Sunday, June 2, 2013

Demonstrating Growth -Searching for a better way

The new teacher evaluation systems that are being put in place require all teachers to demonstrate student growth. This of course is something I have been doing already, but not as formally as I should be. So, I have been looking for some ideas to be able to demonstrate growth not only throughout the year, but from level to level. I have attended professional development sessions, both in general on the new requirements, as well as specifically for World Language. I am concerned that many teachers are willing to spend hours and hours of class time to effectively demonstrate growth. I am looking for something that my department and I can do that will cost minimal class time and be equally as effective.

One of my ideas is to do a common project at the end of each level. Given the curriculum of Spanish I, the project that we use for this will probably be based on family. My struggle is to work on how to evaluate the projects fairly for the different levels. A new colleagues of mine has shown me a rubric which I think may fit the bill, but it is going to require some training, not only for me, bur for our students as well. Demonstrating the quality and content of projects that will constitute an A, B, etc. will take samples and some class time. However, I think that it will be worth it not only for administration and teachers, but for the students to see how far they have come as well.

I gave a portion of this rubric a try with the final exam for my Spanish III students. Their assignment was easy - they were to create a video or presentation (for those without video capabilities) to show to foreign exchange students to introduce them to our school. Since I didn't have any samples of previous student work to demonstrate what I was looking for to the students, we spent some time talking about my expectations. Check out a copy of the assignment sheet here. Although the task was easy, completing it on a Spanish III level took more thoughts than the students had originally anticipated.

It was not enough to show rooms and people, there needed to be more detailed information using the grammatical concepts that we had learned. I really liked this project because I am trying to incorporate PBL into my class, but I have struggled with the final element, which is where the students present their work to the community. With this project, I told students that the best ones would be on the school website for real incoming exchange students.

The rubric overall worked really well. When I am grading projects, I have a tendency to be much more lenient than I am with written work because I can't help but get carried away by the quality of the presentations that the students do. This rubric kept me focused and really enabled me to give the students the grade that they deserved. I think it probably needs to be tightened up a little bit, and I still want to be able to give the effort grade, but honestly it is probably better if I don't.

I had one student/parent complaint about their grade on the final project, and I had another teacher in my department evaluate the student based upon the rubric. His evaluation matched up almost exactly with mine. That is enough for me to know that I am on the right track with the rubric. Next year I will do all summative assessments using this new rubric.

Hopefully, with more student examples and training with some formative assessments that I will use the same rubric with. Then, all of the students should understand what I am looking for, and be able to use the level of grammar and vocabulary that I know that they are capable of and be able to use the same project for multiple levels. If we begin these projects at Spanish I, by the time they get to the upper levels, it should be easy to make the necessary adjustments for them to continue to grow and be successful.

Finding a way to demonstrate student growth without detracting from what I am trying to do in the classroom  will take time and lots of thought and planning, but it will be worth it. In addition to the common project, I am also looking into creating online student portfolios utilizing Google Docs with written work as well as audio files. More to come......