Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Rethinking Grading & Classroom Assessment Conference - Day 2 Recap - June 2014

If you missed the recap from Day 1 of the conference, you can read all about it HERE. Day 2 was just as fast-paced and full as Day 1, and to recap I thought I'd share some of my favorite graphics from Rick Wormeli's presentation plus some thoughts he shared with us. 

On Day 2, the topics ranged from assessing project/problem-based learning to redos & retakes as well as formative assessment and descriptive feedback. I hope you enjoy!

My first take-away had to do with us (educators) asking ourselves if we are dispensing information, sticking with direct instruction, and explaining... rather than guiding students to deeper learning through inquiry and modeling. 

Frank Noschese is a science teacher who says that kids learn science by doing. As a former science teacher myself, I completely agree. I also think that it applies to most other subjects as well.  

But the creation of learning experiences is not just having students to do activities. The activity needs to be aligned to the standards so that the activities produce evidence of learning. 

Are the grades we are giving reflecting the format (the doing... the project, the assessment, the paper, the poster, the lab, the etc.) or are the grades reflecting what is being learned?

Another take-away from the day was about the types of questions we ask students and the evidence we are asking for on assessments. For example... instead of asking a student to spell 20 words on a spelling test every Friday (which doesn't indicate if he/she is a good speller), give the student a list of words from his Lexile level and ask him to distinguish between words that are spelled correctly and incorrectly. Then ask him to use spelling rules to FIX the ones that are misspelled.

Compare the questions below...

Which questions require critical thinking by the students? Which type of question is most often being asked, and which type of question is motivating? Which type of question is being asked in "lower level" classes? Don't kids in "lower level" classes usually need the most motivation?

Rick Wormeli shared a story of an angry parent who didn't like it that her child had "learned quickly" and earned a "A" on the first try while other students who didn't "get it" on the first try were allowed to keep trying and eventually earn a "A", too. Want to read Rick's response to her letter? Click HERE.

This is an actual rubric that Rick has used with his students. Notice that the rubric includes ONLY the description for the standard of excellence. If students perform below the standard for specific items, he circles those items on the list. He's found that when students don't have anything lower to shoot for, they will wrap their heads around what IS there. In this case, it's excellence.

What do you think about the ideas above that he shared?


Another take-away for me has to do with the importance of feedback. As a former coach, I understand that for someone to improve, specific feedback must be given. Just telling someone to "try harder" or "that's not right" will not lead to improvement or mastery. Also, practice doesn't make perfect. A person has to know what it is they need to improve on as well as what to do to get better. 

Our students, the millennials, are used to getting specific feedback. As educators, we must respond to this new generation. As Rick Wormeli says, "We are morally obligated to teach the way they learn."

And why don't we ask students to interact with the assessment and provide feedback for themselves? They can do an item analysis like the one above. When they finish, they can write a letter to the teacher...

The research data supports the importance of giving feedback!

All in all, the conference was amazing. I'm so thankful for the invitation from Andrew, and Rick Wormeli used his special blend of humor, storytelling, animation, and passion to capture and inspire the participants. Remember that you can follow the hashtag #RGCA on Twitter for more insights! 

Thank you for a great two days, Rick!

Best wishes on your Standards-Based Grading journey!


  1. Jennifer,
    Thanks SO much for sharing this fantastic learning experience with all of us! I'm jealous of you and your colleagues, but I appreciate the chance to learn along with you as part of your PLN.

    My favorite quote--and one that I struggle to help others understand--is that we need to get rid of the idea that those students who master the content fastest deserve a reward for that. This one idea leads to all sorts of bad policies, like penalizing grades on late work and disallowing retakes.

    Thanks again for sharing such a TON of useful information.

    1. Paul,
      I'm so glad you found the information useful and helpful. It is a concept that has been ingrained in us... he who learns fastest is "best." I don't want to hire a teacher who learned it first, I want the person who can do something with it!

      I appreciate your comments,

  2. Thanks for great information! Love the rubric and student letter; also, the graphing idea for bringing up a grade 26 points!

    1. Thanks for stopping by and reading the post, Elizabeth! I'm glad you found the rubric useful. There are tons of resources from Rick's presentation.

      Have a great week,