Morgan Grala
Health Educator
Lamberton Middle School
Carlisle Area School District

Philosophy of Assessment
I believe assessment should be a tool used to gain understanding of what students learned. Assessment can be used in a variety of ways depending on the student’s abilities, interests, and learning style. Assessments can be used to gain understanding of what students already know, what they understand so far, and what they need more explanation with. I also believe assessment should be used to teach students valuable life long skills, such as, being prepared, working with others, and taking responsibility for themselves. With many of these ideas in mind we can create meaningful assessments to help our students learn important information and become more positive individuals.
These are the specific categories in which I base assessment in my classes:

Participation/Effort
All students begin with a certain amount of participation/effort points. Points will be deducted or added depending on the students behaviors in class. Not being prepared for class will cause them to lose points from this point bank. Answering questions and being part of discussions will add points to their point bank. At the end of each marking period I will evaluate student’s effort and behaviors and I will either add or deduct points based on the things I have seen in class. This category is able to teach many of students life long skills that will help them succeed in the real world.

Class Work
During lessons students have a variety of ways to earn class work points. When entering class students are to complete a “Do Now” or bell ringer. This a question asked that either reviews what was taught last class or will introduce some topics we will be discussing in the present class. After students complete 10 “Do Nows” they turn in their paper and will receive credit for what they have completed. Classmates are also able to earn class work points for keeping up with their Health Notebook. After a unit is finished students will turn in their notebook and I will give them a grade for having all of the handouts or worksheets completed. There are also various class work assignments that are completed in class.

Projects/Skills
Many times students will be able to show what they have learned by completing projects or using skills that were taught. I think this is a great way to help the students who are not the best test takers but are able to express what they learned through other methods. Many of my projects or skills include: power points, posters, collages, advertisements, role-playing, pamphlets, games, presentations, and group activities.

Tests/Quizzes
I do sometimes give tests to see what students have learned through a specific unit. I believe through test I am able to get good understanding of what my students have learned and what teaching methods were successful. I only give a minimal amount of quizzes to see what students can recall from the previous class. Most of my quizzes are announced so the students are not surprised when they entire my room. The only unannounced quizzes I give are pre-tests or diagnostic assessments which tell me what the students already know about the topics being covered. These assessments are not graded and are only used to adjust specific lesson to fit the needs of the students.

Late Work
Students are able to turn in late work for some credit. I will usually take off ten percent for each class that the assignment is late. Although, once students have lost all of the points that the assignment is worth, they will then receive a zero. I feel giving the students an opportunities to complete the work is important and helps the student understand various concepts and material.



Learning to Love Assessment

After reading the article Learning to Love Assessment I can relate very much to Carol Ann Tomlinson as a novice educator compared to what I strive to be in the future. The question I seem to ask myself is how do I begin to incorporate these understandings at the start of my career? I know these strategies and methods are successful in producing student understanding of concepts, but where are the logistics in this type of method with all that is required of us?

In the first understanding Carol explains that informative assessment isn’t just about the test. She explains that students have multiple ways to express learning information. The students who are poor test takers may be able to show you what they have learned though another method, such as, discussion, sketches, or even role-playing. I agree very much with this understanding because I see the students who do poorly with tests that could easily act out, sing, or discuss the information learned. My question then is how do you do this when you have 350 different students each semester? It makes it very difficult to find their best method to express learning and then apply it to their assessments. My second question is then after you find each student’s best method; do you only use that specific method when assessing that specific student? This seems impossible with the number of students I teach each semester.

The second understanding is the one I could relate to most with my teaching experiences. She explains how using the grade book is not as important as giving feedback and teaching for success. It is also made clear that educators should focus more on student accomplishment versus student ranking. The reason I can easily relate to this is because when I was teaching Physical Education I was focusing on student’s individual accomplishments, I was giving enormous amounts of feedback every class, and I taught for students to succeed. As this is my first year teaching solely Health Education, I feel I am now on the other side of things; I use grades to motivate students, student ranking is very clear in class, and I do not give anywhere near the amount of feedback I would in the gym. My question then is how do I include my PE teaching style into my Health lessons? My second question relates to her explanation of the grade book and grading students work. If she does this type of informal grading, where is the evidence? What would happen if a parent or administrator asked to see student’s records or data? I really think her strategies of assessing students are great but I am still unclear of the logistics.

