Assessment: Letting the Students Drive the Data

After reading Jennifer Brittin’s great post on the NCTE’s position paper on formative assessment and her struggles with data, I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring and fess up: I am drowning in data. Post its trail me. I find them in bags and books. Notebooks are filled with data creation, collection and interpretation that leads hopefully to next steps for nearly 60 students. Frankly even when I analyze and categorize the data, then group students, feedback seems no where near what John Hattie calls “timely.”  Superhuman powers seem necessary. An all-knowing great and powerful Oz of a teacher…or is that just that man behind the curtain?

Due to my lack of super powers, I am looking to students to learn what they need to do and then approximate their success along the way. Their approximations of success may be slightly off, but their misinterpretations of the expectation is easier for me to lean into than me  letting them know “where they stand.” It is a work in progress, but so far this is how reading is looking. I have based these “ladders” on Jennifer Serravallo’s work with an eye toward growing student thinking and writing about reading in the areas of setting, plot and character.

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Setting: Writing about Reading Using Ladder to Grow Thinking
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Plot – Writing About Reading Addressing Character’s Problems
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Character: Writing About Reading Using a Post it Ladder

I have students use their self-selected club books and write about their reading (click here for sheet)  weekly using the ladders to assess their thinking. They work independently, then go to their groups to revise and hopefully refine/upgrade their thinking during club talk. Each week I look at their assessment of their work. and then group for instruction the following week. Needs fluctuate based on the type and level book.

A group of readers who tested out as “T/U” did exceptional work in Tale of Desperaux a “Q” level book that had been read aloud to them in third grade. It was some of the best work I’d seen. They got it!  And more importantly, they know how it feels to get it. As they move on, they should have a model of success to work from.  

I’ve also seen the opposite. Students not being able to do the work, and more importantly they are starting to see where they are. I’m hearing more, “Ohhh that’s what that means,” versus, me saying this is what it means. Shockingly some are still discovering that setting refers to a place and or time not a character’s clothing. Shocking that I thought they knew what setting was, after all, hadn’t I told them many times.

I’m so thankful for the voices such as those in the NCTE twitter chat on Sunday night (read the Storify here) that are solidly behind the work of goal-oriented, student-driven assessment or as Kristi Mraz (@mrazkristine)  termed “successment!”  Here’s to a lot more of doing that work together.

4 thoughts on “Assessment: Letting the Students Drive the Data

  1. Hi Julieanne,
    Glad you are finding ways to deal with your lack of ‘superhuman powers’. I can relate to that and am constantly on the look-out for ways to not let my students down but to also have a life outside of school.I feel listening in on their book group talks is a great formative assessment (“That is what it means”). Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Alex

  2. This post confirms that I need to get my hands on Jen’s books. I love the learning progression with the visual of the ladder to help students check the status of their learning and set new goals. I would love to see some sample student work along each level of the ladder if you have kept any. I’m also glad that I’m not the only one who finds post its every where. Important post, thanks for sharing.

    • Jen’s work is amazing. Takes time for students (and teachers) to understand the complexity of the work. I have some post its (ha ha!) along the ladder. I’ll work on collecting some for a progression of student work. Thanks for the idea!

  3. How did teachers live in the past when they didn’t have twitter or blogsphere communities to describe best practices or give advice encourage experimenting or recommend resources? I also like that the human side comes through (nobody having super powers) and we all can keep learning and growing. Thank you for inviting us to your classroom today.

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