‘What are you {think}ing about?’

For openers, thanks to Alex McManus’ ‘Into the Mystic’ for this great Utube reference that had me almost spit out my terrible tasting maxwell house coffee (boo to the corrupt corporate coffee giants) – which reminds me, I need to keep campaigning for an ethical staff room…

I read a post last night that was just brilliant in terms of reflective practice and working towards dialog vs. top down assessment in the classroom. Konrad Glogowski’s “Replacing Grading with Conversations” is well worth the read. I applaud his attempts to maintain a conversation of learning that is constructivist in its approach, not an end-game type of assignment:

In other words, I want them to see their blogs and their entries as organic entities, as attempts to engage with ideas, as evidence of growth and development. It’s about maintaining conversations, not ending them by saying “Well done!” or “Good job!” (Glogowski)

This is learning.
Learning does/(shouldn’t?) not just stop when the assignment is posted or handed in. It should be something that is built upon and carried forward. I have found myself attempting to engage students in similar conversations about their blog posts…asking questions and adding the odd link that I think may stimulate some thought or take the discussion further. I agree with Glogowski’s sentiment that this reflects “a long period of learning to engage with students as a learner and a participant and not a teacher who has read it all and knows everything the students can possibly come up with” (Glogowski). I am wondering if my students are getting a whiff of that feeling- the feeling that I am, in fact, a fellow learner- a fellow travellor on this journey, and not some kind of all-knowing super monk who already knows the destination.
My problem is that I’ve been having that conversation (at least trying to), but also whipping out the ole’ rubric and assigning a mark on the assignment.
So many students attach value to that. We’ve cultured them to do that…
I have been holding off on the last two posts, and am getting peppered with questions as to when I will mark them. My plan is that students will evaluate their own and choose which they would have represent their learning in this instance. I want them to engage in their own product and ask ‘Which is a better artifact, which is more authentic in terms of demonstrating my thoughts, ideas, writing style…’ The more I think about it, the more I think it crucial that students evaluate their own work and choose what they feel to be representative of their learning, writing, and thinking.
I am learning to try and unlearn some of my thinking that suggests every assignment must be graded by me and entered into that grand mark book. For one, workflow can just flood you if you maintain that thought process. Second: it quickly becomes redundant.

Here’s where I hit a snag. It’s a good one, but one that has stumped my brain a bit….Glogowski delves into the realm of alternative assessment, and it’s somewhere I want to go, too…

[…] becoming a participant and divesting myself of that teacherly voice means that I need to gradually move away from formal evaluation. I want to. I am interested in reading my students’ work, sitting down with them individually and talking about their progress. I don’t want to be the only arbiter of their progress. They need to be part of the process too. In fact, since it is their work, they should be given a chance to talk about it, not as an artifact to be evaluated but as evidence of engagement. (Glogowski)

My question is: how would this look in context of a high school (say gr12) classroom? How does a system that is geared towards formal evaluation decentralize that notion or subvert it?
Again, the term ‘portfolio’ comes into my head.
A collection of learning artifacts that demonstrates a journey…
Thinking time again…
p.s. this is a rough post. my apologies. please be good to yourself, your fellow humans, and the earth: drink fairly traded, organic, shade grown coffee. Your tastebuds will thank you!

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One thought on “‘What are you {think}ing about?’

  1. I was recently asked by my boss at work to submit a self-evaluation in preparation for her evaluation of me. I consider myself to be relatively self-aware, but it was almost painfully difficult for me. I absolutely believe that putting more of a focus on self-evaluation in our younger years (ie. high school) would help us during our evolution into adults. Teaching kids to reflect on their own performance will allow for more growth than if they are always depending on feedback from their teachers, employers, etc. However, I also agree that regular conversation with their teachers is essential to ensure that they are honest with themselves without being overly critical. I now have to ask my employees to submit their self-evaluations to me, and I’ll have a chance to find out whether our weekly conversations have taught them to challenge themselves and strive to be the best they can be. I encourage you, James, to push this issue in a school setting. We could all use a little more skill in self-evaluation.

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