Differentiated Self-Assessment

I’ve been trying to stress self-assessment since the beginning of the year, but it’s been a challenge. Kids aren’t enthusiastic about admitting that they don’t understand something, but I’ve also just made the task too difficult for many of them. The kids who need good self-assessment the most are, it’s seemed, totally lost and overwhelmed by the experience. This photo shows why: two copies of the quiz (no cheating!), two solutions, red pens, and a hot pink sheet with six skill rubrics on it for each of the different skills. Overwhelming to say the least…

My breakthrough today was this – Kids should have access to Low, Medium, and High-Confusion materials for self-assessment. Low-Confusion materials would look a lot like what I handed out today – all the rubrics and solutions to the entire quiz. High would focus on one or two questions, isolate that part of the solution, and offer rubrics for perhaps one old and one new skill. (Say, using units and calculating displacement and average velocity.) Kids get to choose which materials to use, based on their own confusion. Selecting “High-Confusion” materials in the first place can be the first step toward making that concrete improvement.

I need a better name for the levels, though… Any suggestions?

##sbar ##physicsfirst ##setbacks ##assessment



This post will be obvious to many teachers, but the idea of using rubber stamps to encourage students to feel successful has been brand new to me this year. A huge part of my teaching philosophy has been all about students determining for themselves how useful their work is, and I’ve been reluctant from the start to be the person who says definitely what’s right and wrong. But, as my department head pointed out, many of my students are used to working mostly for that little rush of satisfaction that comes when someone tells you you’ve done something correctly. Without giving my students that rush, I was denying them the incentive to do any work in my class at all, let alone the intellectual heavy lifting that would become increasingly important as the year progressed.

So, I’ve modified most of my practice sheets to be geared around stamps, stamps, stamps. Later on I’ll be trying to figure out how to make our way from here to something that looks more like whiteboarding, or even a proper class discussion. Maybe much later on, since this is just barely working as it is…

##setbacks ##management ##cvpm ##practice ##worksheets

Social Contract

So, I stopped posting consistently partly because I was feeling quite demoralized that nothing I tried seemed to work all that well… But after my first extremely challenging day of 2015 (not coincidentally, also my first teaching day!) I feel a renewed conviction to document all my challenges in the hopes that they can be a better learning experience for me and and perhaps others as well. ##setbacks!!

Today, my co-teacher and I planned a lesson meant to be a “reset” button for 2015. She’d had some experience with discussing classroom behavior in the context of Rousseau’s Social Contract, and wanted to bring this into our classroom. The point of the lesson was to identify a contrast between personal, immediate needs and collective class wide goals that require cooperation to achieve. If we only focus on our immediate needs (I need a tissue, I need to retaliate at that person who gave me a dirty look, etc.) then we’re not fulfilling our side of the social contract and we’re preventing those around us from accomplishing those greater, more challenging goals – ie we don’t learn anything in the class..

As it turns out, my kids are pretty damn reluctant to engage in discussions about reflective self-betterment. Funny thing is, I knew that already. For whatever reason, it seemed like this discussion had a chance of turning out differently. I’m being a little hard on myself, since one student who’s in a particularly rowdy section said that her level of respect for me went up because of today’s class – she appreciated being given the chance to voice her concerns, and I think felt her personal needs were kind of legitimized. That’s something… But the classes themselves felt antagonistic and ugly, and I was exhausted by the end of the day.

I’m starting to wonder if it’s actually a lost cause to get students to focus on their behavior out of a concern for the educational opportunities that are passing them by. This would be an important learning opportunity indeed, however upsetting it may be. At the very least, if I’m going to get this message across, I’ll need to focus on their relationship to the messenger first…