While reading understanding four though six, I kept saying to myself that these are many of the behaviors I do now but would like to change. She expressed how she planned what to teach, taught what she planned, and then created assessments of what was taught. This is very similar to my current teaching style. She also explained how after tests or assessments there was little time to go back to help students who did not grasp specific learning outcomes because they were already moving onto the next unit. I also can say that this occurs in my classroom and it is very frustrating. After an assessment I can easily see who does not understand what was taught and who easily grasped the concepts and was most likely bored in my class. As a new teacher how do you make time for both of these problems? How do you make time to strategically plan your units so you are not just going from planning to lesson and to assessment? Also, should you plan for a grace period between units to help or challenge specific students? As a novice teacher I am just not sure what would be the best way to handle these situations.

In conclusion, through this reading I was able to really point out some of the changes I would like to make in my teaching style. I would like to continue to learn about my students as individual and find out what works best for them. Since I know I use many of these strategies in Physical Education I would like to begin to incorporate them into the Health classroom. Lastly, I would really like to try and focus more on planning so I can create meaningful units and plan time for challenging or assisting students when needed.



Assessing What Matters

After reading the article Assessing What Matters I was very excited to see what standardized testing could be like in the future. Many of the benefits from these types of tests could truly help individuals succeed and find their strengths rather than point out their weakness. Also, these assessments that create analytical, creative, and practical thinkers were very similar to the ones I used when teaching Physical Education.

In the beginning of the article the writer talks about why these types of assessments are so important for learning life long skills. They explain that memorization will not get you very far in life and that you need to learn other valuable skills that you can apply to any profession. I agree very much with this thought and think it is extremely important to teach students early in their life many of these skills. As educators we need to think more of the bigger picture rather then memorizing specific information. We need to teach students to be wise thinkers and not just smart! With the evidence they show it is clear that teaching and assessing in a more broad sense will boost student achievement.

I really enjoyed reading about the broader teaching style and giving the students options to learn and assess. I believe that letting the student choose what works best for them will help them succeed in your classroom. When I taught Physical Education I gave students a variety of options for them to show me they knew a skill. Students who were more kinesthetic learners usually showed me the traditionally PE way by performing the skill. Although, I had many students who were not, so they used other methods to represent their understanding. Certain students would write out how to perform the skill or make diagrams. One student even made a jingle explaining the steps to shoot a foul shot. This is why I enjoy reading about broader teaching and assessing strategies. Students who do not have strengths in certain areas can show you their strengths through others. This is why it is so important to acknowledge students styles of learning; so you can encourage them to use different methods when learning and assessing.

When reading about the Rainbow Project and Kaleidoscope Project I did see how this could be difficult to implement. These assessments use very specific questions and responses to find out individuals strengths but it would be hard to implement on a larger scale. It would also take more time and money to use these types of tests statewide or even nationwide. Although, I believe we could start implementing these types of assessments in our classroom. I have a colleague who has informed me of “choice boards” as an assessment model. Students are able to choose from a variety of assessment types to show what they have learned. With this assessment model the educator will create a tic-tac-toe like board of assessments and the students will have to complete three of the varied assessments. Many times the educator can set up the board so that students must show the mastery of the skill through three different methods. I think this model is a great idea to help students succeed and show what they have learned through choosing their own assessments.

In conclusion, I believe instructing and assessing using these strategies would help educators produce more wise and creative individuals. These types of assessments could help more people succeed and promote their strengths rather than weaknesses. Most importantly, I believe it would help individuals learn skills that they could use for the rest of their lives.

