Bark 'em Down

This from John:
Ben –
Recent conversations in my school are causing me to think that I am soon going to have to justify my assessments in very concrete terms, possibly in the context of a framework that applies to all subjects. With this in mind, I was hoping that we could establish a place on the blog where members could post and share the rubrics they use and any other documents which assess/align with the kinds of educational frameworks that are so popular among administrators these days.
Thanks
John
[My response: of course, John, I will definitely set up a category called “Grading Rubrics” and another one called “Assessment Rubrics” and ask all of us who have successfully used rubrics of any kind to send them as emails to me where I will post them as blog entries and tag them into that category, as per the usual procedure for blog members getting anything they want posted as a blog entry here.
Look – we are the professionals here. The ability of higher ups to blindly impose some kind of cookie cutter “educational framework” on us is dependent on how blindly we accept it. With that in mind, we MUST allow Harrell’s original and pioneering work in the area of the Three Modes of Communication be our main guideposts in this work of getting rubrics that have teeth going in our classrooms.
The challenge we face is to allow those ACTFL Guidelines and Standards to speak for us. They should infuse our decisions about how we assess, and they should keep others from infusing us with the fear that goes with uncertainty in this business of assessment. As if they know better. They don’t.
I am lucky to be at Lincoln with my DPS team supporting my every decision, but many of us on this blog are steering their boats alone into unsteady waters with no port nearby and it is scary as hell. It is the middle of the year, we are stuck, many of us are alone in our work, but we have those ACTFL guidelines and the treasure trove of discussion started by Harrell here last May.
If I had time I would go back and meditate on each comment under the Grading Robert/Harrell category. But, failing that, if we do as you suggest, John, we can get a nice  bright category, a flower bed of possible assessment ideas, and they can carry us into a place where, possibly by fall, we have the entire game of staredown with the administration and their pathetically misinformed frameworks over.
I think of us out on a beautiful walk with our three Aussie Shepherds (the three modes), and meeting our administrators by chance out on a walk with their Police Dog (the new one-size-fits-all frameworks) and the dogs start barking at each other. Our dog has to win the bark-off. Our dog is better.
Bless their hearts, these admins (you should read what Candace sent to me and Bryce today – I have asked her permission to publish it here) they don’t know about teaching and assessing language acquisition. We’ll get some blooms by spring, and full gardens of rubric based assessment flowers by the fall.
We’re not going to get bullied on this grading thing. Not to worry, John. We’ll get this thing done.]

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12 thoughts on “Bark 'em Down”

  1. I was observed by a professor at the U for my College in the Schools class today and she was impressed by my use of interpersonal communication rules and said the U of M German departments wants to move more towards the standards, too.

    1. I wrote some rules for the interpersonal mode based on discussion here. You can see the discussion under Assessment/Robert Harrell and then Interpersonal Communication Rubric.

      1. Ah, thanks. Now, I get it. It’s the list on my wall. Sound a lot more elegant the way you say it, though. 🙂
        I’m glad the observation went so well.

  2. After my recent post-evaluation meeting, I feel I’m being pushed that way too. I have a unsatisfactory rating in the subcatergory: “Plans for on-going assessment of learning,” and my Administrator commented-
    “Need to see evidence for formative and summative assessments used for learning.”
    I’d like to avoid having a barking match. I don’t have tenure, and due to my experience at my first teaching job where my contract was not renewed with no explaination given, I’d prefer to come up with some sort of documentation to justify what we do, instead of argue. I’d like to have some research cited too. Everything we do makes sense to us because we see and experience how it works, but Administrators want to see evidence. Does anyone have anything official (some document citing research) that we can show administrators when we have to defend our practices?

