When you think about assessing and measuring the impact of deep learning do you think about quantitative or qualitative information?  Do we think more about test scores and improvements that are measurable, or do we focus more on the ideas and descriptions of growth we see in our students, and more importantly, which is more beneficial to students? This week’s readings couldn’t have come at a better, (or worse), time. Of course, it is report card writing season at my school. As I am currently working on my language comments for writing I will use this as an example of how deep learning is happening and some next steps for improvement. 

Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash

Single Point Rubrics

For the past two years, our elementary teachers have been working with Matt Glover to review and enhance our writing units and how we teach the process. We worked together on how to find mentor texts, build mini-lesson progressions, and have writing interviews with our classes. The mentor texts help the students to see what good writing is and from this study, they can pull out what they think their own writing should look like. This progresses to a co-construction of criteria by the students of the qualities, skills, and processes should look like. We always end up creating a single-point rubric together about what skills are used. I prefer the single-point rubric as it is more accessible to younger students as it doesn’t have a lot of text to read, and the text that is there is what is meeting grade-level expectations. It also allows student agency in finding ways that their own products exceed expectations, or ways that still need improvement. Self-evaluation is an important skill that allows students to reflect on their own work and find autonomy in their learning.  

Single point rubric for narrative writing.

Students are given lots of time to write, with minimal whole-class teacher instruction. This provides teachers with the opportunity to meet with individuals and focus on goals about skills and attitudes that need to develop for improvement and gives the students a lot of agency over what they write. At the end of the process, the reflection is on the process of the writing, not just the final piece, students are to reflect on the planning, drafting, and final editing instead as a way to think about the writing process, not just the product. I have found that as I have improved at teaching writing this way, the students’ writing has also improved. Has it improved by the number of spelling mistakes, or development of ideas, or the number of descriptive words, yes, but more importantly the skills and attitudes that the students have as writers have improved and they are more reflective on the process, and how they can continue to improve. All of this is done with technology along the way from students generating knowledge on a Padlet or FlipGrid, to personal reflections about the process on a learning journal, to student-generated topics and success criteria on google docs and book creator for class posters. 

After reading a mentor text, students decided what we need to describe in our writing and we made a poster together.

Other subjects?

This process above can be quite easily transferable to science, social, studies, or personal well-being in PE projects but I have some questions about how to do this in Mathematics. I think that what I need to focus on is how students communicate their thinking, how they work together to solve a problem. Or how they develop and reflect on systems such as games to learn concepts and facts, and also the creation of larger problems that involve multi-stage thinking and sharing. I also need to co-construct criteria more frequently in stand-alone and integrated math classes. One way I have started to do this is by using 3-Act math lessons. They are a great way to get students thinking deeper about math, from being provoked, creating a question to solve, estimating, thinking about other information they need, and then solving and sharing their answers. My students love it as they are the ones creating questions and working together. If you haven’t checked out Grahm Fletcher and 3-Act math yet, give it a shot. 

Grading 

Chapter 5 in a Rich Seam outlines the amount of curricular content and its effects on deep learning assessment. Last year we reviewed our mathematics and language report card descriptors and a benefit of this process was that we chopped our math report card indicators from twenty-five down to twelve. This is my first year working with less curricular objectives in math and I have loved it because we essentially get to dive deeper into each one. I was on the committee that did this and we basically eliminated a lot of content-based and objectives about “understanding”, something very difficult to measure. Our report cards for mathematics now look much more streamlined and what we can focus on now are the skills and how students apply them. The job now is to develop units that allow for more opportunities for deep learning. 

Figure 10 from A Rich Seam

Course 5

We need to plan for deep learning and I hope to include a lot of these methods into my final project in Course 5. I have started writing a unit, one that I have never taught before as I am new to the grade level and am excited to try some of the strategies mentioned above, as well as others. I will be using the Continuum of New Pedagogies Effectiveness (figure 10) to help me in the planning of experiences through the inquiry cycle. This Unit of Inquiry will be under the transdisciplinary theme of Sharing the Planet with a Central Idea about use and consumption and waste. The students should have a lot of opportunities to observe and record their own use, develop action plans to make an impact, and also follow the design cycle as they turn waste into art. I am thinking now about developing a connection with a school in another country who utilizes the UN Sustainable Development Goals, to help my students through online communication. We will also be bringing in a visiting artist to help with the “Gomi Art” (Japanese for garbage).

Students cleaning up the local Cemetary

The students will be researching and creating non-fiction books to help educate an authentic audience about something connected to the unit of their own choice and there are a lot of opportunities for tech integration and the co-construction of criteria here. I am already excited about it. I would love to hear any ideas you may have if you have taught a similar unit on waste creation and recycling. We are already on our way with our service-learning.