Friday, September 28, 2012

Standards Based Assessment Exit Interviews

I currently grade on a Mastery Based grading system. I really like it because it allows students to reap the benefits of time spent relearning material and also allows me to see what they are struggling with and what I can spend more time going over with them.

Their current "Mastery Tests" at the end of a unit are essay based. They are usually asked to define terms by explaining their relationship and significance to larger historical events and write essays that synthesize the information from a particular unit into a well crafted written piece. Only once they demonstrate an understanding of the key concepts of the unit and the ability to synthesize, rework, and produce information do they "master" the assessment.

In order to master an entire unit they must, in addition to the Mastery Test, complete all of the work associated with it. This includes watching lecture videos, filling in two-column notes, answering section review questions, creating flashcards, completing Critical Reading's of articles and finally completing their in class work which is an in class project each week based around an essential question they receive. Its a lot, but manageable. 

I have been struggling to find a way where I could give students another opportunity to demonstrate mastery that did add on to their current workload. I have also been looking for more effective ways to use my one on one time with them. Currently I can assist them with in class projects, or if they struggled with a particular concept and come to me, I can sit and go over it. I wanted a way however to suss out those that were too shy to tell me they weren't "getting it." Additionally under our new evaluation systems they are interested in seeing how we use data to assess and react to student learning. I've been wanting to do this for a while and this will be a good push.

I decided to create "exit interviews" for each unit. Currently a student must present me all of the coursework for the unit when they have mastered all of it, and I sign off that it is done and mastered and it goes into the books. I've decided to change this a bit and make it another chance to assess mastery.

I made a simple checklist (adapted from Frank Noschese's great examplehat I found through Brian Bennett ...yay for the power of networking!) that included all of the state standards for the course. The first column had the standard the second column had a simple "Mastered?" This year I'm starting with just "yes" or "no." I'm sure in the future I can find ways to show "working towards mastery" but for now I wanted to keep it simple. At an "exit interview" students will bring all of their work, notes, quizzes, tests, projects, flashcards, critical readings, etc. One by one I will go through the standards, they can either orally demonstrate mastery, or they may show me in some of the work they have done where they can demonstrate mastery of the concept.

I plan on making these "interviews" as comfortable and informal as possible. "No" answers under the Mastery column may be changed at any time, a student can bring me something that demonstrates a mastery of that standard and I will change it. This won't take away from what they've done, rather it will be one more chance for them to show master, for many of my students answering orally is preferable to writing. I am not lifting the required writing of the course, merely giving them another opportunity to clarify their thoughts.

While this will be time consuming and initially difficult to set up I think it will allow me to track where students are more closely and get a better sense of who is mastering things quickly and could be more challenged and who is still struggling. However I think it will be worth the time in the end. I will have a calendar where students may sign up for the exit interviews. They may sign up during class time (only 1-2 per class I want to make sure I'm still available for the class at large), during our SSR (a silent reading period...a post for another day), or before or after school. 

After they've received "Yes" on everything for the unit, they will have truly mastered it, and I have decided to print out "mastery" certificates for the units. After all, it is still seventh grade, and everyone likes to be recognized for their efforts!

 Here is an example of a checklist for our Early Man unit, taken from the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks: 

7.1 Describe the great climatic and environmental changes that shaped the earth and eventually permitted the growth of human life. (H)

7.2 Identify sites in Africa where archaeologists have found evidence of the origins of modern human beings and describe what the archaeologists found. (G, H)

7.3 Describe the characteristics of the hunter-gatherer societies of the Paleolithic Age (their use of tools and fire, basic hunting weapons, beads and other jewelry).

7.4 Explain the importance of the invention of metallurgy and agriculture (the growing of crops and the domestication of animals).

7.5 Describe how the invention of agriculture related to settlement, population growth, and the emergence of civilization. (H)

7.6 Identify the characteristics of civilizations. (H, G, E)
A.  the presence of geographic boundaries and political institutions

B.  an economy that produces food surpluses

C.  a concentration of population in distinct areas or cities

D.  the existence of social classes

E.  developed systems of religion, learning, art, and architecture

F.  a system of record keeping

So as an example for checkpoint 7.1, they could tell me orally, show me an essay they had written on a test where they already did this (everything will have been graded at the interview), or show me a project that they created in class dealing with that standard. 

I really want them to reflect on why they are doing what their doing, and really realize how much they know and are learning! 

Do you do any kind of standards based assessment? What do you do to encourage students to reflect on their own work? How do they demonstrate they've mastered something?

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