Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Totally Buried In Your 'To Do' List?

Many years ago I made a conscious decision to take care of myself. It may sound foolish because it is so obvious but it wasn't to me. It came about because I witnessed a professional development leader 'give' a session where what was shared had little to do with what was said but everything to do with 'how' it was said. The person's entire being seemed to radiate exhaustion, impatience, and a total lack of self-care.

As I witnessed the day, I reflected that everything that was shared – and it was worth knowing and doing – was totally discounted because of the non-verbal messages being received.

I realized I wanted people with whom I worked to understand that what I was sharing would actually make their life in classrooms and schools easier. I could 'tell' that story but I also had to 'be' that story. That was a long time ago. I still hold the lesson close to my heart. And yet, like all lessons, it can be obliterated by time and life.

Today, as I began to work, I realized that the peace of this season was eluding me. In fact, I was totally buried in my 'To Do' list. I spent some time in reflection.

Instead I decided to breathe. And take time to let my life breathe. And, just in case you need an invitation to breathe and help to do so as you reflect on your 'To Do' list, I am sharing a link to a website. Today was my first visit and I appreciated the invitation to enjoy an audio recording that would help me 'breathe peace.' It did!

May you take time to relax and enjoy the peace of the season,


PS As a result of my reflection today, I've decided not to share the fabulous resources of our International Delegates until January –  in case it is adding to your 'To Do' list. If you want to go to check them out when you feel so inclined just go to www.assessment4learning.com

PPS This is a painting of the Northern Lights that I did while visiting Yellowknife, NWT, recently... they just take one's breath away! 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Talking About Evidence: Artifacts of our Learning

Students often find themselves in the position of responding to questions about their work and what that work provides evidence of.  Sentence starters like “Prove to me that…” or “Show me from your work that…” may be used.  Elementary students may talk about how their work used to look and what that work looks like now, after they have learned more.  Secondary students might need to prove that they can think critically or that they are able to make connections between the content of the course and ‘real world’ examples or other disciplines.  These are just a few examples of the ways in which students are prompted to talk about evidence of their learning to others.

In order that we can more deeply understand what it feels like to invite students into conversations about evidence of their learning, we might consider engaging adult learners and ourselves in a similar process.  This builds alignment in our systems; that is, all learners, regardless of their age or position, experience similar things.

Recently, I was with a group of principals, vice-principals, teachers, and district staff.  Prior to our time together, I asked participants to each bring along an artifact that, as they reflected on it, provided evidence of something that they have learned since the beginning of the school year. For example, it might be a picture of a group of students in an activity, some notes from a professional learning opportunity, a book or an article that they had read and found thought-provoking, a note from a parent, student, or colleague, their professional growth plan, a quote that they can’t get out of their mind, or a memo that they privately or publicly questioned.  In other words, the possibilities were endless.  It needed to be something that they felt comfortable talking to others about, as we would use their artifact to discuss reliable and valid evidence of learning.

In chapter 7 of our book, Transforming Schools and Systems Using Assessment: A Practical Guide, Anne Davies, Beth Parrott Reynolds, and I write about evidence.  We state, “Gather evidence from multiple sources over time.  When we triangulate our evidence and collect it over time, valuing both qualitative and quantitative evidence of learning, we can be confident that our findings are reliable and valid.  We are then able to share our findings, using evidence that people value.”

In the professional learning session which I referred to earlier, we spoke about the three sources of evidence – product, conversation, and observation.  We listened and watched clips of students talking about the ways that their products told of what they knew and understood.  As a group, we reflected on the ways in which these conversations led to increased teacher knowledge about what students had learned. 

And then it was our turn.  Learners retrieved their artifact.  They found partners and entered into a conversation about their artifact.  I presented them with five questions that were projected one at a time; people had about three or four minutes each to share their responses with their partners before I advanced to the next question. 