Some questions I developed from reading this article are:
  • How can we begin to promote this type of teaching style to all educators?
  • What are other negative aspects of implementing these types of tests besides money and time?
  • If we begin teaching and assessing in a more creative and analytical style, what would society be like in the future?



The Best Value in Formative Assessment

After reading this article I was clearly able to see the difference between formative and summative assessment. Both types of assessments can be similar or even the same for that matter, but the distinction lies in how the assessments are used. I would like to use more formative assessments in my lessons than summative assessments because I believe I would be able to produce more successful students.

The key distinction in these assessments is the purpose; what are the tests going to be used for? Formative assessments are used to gain information about what a student has learned so far and to make adaptations to help that student succeed. Formative assessments can also be used for the teacher to adjust their teaching style so more students can be successful. The key part of this is using the information from the assessment to improve learning and teaching: assessment for learning. While summative assessments are mainly used at the end of learning to assess what the student understood and to grade them on their knowledge: assessment of learning. Summative assessments may also be used to determine a schools progress. After completing a summative assessment there are no more adaptations or adjustments; it is the conclusion.

I believe more teachers, including myself, should use formative assessments regularly. Through using more formative assessments teachers can get a better understanding of which students are grasping the information and which are falling behind. With this information teachers can then help students take more responsibility for their education. Students will be able use the formative assessments to point out their strengths and weakness. By pointing out their weaknesses students can create a plan to improve these areas. This is a great way to help students succeed and teach them valuable, life long skills they will be able to use in the future. Although, the problem for me is how do we plan and make the time for these types of adaptations in your lesson?

As I have stated, I believe formative assessments are very important to provide the opportunity for students to succeed at all levels. Not only for the students who do not grasp the information, but also for the students who already understand the information and could be pushed more. Summative assessments are a great tool to see who passed and who didn’t, but they do not point out specific strengths and weakness to help our students become better learners.

Questions:
  • How often should formative assessments be used? I feel I do not use formative assessments enough and would like to include more in my lessons to help students point out their strengths and weakness. Is there a limit to how many times we should use formative assessments?
  • When the students take a summative assessment and they do not succeed, should we still go back and try to help them point out their weakness? I think it is important to be able to help your students succeed so they can improve but if you have tried this time after time, when it is it time to call it quits?




Assessment Structures:

International System
(Ex. England, France, China)
Pennsylvania - PSSA
Carlisle Area School District
Summative and Formative
Assessments
Grade Levels Assessed: France – grades 3, 6, 9, end of high school China – testing determines assignment to primary and secondary programs

Grouping: England -multiple assessments of national and teacher-made tests.
France – 3 sets of national assessments.

Data Reporting: England – measures national content. France – Diagnostic and planning until 9th grade. 9th grade measures achievement. China – testing dictates classroom instruction and determines student placement.

High Stakes: England - Measures effectiveness of curriculum. France – high school test determines professional and educational future. China – college entrance exam predicts political, economic and educational development.

Grade Promotion: China – testing can equalize future opportunities if scores well. Also determines admission to different high schools.

Grading Levels: England – benchmarks designed to target student learning. France – planning and diagnostic purposes until 9th grade.

Age Given: England – 7, 11, 14, 16

Time of Year: Summative assessments of the 3 countries cited.
Grade Levels Assessed:
3rd – 8th & 11th

Grouping:
Male/Female, Ethnicity, IEP & Economically Disadvantaged

Data Reporting:
Reading & Mathematics (Grades 3-8, 11)
Science (Grades 5, 8, 11)
Writing (Grades 5, 8, 11)

High Stakes: Can determine class placement or remediation, reflection on school and district profile

Grade Promotion: Factor for academic placement

Grading Levels:
Below basic, basic, proficient & advanced

Age Given:
7 – 14 years old & 16-17 years old

Time of Year: March & April
Grade Levels Assessed: K-12

Grouping: Classroom, Grade Levels, Subject Areas, IEP students, Title 1 Reading

Data Reporting: Progress reports, progress monitoring, portfolios, report cards, conferences. (Ex. Final exams, unit and chapter tests, reports, projects, observations, questioning strategies, record keeping as part of the instructional process or Learning Focused curriculum.)

