Assessments That Move Knowledge Forward in the DL

During distance learning (DL), I have decided to stop giving tests whose sole purpose was to rank and judge students. Experience has taught me that, no, poor grades do not motivate students; in fact, it usually does the opposite. And typically, my students did not go back over their test to find out what they did wrong. I also found that the comments I wrote don’t help my students move their knowledge forward. Most of my students didn’t look at them. How do I know? Because I have done all of those things in my looong career and finally after years of spending a ton of time doing the same thing and expecting different results, only to be repeatedly let down, I decided to find another way.

My current research interest involves the impact of literacy instruction in the secondary mathematics classroom. In particular, how can formative assessment practices be complemented by focusing on literacy. Fortunately, there is current research (Embedded Formative Assessment, 2018) by Dylan Wiliam that validates my above statements and was used to create my current 3-Read model (http://www.sfusdmath.org/3-read-protocol.html).  Early last year, when we were still teaching in person, I created my first Desmos 3-Read graphic organizer for assessment and began to give one every Friday, team tests one week, individual tests the next. As we progressed through the year, I kept using student feedback to improve the system. But in order to improve anything you have to define what you want to accomplish with it. The overarching frame was to move mathematical knowledge forward. In order to accomplish this I first wanted to make sure that every student had access to success on every problem – the proverbial “low floor, high ceiling” activity. I wanted the system to help students refocus from being answer getters to problem solvers. Lastly, I wanted students to have the immediate, non-demoralizing, feedback that research says has meaning to students.  At the end of last year I surveyed my students and they overwhelmingly told me that we had succeeded. Then the COVID and DL hit and I had to figure out how to replicate the system in DL. It’s taken quite a bit of help, and a bit of trial and error, but I am really happy with where we are right now. Click here to check it out . Click here to tell me your two stars and a wish. Stay tuned to hear about the results with students.

3 comments on “Assessments That Move Knowledge Forward in the DL”:

  1. Hi Matt! This set up on Desmos for the three read strategy is so interesting. In particular, the third read is essentially asking them for the “How” part of mathematical justification before they ever do any calculations. Does Desmos allow you to see if students ever go back and revise their third read of “how” after they have messed around with actually trying to find the solution? And, is there a way to ask them “why” on the third read? As in, why does your method for finding the solution make sense? The answer to this would be different than a set of steps, which is what I imagine you currently get when students fill out the third read section, right? What are your thoughts on this?

    1. Currently I have it set up so that once they hit Submit it locks their answers. Of course they can revise all they want before Submitting but currently i don’t have it set up to be able to see various versions. I could always add a why but I found through last year that the more we did it and they compared the rubric to their answers they would start sense making on their own. Sadly due to time constraints this year this will only be our third attempt but I have found that the process of making a plan (of any sort) seems to be quite challenging for most of my students but through this self evaluation process, which gives kids immediate meaningful feedback most get quite proficient by the end of the year.

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