us. We don’t assume that Makerspaces are ‘what the world needs’, rather we help students make it about what they need. We help students connect them to what it means for be a respectable citizen in the world. We also allow them to be unpredictable.

Libraries provide extensive opportunities to write, talk and self-reflect.

Libraries are welcoming spaces.

Libraries encourage students to find ways of interrupting the social and ideological ramifications in which our learning is situated.

Libraries allow for discussions and assignments that trouble our already-familiar stories. And TL’s continually assess teaching and curriculum.

We know that we cannot merely congratulate white students for taking part in our national identity as being ‘helpers of the less fortunate’. Because this continues to put us in privileged positions that continue to marginalize our students.

TL’s are positioned to be aware of unconscious biases. Educators assume that we treat all students equally, but our attitudes often result in different outcomes.

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Students transfer what they know to new situations as they acquire new knowledge. This can only occur through careful planning, and active participation in school activities. TL’s are in the perfect position to help make intentional connections across settings and contexts. For instance, explicitly connecting what students learn in literacy with content areas. Ie., Connecting the reading and writing with the Science content.

Libraries are also open places for parents, and help encourage parents to safely share the language and ideas from the home. TL’s become very aware of students prior learning and literacy experiences, and work to build in opportunities for authentic communication in any language that is simply not found in any other spaces in the school.  This increases risk taking skills and develops safety and security.

We work to make challenging concepts understandable – not water down existing curriculum.

Academic Success is what we want for all of our students. However, all the best instructional strategies in the world will not help if we are not promoting equity. A signifant part of promoting equity is truly understanding the underlying philosophies of why we do what we do – and making sure that we are not doing ‘new’ things just to promote the same narratives that perpetuate privilege and oppression.

The Library is an essential space in the school that requires flexible and knowledgeable professionals who are willing and able to disrupt that which is familiar and promote equity for all.  To recognize the power dynamics that honour what is dominant, and honour other ways of knowing and being to promote true academic success.

 

 

Deborah McCallum

c2016

 

Commins, M. & Miramontes, O. (2006). Addressing Linguistic Diversity from the Outset. Journal of Teacher Education,57(3), 240 -246

Dei, G. & Simmons, M. (2010). Educating about anti-racism: The perils and desires. Our Schools, Our Selves, 19(3), 107-120.

 

 

Innovation for New Pedagogies and Education Spaces

I have been thinking a lot lately about the deeper ‘why’ behind the need for innovation in education. The deeper WHY behind the need for new spaces and also new initiatives including, but not limited to, makerspaces and genius hour. While I have led initiatives like these before, and believe in them, I wanted to know ‘why’ they were important –other than the usual old rhetoric about meeting the needs of digital citizens in the 21st century. I wanted to really understand the deeper why.  

What I have come to understand, is that it has to be about equity and our deeper awareness of what equity means in the 21st century. It is also about recognition and restitution for all of our FNMI students and believe deeply in social justice.

Therefore, in my quest to understand why things need to change in education, ie., why students need more choice, voice and opportunities with technology, inquiry, different spaces and pedagogies, I realised that things need to change for the basic reason that we need to disrupt the status quo and promote equity.

We now are recognizing that there are many different ways to share an idea. More than one way to build knowledge. More than one way of knowing the world around us. We know that simple transmission of content from ‘expert to student’ is paternalistic. It also promotes apathy and indifference among students who are simply not interested.

How we ‘innovate’ can produce great potential for our young learners. As long as we are not using it to promote a more ‘privileged’ agenda, and that we are considering them as ways to promote more respectful and dialogical relationships with our students and communities. The traditional physical, virtual, social, financial and emotional boundaries of learning need to move, or disappear.

Innovating to foster equity and social justice in a context of privilege is difficult to say the least. But I think that we are acknowledging that our education system shares some of the complicitiy in maintaining an unjust status quo. Traditional teaching practices often promote this. We are challenging what we know to be true, in order to give voices to those who have not been able to have a voice in the past.