The questions that I used were as follows:

Ici des questions, en fran├žais :

As you read through these questions, you notice that they represent various ‘levels’ of Bloom’s Taxonomy; they prompt us to look more deeply at the artifact and to reflect on its significance within our leading, teaching, and learning.

After completing this “Evidence Interview,” we talked about the ways in which it informed our understanding of the collection of evidence of student learning.  We also considered the kinds of questions that we could ask our students in order to have them think and talk about a piece of their work or their learning process.  The picture shows some of the questions that were formulated.  (A translation of some of them follows the picture.)

“Why did you choose this artifact?  What did you learn?”
“In what ways does this artifact show what you have learned or that you understand?”
“You have chosen this piece.  What would you like me to look at or pay attention to?  What are you proud of?”

It is important that, as educators, we deliberately place ourselves in the role of active and intentional learner.  This act reminds us of what we ask our students to do on a daily basis.  A simple interview like the one that I have just described can do just that – remind us of the importance of talking to our students about representations of their learning, of posing questions that ‘dig deeper,’ and of engaging the student in reflecting on what a piece of evidence is really saying about the ways that he or she learns.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

And the snow is falling

I've been posting gifts from the International Delegates over the past few days. Today I'm taking a rest from assessment and sharing a painting instead. The snow is falling and the holiday season seems to be so very near :-)
I hope you can take a moment in the crazy-busyness that is December in schools to pause for a breath and a wish for a peaceful, health-full holiday for all!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Some Gifts From Susan Brookhart! Leader of the Team from United States

Thank you to everyone who has registered and is planning to register for Assessment for Learning: Canada in Conversation with the World. It is exciting to see the rapidly growing list of registrants. We are thrilled with the response with registrations coming in from all across Canada!

The Canadian Symposium is also a first! We are gathering those who work on behalf of classroom educators - our Ministry of Education colleagues, superintendents, and national organizations – to take a close look at what we are doing across Canada right now as each jurisdiction works to meet their own unique needs.

Another delegate I want to feature – knowing that many of you are familiar with her work – is Sue Brookhart. Sue also led the United States team to the International Symposium in Norway. She writes about assessment topics for teachers, administrators, and other educators.  Here are some links that you might enjoy following:

·         Assessing Creativity
·         Starting the Conversation about Grading
·         The Many Meanings of Multiple Measures

Sue is the lead for the team from the United States which also includes Heidi Andrade, Margaret Heritage, Maria Ruiz-Primo and Caroline Wylie.

Think about how fabulous the conversations will be as we gather the international delegates together with 250 Canadian educators for Friday, April 11 (eve) and all day Saturday, April 12, 2014, in Fredericton, NB! You can register here.

All my best,


PS For those of you who would like to attend all five days – we were only able to invite 36 people from across Canada to the Canadian Symposium. It is my hope that the conversations we are currently engaged in online and plan to continue in Fredericton, NB, in April will grow and include more and more people over time. How can you get involved right now? Considering joining me as part of the online conversation!

Tagboard: https://tagboard.com/AforLConversation/160953

Monday, December 2, 2013

Discover Michael Absolum and Clarity in the Classroom

Michael Absolum is a member of the New Zealand team attending the
International Symposium in Fredericton, NB. He will also be sharing his ideas and perspectives during the Saturday morning plenary at Assessment for Learning: Canada in Conversation with the World

As I followed the links Michael provided to the Assessment for Learning conversation, I found myself once again enjoying the amazing collection of resources on the New Zealand Ministry of Education website. 

I also found his blog. You might enjoy reading the blog entry titled, Evaluation is the Thing. The other thing you might want to know is that Michael wrote a powerful book titled, Clarity in the Classroom: Using Formative Assessment for Building Learning-Focused Relationships. You can find it in New Zealand hereor you can find a Canadian version here. You can also find it on Amazon.com or Amazon.ca. Check and make sure you are getting the version you want.

