Guided Math {Chapter Eight}

I know I’m a newbie teacher but I feel that assessment has taken on a different meaning and purpose in the last decade of instruction.  When I was in elementary school, which was longer than just a decade ago, you worked on a given topic for a week or two and then took a chapter test.  Nowadays, assessment is an ongoing process in which we as teachers are always provided with information to guide our instruction.  I don’t know about you but I think that’s a change for the better.

Before you can begin to assess students on their learning it is important to give them “A Vision for Learning” according to Sammons.  She says that “people tend to be more successful in any endeavor if they have in mind a vision of success for which to aim.”  (Sammons, 231)  By showing students what you expect them to learn or anticipate covering in a given unit allows them to know what is coming and what they must accomplish.  The trouble is….how do we do this?

Establishing Criteria for Success:
Checklists: I personally LOVE this idea but can’t quite wrap my mind around its use in mathematics.  You can consider this another ‘To-Do List” item.  By using a checklist, students are given the opportunity to look at list of steps or procedures and determine if they have completed the problem correctly.  In my opinion, we do this all the time with anchor charts.  We show students how to complete a problem using a given set of steps but how many times to we give them a tool to physically refer back to it and check off that they have completed each step?  How often do we require them to comment or reflect on their process versus the checklist given?  These are quality ways in which we can make sure that students are evaluating their own success. 

Rubrics:  I’ll be honest, I don’t use rubrics in my room often and I can’t really even think of a justification or reason why.  I guess that means I have another thing to add to my “To-Do List.”  Rubrics allow students to see exactly what is expected as well as evaluate the quality of their own work prior to submitting an assignment.  When using a rubric, you should always give them to students prior to completing the assignment so that they know what your standards are.  It would also be a great idea to post the rubric in the room for reference throughout the completion of the assignment.  Rubrics also allow peers to work together to begin assessing and assisting one another develop quality work.

The Value of Descriptive Feedback:
Students who receive descriptive feedback throughout a task are able to see what they complete correctly and what things need to be corrected.  In this section I absolutely enjoyed a metaphor about a coach and ball player that Sammons used to describe the purpose of descriptive feedback.  “The coaching is not given only at the end of an event, but instead, is given during training so that the athletes are able to make adjustments to improve their performances prior to testing them in competitions.”  (Sammons, 238)  DUH!  Do we usually coach our students BEFORE or AFTER the game?  I’ve been in many classrooms where the coaching is held off until AFTER the big test to give descriptive feedback.  By that point, students (especially my special education students) have repeatedly practiced mathematical tasks incorrectly.  After the assessment is too late to begin giving descriptive feedback.   When giving descriptive feedback, Sammons suggests that it:
  *comes during and after the learning
  *it is easily understood
  *is related directly to the learning
  *is specific, so performance can improve
  *involves choice on the part of the learner as to the type of feedback and how to receive it
  *is part of an ongoing conversation about learning
  *is in comparison models, exemplars, samples, or descriptions
  *is about the performance of the work—not the person

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