 

Here is what Innovation can do:

  1. Help us move beyond the beliefs that we need to define what is ‘correct or incorrect’ with our students.
  2. Help us begin to realise that what we teach, or not teach, needs to be relevant to students!! This is HUGE! If we continue to teach with content and strategies that are irrelevant to our students, then we are essentially ensuring that we help create apathy and indifference.
  3. Help us encourage students to really think about things – not just assume they need to understand our externally imposed teaching and evaluation protocol.
  4. Help promote cultural synthesis, not cultural invasion. We recognize that we teach our curriculum from a white settler perspective. Educators still lack adequate knowledge and understanding about the true First Peoples of this land we now call Canada.
  5. Help us realise that our role is not to teach, or transmit knowledge – it is now to ‘learn’ with the people.
  6. Help us understand that we cannot package and ‘sell’ the curriculum. It needs to be co-created among co-learners.
  7. Help us generate attitudes of awareness through critical reflection.
  8. Help us foster appreciation for intrinsic value and intrinsic human worth.
  9. Help us educate from a posture of solidarity with our co-learners – not from ‘paternalism’ – and a belief that we alone ‘know what is right’.
  10. Help us encourage students and educators who are more privileged, ie., in terms of class, social status, race, gender, sexual orientation, culture and more, to hear the voices of ALL students – this means we hear the voices of students and learners who are oppressed along the same axis – we hear the voices even when they are articulated in violence.
  11. Help us stop looking at the ‘other’, for instance FNMI students, as a ‘project’, or as solely having an identity solely linked to oppression.
  12. Help us move beyond sserting our own educational agenda.
  13. Help us realise that we all have a shared humanity.

For all the reasons listed above, is why I firmly believe in the necessity of innovation, in addition to initiatives that include, but are not limited to, makerspaces, genius hour, inquiry based learning, and creating more dynamic spaces.

We innovate to create equity, AND meet the needs of all learners in the 21st century.

If we are not engaging in new pedagogies and new ways of thinking, then I fear that we are working solely from a place of privilege that continues to promote oppression, apathy, and indifference – in addition to making school ‘unsafe’ for many of our students.

 

Deborah McCallum

C 2016

Socially Transforming the Classroom

What does it mean to be normal? How can we tell if new and innovative tasks and pedagogies are truly authentic – or just considered authentic because it fits into our privileged views of what normal is?
Innovation. New Pedagogies. Digital literacies. 21st Century Learning Skills. How do we make sure we are not just perpetuating the same values, ideas, knowledge, experiences etc. of dominant culture?

Education is essential to empower those who are ‘othered’, or oppressed.

Oppression exists across many different axes in our schools and society, and includes (but not limited to) sexism, racism, classism, heterosexualism, gender and more. How these axes intersect very much depends on the social dynamics of any given context. But white, male, settler privilege continues to prevail as dominant culture. While we all experience oppression and privilege across different axes, our public education system is harmful to those who are oppressed.

Sometimes, we see the ‘oppressed’ as ‘not normal’.

What is normal?

It is the way we think people ‘ought’ to be. It is the way we think things ‘ought’ to be. It involves what we choose to include and not to include in our curriculum, which leads to the hidden curriculum. The hidden curriculum leads to exclusion, invisibility, marginalization and more.

We simply cannot afford to continue to make assumptions that our students are all ‘normal’, or should fit in to the normal.

We simply cannot afford to assume that our innovations, new pedagogies, digital literacies 21st, century learning skills, etc., could do anything but promote dominant cultures of privilege. Critically thinking about our worldviews around our innovations is essential. My hope would be that new innovations and new pedagogies etc., will help us to promote equality, and not privilege. But this is really hard work.

Oppression also goes beyond our ideas and knowledge, values etc., but also spills over into our physical environments.