You can also download some interesting templates on his website. He has provided both the blank templates as well as some examples of the template in use. 

Enjoy the gifts!

All my best,


PS Registration for Canada in Conversation with the World has been busy. It is going to be so much fun!

More Gifts! John Gardner - International Delegate from UK

 We are so excited that registration for the Canadian Conference - Assessment for Learning: Canada in Conversation with The World begins today! 
I hope you can join us!

For each day of this month of gifts and gift giving, I am going to feature an International colleague who will be part of the Canadian conference in Fredericton, NB April 11 (eve) and April 12, 2014. John Gardner is a member of the UK team.

John Gardner was a founding member of the Assessment Reform Group and helped prepare many of their amazing resources, which can be downloaded here. Currently he is a member of the United Kingdom team to the International Symposium and works in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and England. One of the links he provides on his delegate page takes us to a paper he co-authored focused on Assessment and Social Justice. It examines the role assessment plays within a social justice context.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Another International Delegate - Dany is from Canada

Dany Laveault was selected for the first International Conference on Assessment hosted by Rick Stiggins in 2001. Since that time he has represented the Canadian perspective on assessment for learning at every International gathering including the one to be held in Fredericton, NB in April 2014. He, along with Ann Sherman, have been instrumental in preparing the application for a SSHRC grant. When you visit his delegate page you will find out more about him, as well as accessing his report to EQAO in Ontario, in French, as well as download a report on Early Reading Strategy (2003) for which he is a panel member. You can also watch an interview about his work and find out a little more about one of the Canadian team delegates to the International Symposium.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Lisa Rodgers: New Zealand International Delegate

You might want to explore some amazing resources from New Zealand. Lisa Rodgers is a member of the New Zealand team - you can find out more about Lisa if you follow the link. She is on the Literacy and Numeracy Task Force.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Education has a fabulous websitewith many, many assessment resources. You might like to view some of the Reports on formative assessment or view Exemplarsfor several different subject areas. Each section includes a description of what the work shows, relevant curriculum links, the learning context, and ‘where to next.’ For example, for dance, if you explore Level 3 you will see a progression of development, clip 5 shows students as they practise the Te Tangi a te Manu pattern. There are also many other resources to support educational leaders. These interviews with educators give us insights into how New Zealand is responding to the challenges that face us all. One example is Louise Miller’s interview about pedagogical leadership in mathematics as a mentor-teacher. Lisa Rodgers is a member of New Zealand’s team to the International Symposium and will be a part of Assessment for Learning: Canada in Conversation With the World.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Be Careful... Self-Regulation of Learning? Behavior?

I've been hearing a lot about self-regulation lately but the conversation seems to have taken a turn. I'm used to reading research focused on self-regulation of learning. Assessment - particularly assessment for learning - is an integral part of self-regulation.

But the conversation and the strategies I've been hearing about don't seem to be comprehensive enough. So today I went looking to find out what was going on. It was interesting to see that the self-regulation that is being talked about in some circles arises out of the world of teaching self-management of behavior. This is certainly important and I know there are vulnerable learners who benefit an immense amount from this work.

On the other hand, I think we need to be careful not to assume that self-managing behavior is enough for all our learners. We need to go further - we need to teach students, in a very deliberate fashion, how to self-monitor their way to success. That is what we do when we show students samples, engage in conversation about quality, and co-construct criteria for important products or processes - evidence of learning. When we mindfully build the language of assessment in this way, we teach students the language they need to self-monitor their learning. We also teach students what quality looks like so they can aspire and achieve success! This is self-regulation of learning and assessment for learning is the pathway that will get us there.

If self-regulation is of interest to you, you might want to read this seminal article by Pintrich and DeGroot (1990). If you are interested in the shift from focusing on behavior to focusing on learning strategies, you might want to read this classic piece by Lorrie Shepard. It is titled, The role of assessment in a learning culture.

