A Way In, Through, and Beyond

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Unit 1: A Way In, Through, and Beyond

A Way In, Through, and Beyond

Teaching should be creative, but not sloppy. If we know how to cast our net, how to work through the process, and how to build on it for the future, we can begin planning with the end result in mind.  Then, we can use tools to assess our progress in order to make teaching more effective. We have created an easy way to remember how to go about the assessment process. We call it “A-REEF”, which stands for:


Like a reef in the ocean, this larger process of “Assessment, Reflection, Evaluation, and Effective Feedback” is a rich source of life and possibility.


To think about assessment, imagine that you have decided to fish in a particular spot. Before settling in, you want to see if this is, in fact, the best place to start.  So you cast a large net and pull it in to see what you've caught.


Teaching is, in fact, a great deal like fishing, which can be both an art and a science.  The key here is that you are collecting information – taking stock or making an inventory of what you see – and then reflecting upon or processing that information. You are reviewing the current level of understanding exhibited by your students, how they learn, and how they might learn in the future. This is the initial basic assessment piece.


What have you caught in the net? You reflect on what you've caught and use the information to help you to decide what to do next. This is the reflection piece.  For example, if students take a test or complete a project and you find few results in the net, you might realize that individual students need help in certain areas. If you come up with an empty net, you might consider revising your original lesson plan or method of teaching. 


After you have chosen your spot to fish, cast your net, and gathered it in, you have to look at what you’ve caught. Fish? Garbage? An old shoe? Was this the best way to go? Does your experience tell you that you could have approached this differently? If you are thinking in advance about your lesson, then you should build in those kinds of activities that you have found effective.


This all may sound a bit abstract to you. Here is where it is much more concrete: show examples.  It is one thing to teach a concept (like subtraction), but it is much more powerful if you can show examples of subtraction. How will you know, except for a test, that your students are learning?  You could provide a system by which your students create posters and construct games to be shown in their personalized folders. Build these examples into the lesson. 


You do not have to do all of this yourself.  You can build in features of the lesson plan that ensure that students are giving you feedback, immediately, about how and what they are learning.  These systems have proven to be very successful.  So, build in the feedback piece. Let them be a part of the lesson plan.


The whole field of assessment, therefore, is about one important concept:  find a way in, through, and out.  It is about using common sense to gather information that ultimately informs your teaching and helps your students reflect upon their own process of learning. It is about improving your skills in designing lessons that work and yielding the results you desire.




Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource. fred. (2008, June 13). Education for the New Millennium. Retrieved May 04, 2010, from TWB Courseware Web site. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. http://i.creativecommons.org/l/by/3.0/88x31.png
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