I think about all of the structures and policies around us in our educational settings, and how they promote oppression. One thing that I think about is ‘lates’, and policies to deter students arriving late to school. Perhaps this shouldn’t matter if we are demonstrating empathy and understanding of the needs of families and learners, ie., not assuming that being late equals laziness. This just reminds me of that white, male, privileged, protestant work ethic. Therefore, the practices for deterring lates can lead to shame, and further oppression that perpetuates schools as harmful places for those who may already be oppressed.

I also think about how to create welcoming environments. What do parents see when they drop their kids off at school? There are pylons, people on duty and signs. Signs telling us not to enter, not to park. I understand this is all for student safety, but for those already oppressed by the school system, it can feel quite intimidating. At the front door, there are many signs on the front door. You must buzz in for permission, you must sign in, maybe the Principal doesn’t say hello, there may even be a sign telling parents to stay out of the hallway. There are no spaces/rooms for parents to welcome them in a neutral space in the school.

All of this can feel unwelcoming, and can further oppress those who may not already feel trust and safety with our schools. Even though the majority of education workers are just trying to do our best, and do what we believe is ‘right’. We just don’t yet understand what or how to promote equality, and help make schools truly ‘safe’ for the ‘other’, and not just the privilege.

 

I am not sure that we have the services and supports available to help educators and learners handle the emotions that go along with changing one’s worldview.

This means we have to unlearn what we have previously learned as normal. This can be very upsetting. Our privilege is disguised as authenticity. It means that we may have to have others help us to ‘check’ our innovations, and make sure that we our ideas are not disguised as authentic. Therefore, we often unknowingly promote racism, sexism, classism, heterosexualism and

Guiding Questions:

What would it look like if we could have spaces in our learning environments that are supportive, empowering, with lots of information available?

How can we incorporate home cultures into our classrooms and pedagogies that are culturally sensitive, and culturally relevant?

What strategies serve to create culture of power for the ‘other’, so that they can understand themselves better. Beyond merely seeing them reflected in their teachers and other education staff.

How can we make sure that our New Pedagogies for Deep Learning, and Innovations are not promoting white, male, straight, settler perspectives that continue to oppress the ‘other’.

What if we changed the idea of what it means to teach? Without perpetuating dominant culture? 

How can we integrate the curriculum?

How can we understand that the curriculum is more than a document we follow.

In what ways am I privileged? In what ways am I oppressed?

What is my worldview? How can I change it?

What are the implications of answering these questions?
Deborah McCallum

Is Assessment also an Inquiry?

Assessing reading ability is a very difficult task. This is because reading is very complex. What exactly are readers doing when they read? How do they understand what they read?

At this day in age, I think we are more aware that reading is one of the most important skills that we need. It is the foundation for all other subjects and many learning skills, and determines academic achievement in the future. In fact, Sammons, Thomas and Mortimore (1997) demonstrated correlations of 80% between reading at age seven and subsequent achievement scores.

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The best assessments are those that help educators to make better instructional decisions. But before we can make any decisions, we need to start with our questions and hypotheses. What assessments do we need and why? Will one assessment strategy suit the whole class? Will I need 28 different assessment strategies for 28 different students? What needs do my learners have?

Literacy Assessment in and of itself is really a process of inquiry for teachers. We start with our questions, hypotheses, background knowledge of the learners. Next we begin a process of measuring our learning and deciding where to go next to answer our questions. We evaluate our findings, and make new inquiries. There is never just one question to ask, nor is there just one way to measure, one way to evaluate, or one decision to make. These variables are as complex as our students.

However, despite how complex assessment is, we still know there to be assessment strategies and tools that help learners to become better readers. How do we choose the most appropriate assessments? Each assessment strategy has its own function, and because reading is so complex, a range of strategies works very well. Strategies range from formal, to informal, and encompass assessment of,as and for learning.