Rethinking Assessment of Learning

Teachers are working hard to make sense of grading and reporting structures in order to better reflect what students know, do and say. They are rethinking assessment of learning to better communicate their informed professional judgment about what students have learned. There was a powerful research study done by the Assessment Reform Group called, Teachers Role in the Assessment of Learning (2007). You can download a copy here. You might also enjoy watching this 17-minuteweb conference clip with your professional learning community.

All my best,

PS You will need to sign in but please know your contact information will not be used unless you sign up for a newsletter and in that case it will ONLY be used to send you the newsletters.

 PPS I am having a wonderful time with friends and colleagues in Yellowknife, NWT this week. Here is an unfinished painting I am working on... gosh those Northern Lights are so incredible! I'm trying to figure out how to capture even part of their beauty with watercolours:-)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

‘Push Backs’ and ‘What Abouts’: Opportunities for Learning

This is a great idea, but what about…?” or “I can see this working with older students, but I don’t understand how this can work with students in Grade Two…” or “I know that you are asking me to think about how this might play itself out in my class, but I am preparing my students for the real world and in that real world we don’t…” As leaders, we deliberately listen for these ‘push backs’ or ‘what abouts.’  And, as leaders, we welcome them.  They help us to get a clearer picture of what our adult learners are thinking.  ‘Push backs’ and ‘what abouts’ are invitations for us to gain clarity, to search for simplicity, and to feed our learning forward.  As we consider other viewpoints, we might refine our message, shift our stance, or think about better ways to communicate.

I frequently hear and am asked to think through the ‘push backs’ or ‘what abouts’ in the area of triangulation of evidence of learning.  Remember that triangulation refers to the collection of assessment evidence from three different sources – product, observation, and conversation. 

Some might say that all we need is products from students, as that is enough to determine the degree to which students are meeting curricular expectations.  However, our curricula include outcomes that cannot be simply and only represented through the creation of a product. This is true in all subject areas. For example, in English, students need to be able to communicate orally; in mathematics, students need to use manipulatives and other mathematical tools in order to solve problems; in science, students need to be able to safely use materials; in social studies, students are asked to value and celebrate diversity. This list could go on and on, further illustrating the richness of our curriculum and the necessity for students to prove that they can articulate, that they understand, and that they are able to “do” outcomes like those listed above.  And therein lies the inherent need to go beyond product as a sole measure of students’ abilities to meet the breadth of that which is expected.

In the face of the ‘push backs’ and the ‘what abouts,’ we can discuss the tenets of triangulation as it is described above. And yet for some with whom we work, it is important to illustrate this assessment principle in a slightly different way and from a different frame of reference.  So, for example, when educators share a ‘push back’ or ‘what about’ in relation to triangulation, I often refer to the following allegory:

Imagine that I am your principal and this year we are to engage in the more formal supervision cycle that will result in a report being placed in your personnel file.  I come to your classroom one afternoon in March and apologize for not meeting with you prior to this.  I have been busy.  I am carrying an empty box and I ask you to fill that box with pieces of paper – lesson plans, unit plans, tests you have created, student work, letters that you have sent to parents and guardians, notes that you have received from students, etc.  I promise to return in a week and, since I am true to my word, I do.  You have prepared not one box, but two boxes and as I struggle to gather them under my arms, I walk towards the classroom door and indicate that I will call you to my office in about a month’s time so that you can read and sign off on my report.  You seem surprised and soon you ask me when I am going to schedule some observations of your teaching.  I let you know that I don’t have time for that; in fact, everything that I require to know about how you teach must be here in these boxes.  You pause for a moment and then ask me if we will have the chance to talk about your challenges and your strengths as you teach these students this year. Again, I remind you that I am incredibly busy and, though I would like to, I can’t imagine that I would have the time to sit and talk with you.  I tell you not to worry, as I am confident that these papers in these boxes will provide me with the data that I need to write up the report.