High Stakes: Can affect class advancement, retention, post high school possibilities, remediation, class placement.

Grade Promotion: Factors into promotion or advancement.

Grading Levels: As per district grade scale or benchmarks of achievement and progress.

Age Given: All ages in any given class

Time of Year: Continual process throughout the school year



Fair Isn’t Always Equal

After reading Fair Isn’t Always Equal, I could see many different concepts regarding assessment that could improve student learning. Many of the concepts were some that I try to incorporate on a regular basis while others were areas that I would like to improve. By using many of these concepts I believe educators could create more successful students and better learners, as well as improving their teaching skills.

The first few concepts explained really helped to remind myself of what is important when teaching and what we need to think about, so students can be successful. These included understanding what differentiating instruction really is, the difference between mastery and non-mastery, and why essential questions and K.U.D’s are so important in units of instruction. Differentiating instruction is all about making sure that all students are able to be successful through different ways of teaching and assessing them. It reminds myself that each student is different and may need different ways to learn and be assessed. The goal for mastery vs. non-mastery is to have students be able to use what they have learned in real life events or in other situations besides the one that is given by the teacher. Finally, using appropriate essential questions and basing them off of what the students need to know, understand, and be able to do is how we will form quality lessons and units of instruction.

The second part of the reading that I could relate to was how assessments are used and given to students. The specific concepts included, feedback vs. assessments, the types of assessments given, tips for planning assessments, and using authentic assessments when teaching. I think these concepts related to me because this is what I am currently trying to improve on in my position. After reading some of the previous articles I have been focusing on giving useful feedback so students can improve individually. I used this concept very well when teaching Physical Education but it has been more difficult while teaching in the classroom. Another area of development for myself is using a variety of assessments to help students improve, such as, pre-assessment, formative, and summative assessments. Through these assessments I can really see how to help my students and what areas I need to focus more or less on. I believed the next concept, tips for planning assessments, to be very helpful. Many of these tips were questions that I had on how to improve my assessments and the planning of them. Lastly, creating authentic assessments was an area that related directly to my teaching of specific health concepts. I believe I do a good job of creating authentic assessment, which can relate to real world events. Since health education is very real I can use real world examples to teach students and then also assess them so they are able to apply those concepts as soon as they leave my classroom.

The last areas of the reading that really made me think about how I teach and assess was the grading and rubrics. I am now able to see that some of the ways I grade are not as fair as they can be. For example, when grading on a 100-point scale it is unfair to give someone a zero for not completing the work. As an educator you are over penalizing the student by giving them a zero. I really would like to adjust this area of my grading to make it fair for all students. Also, when looking at rubrics it is important to only keep the important ideas in sight and in mind rather then showing them all the other areas of lower achievement. This will then motivate students to only reach those goals rather than some of the minimal ones. I believe by improving these areas of my assessments more students will be successful in my classes.

In conclusion, the reading had a variety of different concepts to improve teaching and assessments. By looking at these concepts and the comparing them to my teaching I will be able to improve and create a more successful classroom. I do believe I am in the right direction on some of these areas but there is always room for improvement. Hopefully as I continue to educate and learn strategies to improve I will be able provide students with tools and skills that they can use for the rest of their life.

Questions:
  • Are there ever any negatives to using differentiated instruction?
  • What is the best way to use formative feedback during lessons?
  • What would be the best way to add a student progression grade?



Formative Assessments: Measuring and Managing Student Learning

As I read this PowerPoint I thought to myself that it would have been nice to listen to this speaker talk about formative assessment. There were many valid points made that could get educators thinking about the use of assessment in the classroom. Even though we have learned about formative assessment through other readings, I was still able to learn some new information to add to what I already know.

