Maine South teachers Keith Culbertson, Jason Dutmers, and Dave Fermanich have been leaders in the Flipped Learning movement in Maine Township. They created a resource to explain the theory and practice
Pat Baldwin is an Geosciences teacher at Maine East High School. He is a District 207 leader in Assessment Literacy and has trained countless experienced and new teachers in best-practice. He loves rocks and hunting.
I’ve always just assessed my students the way I was assessed when I was in their shoes. It sounds archaic, but it’s absolutely the way I looked at assessments in the past. “Well, I was able to do it then, so they should be able to do it now.” was a common phrase I would utter to myself when filling out my answer key on the Scantron form. It took me several years to realize that I wasn’t really preparing them for anything besides maybe a driver’s license examination, trivia night the first Tuesday of the month, or freshman year college exams (we’ll tackle those later).
None of the things I was asked to do in high school were things that I would be doing later in life. As a teacher, I currently read scientific texts, interpret data, create action plans based on previous student performances, and develop long term plans to engage students in my science curriculum (not to mention work in a collaborative environment with other teachers and students). No assessment I was given was actually preparing me for the field I was going into. Nor do many of the typical assessments many of us (me included) give our students.
The last few years, my PLT and I have radically changed our assessments to try to mimic skills students may need in a wide variety of future jobs. I assess my students on how well they explain things; how well they can interpret data; how well they can plan an investigation; how well they can communicate an understanding of a topic; how well they can represent how something works in real life. We just happen to do it through geology and astronomy. Any job a student chooses to go into will use these skills. In fact, we don’t really know what jobs are going to exist when our students graduate, so we have to prepare them for the jobs that don’t exist yet.
We have definitely struggled, and we have definitely reworked some things that didn’t work as well the first time. But, our students have given feedback that they like the new challenges. They like creating their own assessments. They like having a test that isn’t just filling in bubbles. They like that the assessments are not just the same assessments I was given when I was in high school. They like that they get more feedback on how they are learning instead of what they have learned. And from my point of view, I feel like they have been given a better opportunity to prepare themselves for life beyond high school (even if their freshman year college classes are giving the same assessments their professors were given when they were in school).
This fall a few teachers had the opportunity to attend a conference put on by the National Council of the Teachers of English. Meeting the Needs of the 21st Century Learner: Differentiating Literacy Instruction through Technology, presented by Downers Grove North HS Principal Janice Schwarze and Downers Grove North English & Communications Department Chair Christopher Bronke, provided us with a unique insight into the blending of differentiated instruction, tech tools, and literacy strategies. Here are some reflections from two teachers
This conference gave me some validity to how we approach Differentiation at Maine Township. After going through the DI Cohort last year, I feel like we have a deeper understanding of why and how to use technology to differentiate. I enjoyed hearing Chris's stories from his classroom but I would have liked to hear more about how other English teachers are differentiating argument writing. I wish we could all meet again and everyone share examples of differentiation in their classrooms. Personally, I differentiate with process and product the most. I let students decide what to write about the majority of the time in class. I also differentiate by using various Graphic organizers to help them formulate their essays.
My students get to choose what problem they want to write about: (using evidence and reasoning)
My Problem letter
My students get to choose a topic to argue about and then write a blog post (partners or single):
Blog links (Responses)
When writing our "Homework essay" I give some student these essay stems:
No More Homework 2 tier 2
Homework 1 tier 2
Homework Tier 1
I thought the conference was well-organized and thoughtfully delivered. One of the things I'm doing immediately is finding ways to differentiate. For example, I usually have my students write an essay about one of the characters in "A Raisin in the Sun" and his/her chances of achieving the same dream today. I always give them a choice of character and resources; this time I'm allowing them to work with a partner (if they choose) and to deliver their argument in any format they see fit (except for a powerpoint or Prezi). I'm hoping to see some creativity and to be able to generate more discussion than I would by just collecting essays. Also, I will emphasize that they will be delivering their message to an authentic audience.
As for technology, I'm going to attempt to use Community Clips to give verbal feedback on Senior Composition papers. I will also have online discussions using Let's Recap second semester when my sophomores read and discuss "Kite Runner."