I know I've said it before, but teachers in Ontario are still scratching their heads over the question of how to collect evidence of "observations" and "conversations," and then integrate that evidence into a final grade for a student.
The confusion stems from a paragraph found on page 39 of the Ministry of Education's Growing Success policy document. The paragraph states:
Evidence of student achievement for evaluation is collected over time from three different sources – observations, conversations, and student products. Using multiple sources of evidence increases the reliability and validity of the evaluation of student learning.
Sadly, teachers have not found much guidance from the Ministry on the implementation of this directive. In particular, teachers are left wondering about two critical questions:
Perhaps even more troubling is the fact that teachers cannot find a great deal of consensus, even amongst themselves, about one crucial point. Namely, how do we actually differentiate between a "conversation," an "observation," and a "product"?
To be sure, in our own minds we are all quite clear on the distinction between all three, and we would scarcely imagine any particular debate in the matter. It is only when we subject our individual perceptions of these elements against the scrutiny of our colleagues that we come to realize that there is indeed a great variety of perspectives regarding products, conversations, and observations.
Invariably, most teachers probably like the spirit of triangulation, but just because we like it, doesn't mean we do it. In fact, a recent NewLearnerLab Twitter survey revealed that most teachers do not collect evidence of observations or conversations at all.
Personally, I have developed and experimented with two distinct triangulation systems that would both collect conversation and observation data, and then integrate this data with a student's final grade. I called my first system the Ongoing Triangulation Index, and my second system the Classwork Portfolio.
I have discussed the logistics of each method in separate articles, but after spending a good deal of time implementing both systems in my program, I felt I was now in a better position to present a comparative review of both methods.
Ongoing Triangulation Index
The Ongoing Triangulation Index is a value that is based on recorded observations and conversations that are generated in class. The OTI depends on the ClassDojo application to capture observations and conversations and then curate these observations within a single record for each student.
Each observation or conversation is time-stamped, dated, and accompanied by a brief explanation of the observation and the curriculum associated with the observation. Within this index, students can accumulate both positive and negative observations, the sum of which will determine their overall Index value.
The OTI counts for 5% of the overall mark in a course. Thus, a number of OTI observations are recorded each term.
Allows the teacher to capture demonstrations of learning, understanding, appreciation, etc. that occur spontaneously within the classroom.
Generates a comprehensive record of observations and conversations for each student.
This record can contain detailed information regarding the specific learning goals associated with each observation. Example: “Demonstrated a deep understanding of how Keynesian fiscal policy could be used to fill a fiscal gap using the balanced budget multiplier.”
The above record is updated instantly and can be made accessible to both parents and students.
The OTI system uses the ClassDojo app, which lends itself to capturing evidence of observable behaviours. Thus, this system can potentially be criticized as assigning a mark for learning skills and/or work habits.
This system must record both negative and positive observations in order to generate a meaningful value that can then be translated into a mark.
While the OTI facilitated the recording of both conversations and observations, conversations never figured into the index value.
The Classwork Portfolio uses Google Classroom, Kahoot, and Edvance (an online student information system and grade manager) to generate a portfolio of the various activities, exercises, and check-ins that are pursued in class on a day-to-day basis. Each activity is assessed and given a mark between zero and four based on relative quality.
For those in-class activities and exercises that require deeper qualitative assessment, a streamlined Canada and World Studies, 2015 Achievement Chart is used to assess the varying levels of achievement.
The Classwork Portfolio counts for 5% of the overall mark in a course. Thus, a number of portfolio marks are recorded for each student within each reporting period.
The CWP allows the teacher to capture progress that occurs in class on a daily basis, and then record the observation of that progress in a way that impacts the student’s mark immediately.
Students come to realize that they can effect a positive influence over their mark during each and every class.
The CWP tends to focus more on the manifest result of a student’s learning than it does on student behaviour or learning skills. (Although, depending on one's perspective, this could be seen as a weakness.)
The teacher can include detailed information regarding the specific learning goals associated with each observation. Example: “Achieved the 80% threshold on today’s check-in on using Keynesian fiscal policy to fill a fiscal gap using the balanced budget multiplier. Silver medal... well done!”
As this information is recorded in an online grade manager, it is made accessible to parents and students immediately.
Regular check-ins are designed to more readily allow students to effect a positive influence on their mark, while limiting the potential for a negative impact.
The CWP system can generate a large quantity of micro-assessments that can rather quickly outpace a teacher’s ability to mark. Teachers are therefore advised to limit CWP items to activities and exercises that can be assessed rather quickly: preferably, during the class in which they are assigned.
The CWP generates a rather disconnected record of observations and conversations for each student. This record is brought together, somewhat loosely, within our online grade manager.