The first slide that really jumped out at me was the one that stated, “What do you believe?” This slide gave a variety of answer that described what educators believed about assessment and I could relate to the second and third bullet. I believe that the data we gather on students helps me with my lesson plans in the sense that I can adjust what and how I teach to fit my classes. Now, as a first year teacher in my position I feel I could do much more with planning but I do believe I am making positive adjustments with the changes I am making. The other bullet that I could relate to was that I believe I know exactly what my students have learned and what I need to teach them next through my assessments. I believe this because through my various assessments I can clearly see who is grasping the information, what information students are having trouble with, and which students are ready to learn more. Again, as a new teacher I feel that I could use this information in a more productive manner but I believe this is something that will come as I get comfortable in my position. This belief directly relates to teaching and focusing on learning rather than the traditional teaching method to teach and test.

The next slides that caught my attention were the focus on the traditional instructional-assessment model compared to the focus on learning instruction-assessment model. I don’t know if it was because of the visual boxes but I was really able to see the difference in the two styles. In the traditional model you can easily see how using a pre-test and then teaching for weeks followed by a post-test and grade does not make students successful. While on the other hand, the focus on learning model analyzes results, plans for instruction, modifies teaching, and then gives a test to assign a grade. You can easily see through the diagram how this model will help students succeed as well as create better educators. The whole purpose is to modify and adjust your lessons to fit the needs of the students. With this model we are able to find students strengths and weaknesses to help them be successful. Another way to make students successful is by collaborating with other educators.

The last area of this PowerPoint that I thought was very interesting was the common assessments slides. They stated that common assessments are “any assessment given by two or more teachers with the intention of collaboratively examining the results for shared learning, instructional planning for individual students, and/or curriculum, instruction, and assessment modification.” The reason I enjoyed this information was because I feel I could do a good job of this with the other middle school health teacher in Carlisle. We already share similar assessments and teaching styles so I believe it creates a great opportunity to look at our data and improve the assessments together. We would then be able to plan for better instruction and assessments. I also think that common assessment would be beneficial to help a variety of students. Through collaborating you can share examples of what worked and what did not and then improve on this. I truly believe since we are already using common assessments we should begin to really look at the data we are receiving.

In conclusion I thought this was PowerPoint had a lot of good information on formative assessments. I was able to first think about my beliefs on assessments. I was then able to truly understand the difference between traditional teaching the new style of focusing on learning. Lastly, I was able to see the benefits of common assessment and how to use them to improve teaching and learning. Overall, I feel am really grasping formative assessments and will continue to improve the use of them in my classroom.

Questions:
  • Can you ever use too many formative assessments?
  • How often do educators use common assessments?


Learning and Transfer

I thought this article was a very interesting read as well as informative for all educators. Our goal as teachers is to create life long learners and have students be able to use skills in all areas of their life. Through learning how to transfer skills and knowledge from one subject to another we can mold these students into successful individuals.

As I read this article I never realized the variety of ways to transfer knowledge and skills. Vertical transfer is what most people think about with education, which involves using what is learned to progress further. Near transfer takes specific task and transfers knowledge of tasks to similar ones. Far transfer transfers skills learned in school subjects to non-school subjects. Lastly, negative transfer involves knowledge of skills, which hurts performance of a related task. With the variety of transfers, educators should be able to use student’s prior knowledge to learn new information and skills.

Before students can truly use transfer to learn new information there are few things that must occur. The most important is for students to master that specific content. Mastery of specific content involves understanding the information versus memorizing, giving the student adequate time to learn subject matter, using deliberate practice while giving feedback, and motivating the student to learn. Through all of these strategies students should be able to master the content and then be able to transfer the skills or information learned. Many of these strategies are topics that we have been discussing through our previous learning logs and are representations of successful teaching.

The specific area of transferring learning that interested me was between school and everyday life. As I am currently a Health Educator, I believe this is extremely important with the information that I teach. Much of the knowledge and skills learned in my class are things that they can use as soon as they leave my classroom. This is why transferring this content to everyday life is so important, so they understand how to use it successfully. Currently in my class we are discussing emotional health with stress management as our specific topic. If students are not able to transfer stress management techniques to their own life than the information is pointless. My goal is for students to use the information given to make their lives healthier.

