Monday, August 10, 2009

Formative Assessment with Dylan Wiliam

Today, I was presented with a great opportunity. Dylan Wiliam came to our school district to spend the day conducting professional development to an auditorium filled with teachers K - 12. Dylan Wiliam co-authored Working Inside the Black Box and Assessment for Learning, Putting into Practice. He began his session discussing and supporting the science behind achievement. We need to improve student achievement because it has been proven individuals will have an increase in their lifetime salary, improved health and a longer life. For our society, there would be an improved economy, lower health care cost and lower criminal justice costs. He spent a great deal of time talking about where the solution is and isn't. It's not smaller high schools or K-8 schools, this has been tried. It's not curriculum reform or textbook replacement. It's not charter schools or vouchers. It's not computers or interactive whiteboards, smartboards. Studies and research, which he shared is showing it's not even the school that increases achievement. It's the classroom for which you are in, it's the teacher.

The teacher quality includes advanced content knowledge, pedogogical content knowledge, and further teaching qualifications, degrees earned. This makes up and explains about 25% and the rest is unknown. His argument and researched shared today led us to understand raising student achievement can be achieved by improving teacher effectiveness. Improving teacher effectiveness isn't going to happen over night, small improvements throughout our lives need to occur.

After laying the ground work for improving student achievement he talked about formative assessment, with the focus on short cycles of assessments. The day to day things we do to know if students are understanding and using this information to guide our plans for the next day. This can be done by teachers knowing where their students are in their learning, knowing the learning destination, carefully planning, beginning the journey, making regular checks along the way and adjustments based on the regular checks knowledge. He shared many examples for checking along the way to guide adjustments. Mini white boards are great to use because each student is engaged and you can see all their responses with a quick glance around the room. To help foster more engagement and making it more random he really likes using sticks with students names on them and pulling them out after the question has been asked for students to respond to. Another great tool to use to foster engagement is to have more than one children share their responses and then to have a child summarize what a previous child has said. Engagement increases achievement. Engagement is also increased when students are interacting with a teacher or students discussing their thinking behind choosing an answer. He also promoted students assessing their own learning through the use of colored cups or laminated colored circles. Red indicates, I need help. Yellow indicates your are in the middle a bit more discussion could help and green means you are understand.

This is just a small snippet of his presentation today. I am going to participate in a course this fall where we read this book and do lots of discussion with our peers, trying things out to improve our effectiveness and our students achievement. Some of the things I saw today were a bit challenging for kdg. students but there were lots of ideas I want to explore. Young children can reflect and think about what they are learning. I believe they will be able to do continuous small assessment throughout our learning.

He then touched on teacher learning and what I loved about this part of the day he was encouraging and guiding us to think about choice and flexibility as part of teachers changing to be more effective. He really supported teachers as individuals and what might work for one teacher might not work for another. Teacher's number one responsibility is to promote learning in our students, let's begin.

1 comment:

  1. I loved your last paragraph on individual teacher learning. Sometimes we,as teachers, feel we are being put in a one size, fits all box. Yet, we need to differentiate for our students. I believe in teacher differentiation.
    Thanks for putting this out there.