As I leave, you can’t believe what you just have heard.  I won’t be coming to watch you teach, nor will we engage in professional discourse about your teaching or your students’ learning?  This is shocking to you.  Your lesson plans are pretty cryptic, though you can decipher them; your unit plans may have more information in them but, again, you have used language that means something to you – others might miss the point.  And besides, the real strength of your teaching is when you are interacting and engaging with your students.  That must be witnessed!  You immediately begin to think about what your recourse in this situation might be. The thought crosses your mind that you should contact your teachers’ association representative. 

It is here that I stop this story.  Upon reflection, there is not a professional educator who would want to be judged in this way.  There are critical aspects to the supervision cycle that are missing and it seems absurd to suggest that you will be evaluated without the rigour of triangulation – observation, conversation, and product.

And yet when I first began teaching, all that mattered, as I determined the degree to which my students met the curricular outcomes, was product – those paper and pencil tasks that could easily fit ‘into the box.’  Why did I expect a degree of thoroughness that I was not prepared to afford my students?  If I expected this ‘due process,’ why did I think that my students deserved less?

As I work with teachers, we now would pause to reflect and analyze the ‘push backs’ or the ‘what abouts’ in relation to this story.  What connections can be made?  In what other ways could we respond?  What makes sense and what does not make sense?

The work of leadership requires us, from time to time, to pose a question or offer an allegory to reframe or refine a stance.  We need to be flexible in our thinking in order to present accounts or stories that ‘push back’ at the ‘push backs’ in a thoughtful and respectful way.  We gather these accounts and these stories as we consider the diversity of viewpoints and the experiences that come our way – they serve us well…they are a powerful teaching technique…they speak to our reality and the disconnect that can exist if we don’t pause to examine an disparate point of view.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Five Steps to the BEST SCHOOL YEAR EVER!

It’s the end of August! And we are celebrating a new school year! Beginnings are so fabulous – such a time of hope and planning for success. In honour of this time we’ve prepared a series of blogs to support your planning for success using assessment in support of learning.

This month we also celebrate the anniversary of the launch of our free Members site
We have over 5900 members. We’ve been digging through all the things there are to READ and to VIEW and refreshing the collection. Our selections have been deliberately designed to support educators as they engage in professional learning whether as a high school teacher, a middle years teacher, an elementary teacher or a leader at the school or system level. If you are new to our members site  then you might be interested in knowing we ask you to sign in because we have video of students and teachers and we want to provide a safe, sharing environment. 

I hope this is the best year ever!

All my best,


PS In the next few weeks we will be announcing our brand new online conference line-up! We are very excited. Contact Laura if you want some advance planning information.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Better Choice? On line Grading Programs or ??

Like a growing number of teachers, Erin M. has a classroom blog. Sandra Herbst connected me to Erin and I am so thankful. I love the way her students use Voki to create avatars. Their avatars can now be their safe presence on the blog. Parents and others can listen, read and view their children and the rest of the class. It is a incredibly powerful demonstration of learning. Then, combine this with a student-parent-teacher conference and a written report that communicates the teacher’s professional judgement with regard to the students progress and growth. What do you have? Parents who are incredibly informed regarding how well their students are doing in relation to curriculum expectations.

I have to wonder why systems feel they have to use online grading programs especially since the commercially available options do such a poor job of informing others. Go to Erin’s class’ blog and then look at the information available through any of the commercially available on-line grade books. Ask yourself, which does a better job of communicating the richness of learning? I’m not saying a class blog is sufficient; I’m saying it communicates a whole lot more than an online grade book. In Canada, given our complex learning outcomes, we deserve better than marks and grades that push us towards inappropriate evaluation practices in our classrooms and tell parents so little about what really matters.

