Not too many English teachers can say that magical moments occur while grading essays; yet, one of my most magical teaching moments occurred while I sat reading through students’ unit reflections this past weekend, and assessment literacy is to thank for this moment of sheer educator bliss.
Before I explain this coveted unicorn teaching moment, let me provide the background: recently, I’ve made it a part of my professional growth plan to provide meaningful, productive feedback. The ideas driving this professional growth plan have stemmed from my current master’s degree program.
As a student working with National University on my Master of Science in Advanced Teaching Practices, I have chosen one of my specializations to be in the area of assessment literacy. I have already worked through courses covering assessment literacy topics such as clear learning targets and quality assessment; in fact, I am nearing the end of this specialization this month.
Upon reflection during my Advanced Teaching Practices courses, I realized that, as an English teacher, I was giving meaningful feedback but far too late to possibly benefit my students. I would find myself writing these painstakingly lengthy responses on summative essays in the hopes that students would use this feedback for their next writing assignment. Despite my well-intentioned efforts, this feedback was simply ineffective. In fact, most students wouldn’t even read the feedback; a piece of my English teacher heart broke every time I saw an essay fall into the trash bin on a student’s way out the door.
I was inspired by the Chappuis and Stiggins Classroom Assessment for Student Learning text to improve the overall productivity of my feedback on assessments for learning. This year, I made the switch to leaving meaningful commentary on our assessments for learning in my classroom. While this might be a bit more time consuming than my previous grading system, it immediately demonstrated tremendous improvements to student learning.
Practically instantaneously, I noticed a few drastic changes: students actually read over my feedback, they asked questions about my feedback, and in turn they willingly made revisions to their assignments! As a result, our assessments of learning are much stronger than I’ve noticed in previous years. I often find myself even more excited to read these assessments of learning, as the student growth is now apparent over the course of the feedback history and revisions made.
Fast-forward to right now: I’m sitting here grading unit reflections. Each unit has two summative assessments of learning, and I ask students to reflect on their growth as readers, writers, speakers, and just students in general.
I am attaching a screenshot of a unit reflection that has me in tears. Truly, there is no better form of instant gratification than a student commenting on these minute details that are clearly unbeknownst to them.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed as I further my journey towards true assessment literacy. Other times, these magical moments occur and they fuel me to keep learning and growing as an inspired educator. Certainly, these moments far outweigh any difficulties throughout the journey, and I look down my inspired educator path with nothing but bright eyes and a smile.