I have learned so much over the past few months while attending common core training. Tennessee is currently training teachers to act as facilitators this summer and train their peers. I am working as one of the common core coaches in Algebra 2. This is the first professional development where classroom practices and activities have been modeled for me. Instead of someone standing at the front of the room lecturing me about how not to lecture in class, I have opportunity to be the student and see common core tasks implemented. I am learning so much about advancing and assessing questions.
Recently we had a discussion regarding assessment for learning and of learning. I have always known there is a difference and I assumed my formative and summative assessments were addressing this. I have since changed my opinion. With the switch to common core, I need to incorporate tasks into my classroom. These tasks are similar to the one I used before training. This baseball task was open-ended and provided multiple solution paths. The real meat to this task comes in the discussions and questions that come after the students complete the task. By asking the right questions, a teacher can assess a students learning and know where a student may lack the understanding. I must admit that this is the part I need the most help with implementing successfully. (I promise to write more on questioning later.) By doing this task in class and allowing the students to work in groups, you are allowing learing to take place. A student may not understand all the avenues to find a maximum, but through a group discussion, they may be reminded of alternative methods.
Assessment of learning happens when a student takes an assessment and receives a grade or feedback to evaluate themselves. I do believe that learning happens from this, but often we as teachers make this the end. This is more reflective of a PARCC assessment or final state test. Some groups are calling these Problem Based Assessments (PBA) and other call them Constructed Response Assessments (CRA). (All we need in education is more acronyms.) A better example of a PBA involves taking the original task used and modifying it by asking the student to:
- Write the equation in vertex form and identify the key values in terms of the story.
- Write the equation in factored form and identify the key values in terms of the story.
This not only assesses if the students understand quadratics and their real life applications, it ensures that the students can represent quadratics in multiple forms.
My goal for next year is to incorporate one good task per class every two weeks. I would also like to include PBA style questions for summative assessments. I’m trying to be careful with outside resources for common core. I want to make sure the tasks I select are rigorous and appropriate. What good resources have you found for common core?