On a final note, Erin’s blog contributes to the larger discourse about public education. I was reviewing the stats the other day for one of my blogs I realized that on any given day it has more than 5500 views. Think about that! Not only do educators have an opportunity to engage in this conversation, we are also providing a way for our students to engage and demonstrate the kind of learning they are engaged in classrooms.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Anniversary of my First Day of Teaching and Baseline Evidence (Step 3)

Today is the anniversary of my first day teaching. I was 20 years old. I had moved to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. I found myself on a handpicked staff of amazing teachers. It was the beginning of the first of many amazing years teaching in the North.

There is something very special about teaching in the northern part of Canada. It is an opportunity to make a difference not just to students in classrooms but also to the community. Like other teachers who choose to teach in the small rural and northern communities, I found myself involved in professional activities in my school and across schools. We depend on each other so everyone needs to contribute. And, as much as I gave, I received so much more. I also met my husband in Yellowknife – this is what we looked like way back then. Memories are so great!

Next week I will be back in Yellowknife working with educators as they prepare for another year of making a difference. I will be able to visit with and work alongside colleagues I taught with years ago and who continue to be in my circle of friends today.

As teachers we learn to build relationships with our colleagues, our students and members of the school community. And, as a result, we learn as much as we teach. And, it is through being learners ourselves that we teach some of the most powerful lessons.

The first learning I deliberately set out to do each year is to understand and appreciate the gifts, talents, and knowledge of every single learner no matter different they are than I am. After all, I must first seek to understand before being understood.

Step 3 is about collecting baseline evidence. It’s an important part of learning about one’s students. It’s not sufficient. I also need to learn about what matters to each one. What do they love? What do they care about? How can I tap into their expertise? Because, if this is to be a powerful learning community, then I, as the teacher, am the one who needs to carefully help every learner be appreciated and valued.

All my best,


PS Now here is the scary part... if that other picture was the baseline... here is the AFTER picture. Couldn't we just do an "We used to.... but now we..." And guess what, we do! On the anniversary of the day we met:- )

It's Our Anniversary! Come Celebrate Our Free Members Site

FOUR years ago we started our free membership site! Our goals were simple. We wanted to support educators to understand the power of assessment for learning to support ALL students. We wanted to make it more possible for more people to learn about these ideas no matter where they lived. There is a collection of resources for you to access and enjoy. Many of these are available because of the many educators who have learned along side us over the years and welcomed us into their schools and classrooms.

Here we are! Four years later we’ve gone from a few members the first few months to now having more than 5900 people accessing these resources regularly. While most members are from Canada, we also have members from around the world. Joining is easy! Just choose a user name and password. We've reorganized the content around postings to READ and postings to VIEW. We will be adding postings to LISTEN and to DO in the upcoming months. We usually add regularly but with our new revamped members site we will be making additions monthly. We have changed this structure to deliberately mimic our site for University graduate and undergraduate students (and professors).

We get lots of requests from people for permission to share the materials in other forms and for other audiences. We also see lots of sharing of links from individuals to their entire networks. We love seeing the spread of the blog views via twitter and the e-newsletter move from country to country around the globe. We are pleased to be able to continue this service for one more year.

This free service was made possible because people volunteered their time and expertise and Building Connections Publishing gave a percentage of their profits to support this work.
One unintended consequence of sharing free resources is some people see to think that all the resources should be shared freely. We wish that was possible. One day perhaps it will be if an organization chooses to fund this important work. In the meantime, it is the paid resources that fund the free resources. If the paid resources are pirated, used without permission, plagiarized, or passwords shared beyond the purchaser, even with great enthusiasm for sharing the work, the result can be fewer resources to fund the free members site.

You can contribute to this important work in three ways:

1.     You can help us by sharing links to the free materials and letting people know where they can go and sign up for themselves.
2.     You can contribute by commenting on the blogs, sharing your ideas, and sending in your questions.
3.     Lastly, you can contribute by purchasing resources that you need that are not on the member’s site and by using them according to copyright and legal permissions.

