Friday, April 20, 2012

Assessing the Vulnerability

Teachers like to know the answers!

I imagine that if you're reading this post you are one or work with teachers.  And I also guess you think this is true as well.  I have known this since I was old enough to wonder what exactly was in that teacher’s edition.  I’m a teacher and I like to know the answers.  Some of the most frustrating moments in a teacher (newer and veteran alike) is being asked a question by a student and NOT knowing the answer.  What did (do) you do.  I believe it is such a pivotal moment in a teacher’s career when they can admit, in front of students, that they do not know.

Boy is it a different story in front of colleagues and other educational professionals.  One need only think back to the most recent PD workshop they’ve attended.  This room full of educators become the nervous nellie sin the classroom.  These people who surely have a swagger and confidence in their classroom suddenly become introverted - non-participants.  I attribute this so much to a vulnerability most teachers have about themselves, their classroom, their practices, etc.

I recently retweeted an article on the younger generation’s willingness to “look dumb.”  That is not innate to most educational professionals.  The area I have seen this vulnerability the most is in conversations with teachers about assessments.  When discussing formative vs summative assessments I get the uncomfortable seat shift from some teachers.  We have a conversation about assessments and their vulnerability will not allow them to ask the question they want to: what is the difference.  

Younger teachers, fresh out of ed training, can define them but usually are still developing their practice.  More veteran teachers more often than not are practicing sound assessment but cannot necessarily define the difference between formative and summative.

School leaders want their teachers to be executing sound assessment practices in their classrooms.  A leader who might say, “They do not even know what formative assessment is.” needs to be sure that is true in practice.  You may find that you have a veteran teacher continuously assessing her students in a formative way and using that feedback to structure her next lesson.  She also might not know that is called formative assessment.

I learned this lesson the easy way.  I observed a great lesson with a high quality embedded formative assessment that worked perfectly.  The teacher talked to me in the post conference about how she needed to revisit a topic because they weren’t quite there.  I commented on this being a MODEL example of useful formative assessment.  ---- SEAT SHIFT-----  Vulnerability!  “She doesn’t even know what formative assessment is!”

Yeah - yeah she does!

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