    1. Michael, I am no expert in this area, but it sounds like (from what you wrote) he just wants to know what you do for formative and summative assessments with your students. I don’t know how any administrator could see evidence of summative assessment by observing one class, and he may not have connected what you do in your class with formative assessment. Keep it neutral. Just tell him what you do.
      It’s an excellent reflective process for a teacher to write down exactly what it is they do to assess (not evaluate) students on a daily basis. How do you monitor their learning to inform your instruction and to help your students improve their learning in your class? When it comes time to evaluate your student’s acquisition, comparing it to some sort or benchmark derived from the standards, how do you do that.? You can also tell him how you use that summative information that you glean from your assessments, formatively, to help you decide next steps in your teaching.
      Keep it simple. Describe how the questioning in your pqa and story asking give you formative data. What does feedback to students look like in this process? Be specific about what you are looking for when you ask students questions. Describe the kinds of quizzes you give and what they measure. Include a rubric or two if you think that’s what he wants to see. It doesn’t sound, from what you said, that he is asking you to assess like everybody else. It sounds like he wants to know how “you” do it and he just doesn’t “see” the evidence from the limited time he has spent in your classroom. Unless he really dislikes you and cannot be pleased, he will probably be satisfied with a listing of what it is you do.
      There are good number of people on this blog who spend a great deal of time and energy thinking about the topic of assessment. They are good resources. The bottom line, though, is that you must understand your own classroom and your own practice. Everyone is in a different place in their career development in this area.
      No one else’s blueprint can be the exact one for your situation. You do need to know:
      What is it that you want your students to acquire? I don’t mean: Do they know the difference between “ser” and “estar”? I mean things like: responds to target structures with correct gestures demonstrating understanding, can use target structures orally to answer simple questions, or uses target structures appropriately in free write–and a million others.
      How do you know they have acquired it? (this one is hard–short term memorization often “looks like” acquisition. It isn’t. The process is long to true unconscious use/acquisition) Formative looks different than summative on this one.
      What tools do you use to find out? pqa, target structure quizzes, listening comprehension quizzes, dictations, reading comprehension drawings or questions, writing, speaking assessments, etc.
      How do you check over the long term that those original acquisition goals are really met or not?
      There are already lists like this out there that pertain to teachers’ own specific practices–someone here will share for sure. After you make your own lists, run them by the blog. I’m sure you’ll get some good “formative” feedback.
      I hope this makes sense. This stuff can seem huge and overwhelming when you are put on the spot. There is no perfection in this process. Somehow, I think that if he believes you are in the process of working this out and can show him some reasonable evidence that it’s happening, you’re going to be ok.

      1. …he just wants to know what you do for formative and summative assessments with your students….
        That’s really it, Jody, and thanks. I sometimes tend to see administrators who haven’t done research in our field as enemies, but they often just want to know something. Like, I formatively assess by asking for finger checks and asking “What did I just say?” or “What does that mean?” and by giving the little ten point quizzes at the end of almost every class. That is what I would tell my boss about how I do short term assessment (the most important kind for me by far). And if she asked me how I assess long term, I would give a copy of my final exam, and show how I align it with standards, and that would be it. Great points again, Jody.

      2. Thanks Jody,
        I think you’re right. I think the main thing he had a problem with my teaching was the lack of documentation of my planning. Since I do a weekly rutine like Ben does, I hardly write down anything in my plan book. I’ve never had an administrator want to look through my plan book before, so its something I need to get used to doing.

  3. There is no lack of evidence. There is a lack of formal researched evidence. I knwo that is what your people want, Michael. We don’t have it right now.
    But make no mistake – there is a lack of researched evidence for the grammar translation based methods (that’s what they are no matter how they house it inside terms like “eclectic”, etc. – it’s still book-based) as well. All these years, a hundred of them, producing nothing measured except for the 4% who would succeed in ANY arena.
    We are bringing Dr. Beniko Mason to Denver Public Schools. She is Krashen’s main person in Japan. We are going to hammer some stuff out so that we finally have the documentation you are looking for. That is our hope at least. We have a two year window on this that started this fall, although it seems to be getting off to a slow start partially because of all the district data collection slowing everything down, including our planning and teaching.
    We will get the research we need. It will take time. This stuff moves along at a glacial pace everywhere except in our minds. We want it to all happen now. That is not how change works.
    The old order is so much bigger than we sometimes think. We are so much smaller than we think. Our love and appreciation of what comprehensible input really means in the larger scheme of things is unnoticed by all but a few. And tons of kids and parents, but they don’t count, right?
    Moreover, think of what we represent to these people. We represent the end of their way of doing things. If we are right, then they are no longer valid professionally. So when they look in the rooms in the larger building of foreign language instruction nationally, they wsnt the doors to the rooms we are in to remain locked. They have been and are and will continue to see only what they want to see. Until the little boat rocking we are doing now reaches its tipping point.
    Meanwhile, keep on keepin’ on, and let’s all keep the dialogue open and get these rubrics going and get this research done too. Diana Noonan is totally focused on this research with Dr. Mason. She is the only 100% CI district coordinator in a major metro area so that is another reason changes aren’t happening very fast. We can do this. Let’s not expect it to happen overnight. Ain’t no overnight in the game we are playing.

    1. That sound awesome. You guys in DPS are very fortunate. Keep us informed about the research/documentation. I’d love to see this posted on the blog when it gets hammered out.

  4. “We represent the end of their way of doing things. If we are right, then they are no longer valid professionally.”
    I suppose this is why it will always be a fight for us. Because no matter how kind and sympathetic we are in trying to communicate the value of what we do (and we should be), there is no getting around this central point.

  5. And John I don’t even care if they are valid professionally or not or what happens to them. Let them be adorned. My only concern is the effect that their combined ignorance has on people like Jennifer who expressed how deeply difficult this work is for her in a comment on the Beatitudes post today. It is the individual toll on good teachers and innocent kids that fuels my fire.

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