In the coming months we look forward to an even more fabulous FIFTH year of support. We have plans to share more practical ideas, more video clips, more research, and more responses to emerging questions.

We are also excited as we put together the final details in preparation for the launch a brand new membership site designed for universities - graduate and undergraduate courses - so that pre-service and graduate students can have access to the latest information and ideas.

We look forward to continuing this amazing conversation. Please keep in touch!

With our best wishes,


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Planning for Evaluation - Step Two of Getting Ready for the BEST Year Ever

For the past few days we’ve been working with more than 90 educators to build assessment plans. There have been very powerful conversations. Sandra Herbst, Brenda Augusta and I have commented on how great it is to eavesdrop on thoughtful interaction between participants as they deconstruct their curriculum in one subject area and think through how to express it in student-friendly ways in order to prepare for evaluation.

If you weren't able to be here for the past few days, you might also want to think about planning to evaluate.  Here is Step Two as you get ready for the best year yet!

Now we are working with more than 120 educators in two and half days of learning here in Canmore, Alberta focused on involving every student in the assessment process. 

Whether working in high school, middle school, elementary or in a leadership position in schools and districts, the commitment to learning is obvious. As the two and half day session ended yesterday and as the two institutes in Fredericton ended, educators expressed excitement as they anticipating beginning the new school year. Isn’t it amazing?
Every year, in spite of knowing all the challenges that face us as we work to support each learner, we get excited. And yet, it isn’t surprising at all really. We’re in this job to make a difference and every single year we get a whole new opportunity to do it even better. I am so proud to be a member of this profession!

All my best,


PS I haven't been able to paint very much with all the teaching I have been doing but I can think about painting:- ) Here is one of my earlier paintings.... the first one is from 1999 and the second from 2011.... I am doing an "I used to but now I..." reflection as I look at them:- )

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Getting Ready for the New Year - Step One

Sandra Herbst, Brenda Augusta and I have been having a wonderful learning time with August. Last week in Fredericton, NB and this week in Canmore, Alberta we have been surrounded by the most amazing, dedicated groups of educators. The four institutes are all different but the enthusiasm is the same.

We have been working on a variety of topics related to classroom assessment. This work has reminded me to share a powerful set of steps to Get Ready for the School Year. This is Step One!

All my best,

PS Here is a painting I did on the way from Fredericton, NB to Calgary, AB. Painting calms my mind. What do you do to calm your mind and bring into the present moment?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

When It's Time - A Gift for You

I hope you are enjoying these special times. It is a gift to take time to do whatever brings joy; there is nothing more rejuvenating. In addition to my family, one of the things that brings me joy is painting and listening to music.

Here is a photo of one of quick watercolour sketches I've enjoyed painting while listening and enjoying our local music festivals here on Vancouver Island.

Like you, I am beginning to think about THINKING ABOUT the upcoming school year. I'll think about thinking about it for another week or so while I enjoy some more family time. 

I did pull out my suitcase in preparation for the August sessions in Fredericton and Canmore. And doing that got me thinking about you so here I am watching a Mary Tyler Moore rerun and doing this blog post:-). 

When you are ready to start preparing for the coming year, download your very own copy of this popular classroom assessment planning guide. I prepared this resource to help teachers plan for the upcoming school year. It gets rave reviews so I am happy to share it again. Please feel free to send this link to your friends and colleagues. 

After all, we all know that taking time now can save us so much time later.

All my best,


PS At this point our August events in Canmore, Alberta and Fredericton, New Brunswick are almost sold out! If you want to claim one of the few remaining seats, call our office now 1 800 603 9888.

PPS If you want to do some 'refresher' reading consider revisiting some of the fabulous documents prepared by the Assessment Reform Group.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Humans crave purpose and meaning. We need choice.