I'm a heavy user of Google Classroom, and I quite enjoy the various posting features offered within the Google Classroom stream. They're all great. But I can tell you from a teacher's perspective, however, that the main thing I actually use Classroom for on a daily basis is issuing lesson plans to my classes.
So what's the problem?
Sadly, Google Classroom doesn't actually offer a "lesson" option. The available posting options currently made available within Google Classroom include questions, announcements, or assignments.
Thus, for the teacher who wants to post a lesson, one of the three available posting options needs to be adapted to this purpose. Personally, I find the "assignment" option to be the best fit for a lesson because it allows me to give the lesson a title, and it allows me to associate the lesson with a date (which is a must). The main problem, however, is the fact that using the "assignment" option gives the impression that the student has something due for every single class... and this isn't necessarily the case.
Moreover, when I do issue an actual assignment, it invariably finds itself hiding amongst dozens of previously - and subsequently - posted lessons. As a result, parents and students do not pay nearly as much attention to my assignments as they likely would if my assignments were not hiding amongst so many other similar looking postings.
I hope that Google Classroom enthusiasts everywhere will join me in encouraging Google to create a "lesson" posting option in Classroom. In my view, such an option could be very similar to the current "assignment" option: it could simply be titled "Lesson" as opposed to "Assignment."
I would also point out that the utility of such a lesson posting option could be increased if the "lesson" post could give the teacher the option of associating a submission with the post. I say this because some lessons do indeed require students to submit some work, while other lessons do not require anything to be submitted at all.
If such a Google Classroom feature were to be made available, then students and parents would be able to clearly delineate between actual assignments and the lessons that teachers such as myself post using the current "assignment" option. In other words, parents would no longer mistake daily lessons as overdue assignments, and overdue assignments would no longer find themselves camouflaged as old lesson plans.
Google, if you would consider doing this, then I think you would not only increase the utility and usability of Google Classroom, but you would bring Google Classroom one important step closer to serving as a full-fledged course management system.
A Useable Achievement Chart for the Ontario Curriculum, Grades 11 and 12, Canadian and World Studies, 2015
If you're like me, you often find yourself wishing the Ontario Ministry of Education provided a more user-friendly version of their curriculum documents. The Achievement Charts found in our curriculum guidelines are certainly no exception. These charts tend to be excessively wordy and repetitive, to the point where they become so dense and cluttered that students and parents can find it difficult to comprehend the relationship between the various categories of knowledge and skills, the achievement levels, and all of the associated descriptors. Moreover, the document is long (usually two pages), and is published as a Adobe Acrobat file, which is dreadfully difficult to copy and paste from.
Thus, I often take it upon myself to produce a streamlined version of the achievement charts found in our curriculum documents so that I can use the charts in my work.
Linked to the bottom of this page, you will find such a streamlined version of the 2015 Ontario Curriculum, Grades 11 and 12, Canadian and World Studies achievement chart. This version of the chart is a one-page document that teachers can readily use for assessing their students.
A Few Points to Note:
The original achievement chart in the 2015 Ontario Curriculum, Grades 11 and 12, Canadian and World Studies did not include a Level 0 to specifically address a non-existent level of skill or application. I have added this level because, otherwise, when entering an actual mark that is between 1 to 4 in a grade manager, the lowest level of achievement (a Level 1) would be calculated as a 25% grade. I found that adding a Level 0 to be necessary when actually recording these marks in a grade manager for my Classwork Portfolio, and so I highly recommend employing the five-scale version of the Achievement Chart.
I should also point out that Page 41 of the 2015 Ontario Curriculum, Grades 11 and 12, Canadian and World Studies states that specific “qualifiers” are used with the descriptors in the achievement chart to describe student performance at each of the four levels of achievement – the qualifier “limited” is used for level 1; “some” for level 2; “considerable” for level 3; and a “high degree of” or “thorough” for level 4. Hence, achievement at level 3 in the Thinking category for the criterion “use of planning skills” would be described in the achievement chart as “[The student] uses planning skills with considerable effectiveness.”
Examples of the various categories of knowledge and skills:
The original achievement chart in the 2015 Ontario Curriculum, Grades 11 and 12, Canadian and World Studies contains a number of examples within the chart itself. Those examples were removed from the version of the achievement chart that I have made available here in an effort to both streamline the chart and to more clearly delineate the connection between the various categories of knowledge and skills and the descriptors associated with the various levels of achievement.
Nonetheless, I do present the various examples that were originally contained within the achievement chart. I have simply separated them out from the chart itself and then presented them on the back of the page. The examples I am speaking of are presented below:
Thus, I have modified the achievement chart in an effort to produce a highly useable, one-page achievement chart that acknowledges all levels of skill and achievement from 0% to 100%. Moreover, I have distilled this modified version of the achievement chart into both PDF and MS Word files. These files are linked below. Please feel free to use and modify them as you see fit.
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