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“Assessing strengths and weaknesses” on #edchat

Posted on Jun 27, 2013

Paper pointing arrows at the words A,B,C, and D.Due to ISTE 2013 being in full swing during this week’s #edchat, attendance seemed to be at an almost record low. Compared to the activity usually seen in #edchat, conversations were more limited and slower. On the upside, this made the conversations easier to follow. Unfortunately, though, the main draw of Twitter is the ability to share thoughts quickly with many people to accumulate a diverse set of ideas. Despite the lack of participants, though, some valuable thoughts were generated in the #edchat, which discussed both “What skills/abilities/attributes do you think administrators should look for in new hires for the classroom?” and “Is the idea of integrating curriculum an idea that still has a place in education today?”

In the case of the first question, discussion turned away from specific skills that administrators should look for. Instead, participants chose to make a case for the inclusion of faculty in the process of hiring another faculty member. Many echoed and supported Anna Kraftson’s (@anna_kraftson) assertion that “Teachers have intimate knowledge of their department’s strengths and weaknesses.” Here, participants made it clear that it is not necessarily the case that administrators should look for skills that might sound sort of cliche, such as “the candidate should be a team player,” or, “the candidate should be a life-long learner.” Rather, administrators should seek to interact with faculty members to discuss what weak points might exist in a department and what sort of skills and knowledge a good candidate would have.

When discussing integrated curriculum, teachers made it clear that they believed that, as Nancy Blair (@blairteach) put it, “integrating curriculum can lead to more authentic learning opportunities.” In this context, integrated curriculum indicates that learning normal school topics like math or English are incorporated into activities that involve students and turn them into active learners.

Josh Luthi is a computer science student at the University of Kansas and has a penchant for politics.

Assessments discussed on #edchats

Posted on Jun 13, 2013

This past Tuesday, the topic of discussion for #edchat was “What is the result of educators not fully understanding the differences between summative and formative assessments?” It quickly became obvious that most of the practitioners who participated in #edchat are fervent supporters of formative assessments, which are defined as on-going assessments, reviews, and observations in a classroom. Generally speaking, many feel that summative assessments (the examination given at the end of the learning process) puts too much emphasis on grading, rather than learning, and that the results from summative assessments do not precipitate meaningful changes or responses.

Paper pointing arrows at the words A,B,C, and D.Essentially, formative assessments are meant to tell teachers, students, and parents where a student is at in his or her learning process. Summative assessments can tell these same people what a student learned, which is arguably necessary. However, many practitioners made the case that testing has become more about generating grades than anything else. @drdouggreen admitted that “some teachers just use formative assessments to generate grades,” rather than using the feedback from formative assessments as information to base their teaching on. This indicates that maybe teachers do not see a distinction between summative and formative assessments, but rather simply see assessments as a means to give a grade so that parents and administrators have an easily-comprehended metric.

While many voiced support for formative assessments, arguing that formative assessments “seem to be more essential to learning” than summative assessments, there was at least one outspoken supporter of summative assessments in the #edchat. @DataDiva owner Jennifer Borgioli argued that “there has to be some sort of summative at the end of learning. A life without summative assessment is practice, never performance. Rehearsals, never opening night.” @DataDiva made the distinction that formative and summative assessments are essentially the same thing. The only difference is the timing and response to the assessments, and she makes a strong argument in favor of summative assessments. At the end of the day, accomplishment needs to be gauged. Her discussion on the similarities and differences between summative and formative assessments also serve to support a key prior argument: formative assessments are only good if teachers are willing to use the results of assessments to alter their teaching. Formative assessment is indeed a key component of the learning process and will enrich the quality of learning, so administrators should provide teachers the flexibility to prioritize quality of learning over emphasis on summative assessments like state tests.

Josh Luthi is a computer science student at the University of Kansas and has a penchant for politics.