As humans we crave purpose and meaning. We need to understand the why of something. We also need to have choice. If you want to learn about powerful ways to teach self-regulation, you might want to read an article that Sandra and I wrote for Education Canada magazine available online. It is titled, Co-constructing Success Criteria:  Assessment in the Service of Learning. In this article we write about why. Instead of telling the learners what is important or what needs to be done or what ‘should’ be happening – instead of training them – we need support their learning. To do that we need to engage and involve them using assessment in support of learning – their own learning and the learning of those around them. There are examples from high school, primary and leadership perspectives.

I’d like to close by sharing a favourite quote by Brian Andreas, “Everything changed the day he figured out that there was exactly enough time for the important things in life.’ You might want to check out his amazing art and writing.

I hope you are finding exactly enough time for the important things in your life.

All my best,


Monday, June 3, 2013

Harvesting Strategies for Learning

It is curious that at the very same time that we in Manitoba are just beginning to think about planting our vegetable and flower gardens, this blog posting is about harvesting. My thoughts turn to the harvest because of several conversations that I have recently had while working with educators across the North Island of New Zealand. 

As we lead the learning of adults, we know that it is important to set the stage for learning.  For many, that includes starting workshops or sessions or seminars with a list of the outcomes for those adult learners.  We do the same for students when we explicitly identify the learning goal for a lesson and its connection to a curricular outcome or expectation. 

Throughout the learning, though, it might also be helpful to deliberately illuminate the strategies that are being used with the participants.  For me, this is a strategy in and of itself.  I was first introduced to it during my foundational Cognitive Coaching training with John Dyer and is one that, many years ago, I saw Bruce Wellman model in his Adaptive Schools sessions.  It is called the Strategy Harvest. 

The Strategy Harvest is a list of strategies that are “collected” by the facilitator and the learners throughout the session. These are the strategies that the learners have used – the ones that have invited them into processing, whether externally or internally.  They can be listed on chart paper that is hung around the room or can be electronically posted on a shared document. Essentially, it shines the flashlight clearly on the learning approaches that have been employed. 

Below, you will see pictures of the charts that we recently created during a learning session with approximately 70 school leaders in Napier, New Zealand.   

One of the strategies that you might notice is called Stop and Say Something.  It is a strategy that I first used at the very same Cognitive Coaching training sessions to which I referred earlier. Stop and Say Something is a way to engage with text and actively process while you are reading. 

Two partners have the same piece of text and they begin to read it simultaneously and silently.  At each heading, they stop their reading and turn to one another and essentially “say something” about what was just read.  It might be a related idea, a question, an affirmation, or an account.  The readers connect text to self; they engage in metacognition.  Many find the “chunking” of the text helpful to their comprehension, as does listening to the connections of a valued colleague.

Now back to the conversation in New Zealand regarding the Strategy Harvest.  Perhaps because it is the harvest season in that part of the world, we found ourselves regularly debriefing the use and nuances of this strategy. 

The very practical aspect of identifying adult learner strategies is that, at the same time, one is highlighting strategies that can be used with student learners.  And so, Stop and Say Something is a strategy that can be used with students as they read a text, watch a video, or listen to a presentation.  For example, a video can be paused every four or five minutes and students can turn to each other and “say something.”  Or during a presentation from a community elder, a local politician, or a veteran, the presenter can be asked to speak in five or six minute chunks.  At each break, students are invited to share with a classmate a connection to what was just stated. 

This example highlights that, as a strategy is placed on the Strategy Harvest, its use with students is considered.  In essence, this means that a double agenda is being run.  The adult learner outcomes (shared at the beginning of the learning time) are being met, alongside a set of strategies.  And these very strategies are ones that can be used in the classroom with the teacher’s students.  Because the adults have experienced these strategies themselves, they have engaged in a round of “practice” that will be helpful in determining when they might be used with their students; thought can be given to the ways in which it might need to be adapted, based on the age of the learners and the discipline of study. 

When “time” is of the essence in professional learning and when we need to make every minute count, the strategy of the Strategy Harvest maximizes that most precious commodity.