Blog Post #5 Authentic Assessment

Assessments have long been thought of as pencil and paper tests. Students learn about a topic, do some practice on worksheets, then get tested with questions on a paper. Nowadays, the educational community is realizing that this has very little to do with how students will use this information in real life. Recently, what we as teachers are trying to do with assessment, is to simulate a real life experience that uses the information that will be studied during the unit. We are designing this piece of authentic assessment prior to teaching the unit, that way teachers and students have a clear picture of what the end goal is. When students have a clear goal in mind, everything they are doing in class has a purpose, and when students have a purpose, they are more motivated to learn.

These authentic assessments are a more valid representation of student knowledge because it requires students to take the information they learned and apply it to a different, but similar situation. It is very rare that students will find , for example, the exact situation described in a mathematical word problem outside of the classroom. Instead, what they find may be a similar situation, but have different known values, or different variables. If students can reach this type of higher level thinking while in the classroom, they will take those problem solving skills with them outside of school.

My host teacher uses mostly project based assessments in his science classes. This way, students are taken away from the rote memorization and instead are more focused on how these different aspects are intertwined. In his math classes, assessments are still pencil and paper based, although many real life problem situations are presented on the test. With my unit plan (and from now on) I am trying to formulate even more authentic assessments to supplement these paper based tests.

Blog Post #2 Life Doesn’t Happen in Wholes

Blog Post #2: Research the GLE’s (Grade Level Expectations) and Alaska State Student Standards for content and performance for your discipline. What are you teaching at the moment that might be considered a big idea? Why is it a big idea? Anything that might be considered “worth being familiar with” or “Important to know and do?”

In my 6th grade math class we are entering into a unit on fractions. WE are starting out by reviewing part to whole relationships (Big Idea: Fractions can represent part of a whole), then redefined the whole (Big Idea: Fractions can represent more than one), and have just covered benchmark fractions (Big Idea: Knowing what benchmark a fraction is close to can help evaluate expressions that use fractions), and are now moving onto equivalent fractions (Big Idea: Equivalent fractions represent the same amount using different sized parts). These are important big ideas because life does not happen in wholes and it is important to learn how to deal with parts of objects or concepts. These are very important skills and concepts for students to understand, as fractions are carried through the rest of their mathematical career and carried over into many other subjects as well. We are spending a good amount of time making sure our students are very comfortable with these concepts and exploring them from many different modalities in order to reach all students.

Basing It On the Place in Healy, AK

Tri-Valley school, so far, has impressed me with its place-based learning that the teachers and community partake in. To start the year off, the entire high school went into Denali National Park for 3 days and 2 nights, breaking up into small groups each led by a park specialist. Each group studied a different aspect of the park: geology, plant life, sound pollution, etc. It was a great way to immerse themselves in what they were studying.

In my host teacher’s classroom, we started the year off by participating in the GLOBE project’s green-down data collection. Students each chose a site in the forest behind the school and are monitoring how certain leaves are changing throughout the fall. They are also observing other plant life in their site, identifying certain plants and seeing how the general area changes throughout the season. This is a lesson in observation and data collection.

Although these are just two examples of it, I have heard and seen other examples from previous years, including trips to the local coal power plant, and the building trades class in which students build cabins for the park service from scratch, etc.

There is always room for improvement, but I think Tri-Valley is on the right track!

Caricature Comes to Life

'Early warning signs of teacher burnout.'
‘Early warning signs of teacher burnout.’

“To reduce our vulnerability, we disconnect from students, from subjects, and even from ourselves. We build a wall between inner truth and outer performance, and we play-act the teacher’s part. Our words, spoken at remove from our hearts, become “the balloon speech in cartoons,” and we become caricatures of ourselves. We distance ourselves from students and subject to minimize the danger–forgetting that distance makes life more dangerous still by isolating the self.” -Parker Palmer

I spent last school year in the classroom of one of these caricatures. He was a prime example of what not to do as a teacher, and I took each moment as a learning experience. It wasn’t until I read Palmer’s excerpt that I found words to describe this teacher.

I don’t want to spend this post badmouthing this man, so let’s suffice to say that I hope to be nothing like the teacher he was. I want to be present in the classroom, not only physically, but emotionally and mentally. I want to be able to put forth as much effort into teaching as I hope to receive from my students. I want to create engaging lessons as well as give well-thought feedback. I want to be someone the students can count on, and to be open to the “Why are we doing this” question. I have seen the opposite and it isn’t a productive classroom.

I think if your heart is in it, you can’t help but be at least a good teacher. Maybe not a great one (there’s always new techniques to learn), but a good one. Going off of our discussions today in class, one of the most common themes of a good teacher is passion and true caring towards students. Neither of these can happen if your heart is not in it.