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.