Assessment for learning and formative assessments can be integrated into daily activities. It also works well for diagnostic purposes. Assessment becomes an integral part of our Inquiries into student reading.

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Assessment Strategies

The following are but a few strategies that we can use for monitoring student progress in reading include

  • Teacher-Student conferences
  • Running Records
  • Learner Profiles
  • Portfolios
  • Word Recognition lists
  • Oral Reading
  • Retelling
  • Self-Assessment

This is certainly not an exhaustive list by any means. But it is a good starting point. I will not go into them all here, but will give a little more information about the importance of reading portfolios, because they have the ability to encompass all assessment opportunities.

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Reading Portfolios are an excellent way to record classroom assessment information. Students or teachers can add to this. They can contain a wide variety of work related to student reading and are a purposeful collection of student work. They truly allow for a combination of assessment for, as and of learning. Owned by learner, told in learner voice, they are a great way to demonstrate knowledge, comprehension, fluency, and more. THey can be in video or audio format as well. A great way to gather information about reading needs, progress, difficulties. What items are least important and can be removed from portfolios. Portfolios increase metacognitive awareness and reflection, but students need to also understand the precise success criteria.

 

However, just as with the ‘Inquiry Process’, we start with our questions about our learners. What do they need? Where are they going? How will they get there? No easy answers, but definitely more questions and possibilities.

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Some other important things to keep in mind about reading assessment:

  • Reflection about learning is important to informing how to procede with instruction of literacy skills
  • Use of technology for reading instruction calls for purposeful planning and critical assessment of student learning needs
  • Includes print, electronic, and other community resources
  • Implemented after ample teaching strategies that have helped students to make connections between learning and real life
  • Conducted in a collaborative and safe learning environment
  • Equitable and representative of different interests, cultures, needs and styles
  • Are communicated in meaningful ways with parents and guardians

Reading assessment is only valuable in how it reflects the reading strategies implemented in class. Ultimately, how will we use our inquiries about student reading to formatively assess students and prepare them for the culminating tasks?

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Strategies that Support Reading Assessment: 

 

  1. A lot of pre-reading discussion
  2. Graphic organizers before, during and after reading
  3. Scaffolding comprehension texts – preview and discuss text features first
  4. Daily read-alouds and think alouds with a variety of media and texts
  5. Opportunities to make predictions and disucss in shared reading
  6. Explicitly teaching semantic, syntactic and graphophonic cueing systems
  7. Language-experience texts
  8. Subject-specific and cross-curricular reading materials
  9. Time for students to read each day
  10. Help students choose the just right book
  11. Small group work with English speaking peers
  12. Anticipation guides to assess pre-reading beliefs
  13. Make predictions in pre-reading based on visuals
  14. Make preditions based on first sentence, first paragraph, key text
  15. Adopt roles of different characters while reading Readers Theater Texts
  16. Create a story map or timeline as a visual representation of main features of the story
  17. Introduce music, chants, poems etc. to reinforce expressions and patterned speech. Keep a collection of them for re-reading.
  18. Read first language or dual-reading books
  19. Model how to skim and scan texts for pre-reading
  20. Jigsaw reading where each student becomes and expert on one section of reading and then shares
  21. Literature circles for opportunities for a student to share about a book
  22. Deepen understanding of text by taking on role of character in the hot seat

 

And as we move back to more questions, assessments, and strategies, we embark on new inquiries about reading and the reading proficiency of our students. Indeed, reading truly is the most important skills that our students can take forth with them into the future.

What inquiries are you currently asking about a learner or learners?

 

 

Deborah McCallum

 

References:

 

http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/balancedliteracydiet/Assessment.html

Sammons, P., Thomas, S., & Mortimore, P. (1997). Forging links: Effective schools and effective departments. London: Paul Chapman.

Wu, R., Wu, R., & Lu, J. (2014). A practice of reading assessment in a primary classroom. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 4(1), 1-7. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1504226225?accountid=14771