In conclusion, I believe transferring learning is very important to help students be successful in the real world. Through transfer students can build upon previous knowledge and skills to learn something new. Although, before this occurs we have to make sure students have mastered the subject first. Once this has happened students will be able to use learning to solve problems, create ideas, and become successful individuals.

Questions:
  • Could using some of these transferring techniques confuse students more?
  • What are some other negatives to using transfer?
  • How can I continue to transfer my content with others in the school?



Feedback That Fits

I thought Feedback That Fits was a great article discussing the use of feedback in education. Feedback was a major topic discussed when attending East Stroudsburg University with a degree in Health & Physical Education. Many of my classes emphasized the use of effective and clear feedback to improve student performance. As stated in the article, “feedback is only effective when it translates into a clear, positive message that students can hear”. There is a clear connection with many of the strategies learned in class with many of them stated in the article.

As discussed in the article, I also believe feedback can be used to improve students performance as well as motivate them more. If used properly feedback can help students improve skills or knowledge and motivate them to try harder and reach goals. This is why it is so important to choose the appropriate dialogue when giving students feedback. Knowing your students can help you improve on this dialogue so you can understand what works and what doesn’t with specific students. Through experience I have realized that I cannot give feedback the same way to all students. Certain students enjoy a challenge and like to be motivated through small goals or task. While other students may find it intimidating to be challenged or given a task and would rather specific constructive feedback. Understanding your student’s personalities can help with this and you can do this through conversational feedback.

Feedback through conversation was another strategy I learned in school. I found that discussion and conversation was a better way to deliver feedback than telling them what to do. Rather than telling someone what to do I use questions to get the students to understand what they can improve and how to improve. Not only does this help students achieve goals but it also helps from students getting defensive or embarrassed about their work. When conversing with students it is important to remember to focus on the work and process of the work.

When giving effective feedback it is essential to focus on the student’s work and process. Ways that educators to can make sure to do this is by not giving general terms such as “good job”, relating the feedback to the specific goal, emphasize improvements, and show respect for the students work. By doing many of these things you can focus on what needs to be improved as well as giving the students credit for their strengths. This will motivate the students to keep working hard and help them improve on their skills. I found through these strategies students are much more motivated and willing to improve on their progress. They begin to take pride in their work and want to show you how the have improved. When this happens you begin to realize how powerful feedback is in education.

In conclusion, I feel this article was a great representation of the many strategies I learned in college. Feedback is a very powerful tool if used correctly. You can motive students while improving their skills and knowledge. Although, it is important to remember that each student is different when delivering feedback. It is essential to know your students so you can see what works best for them individually. No matter how you use feedback make sure to stay positive and use it to help your students and not to reprimand them.

Questions:
  • How can handle students who don’t respond well to any form of feedback?
  • Do some students just need to be told what they did wrong and what they need to change?
  • Can I use my feedback to assess my student’s progress? And then give a grade for that progression?






Class and School Wide Grading Structures

Participation/Effort – 40%
- Participation and effort is a major part of my class and I want my students to understand that if they participate, are prepared, and show effort in my class that they will receive a good grade even if they aren’t the best test takers.

Class Work - 20-30%
- Many of the student’s grades come from their work done in class. Through these assignments I can see what my students understand or need more explanation with. Some of these assignments are used as formative assessments but I still give them credit for completing them.

Projects - 20-30%
- I often use projects to see what my students have learned rather than test or quizzes. I feel this is a better way to see what my students understand and it gives a chance for me to use a variety of learning strategies. I use role-play, posters, presentations, activities, and other projects to reach all of my learners.

Test/Quizzes - 10%
- A small portion of the student’s grade is based on test and quizzes. I would say that half of my students can show me what they learned through projects but I still have many students who do well through tests and quizzes.