Reading 1

Teaching for Learning
Essential Question: What teaching strategies make the best use of what we know about how people learn? Brooks and Brooks (1993) list five conditions that exist in many classrooms today that are impediments to learning: • Classrooms are dominated by teacher talk. • Most teachers rely heavily on textbooks. • Students are encouraged to work in isolation on tasks that require lowlevel skills, rather than higher-order reasoning. • Student thinking is devalued in most classrooms. Teachers seek to enable students to know the “right” answer. • Schooling is premised on the notion that there exists a fixed world that the learner must come to know. Constructivism The solution, according to Brooks and Brooks and many others, is that teachers need to become constructivists; that is, “ in the classroom, they must provide a learning environment where students search for meaning, appreciate uncertainty, and inquire responsibly” (1993, p.v). There are five overarching principles of constructivist pedagogy: • • • • Posing problems of emerging relevance to learners Structuring learning around “big ideas” or primary concepts Seeking and valuing students’ point of view Adapting curriculum to address students’ suppositions


• Assessing student learning in the context of teaching (Brooks and Brooks, 1993) The constructivist point of view suggests that we construct our own understanding of the world in which we live. Sometimes, what we see makes sense to us based on our previous understandings; at other times, it’s not consistent with what we understand, so we either alter it to fit our set of rules or change our set of rules to acknowledge this new information. Learning is not discovering more, but rather interpreting through a different scheme or structure (Brooks and Brooks, 1993). The goal for students is not to repeat what the teacher or the textbook has provided but to internalize the information that’s around them so that they can generate their own meaning. Piaget was one of the best-known advocates for constructivism. He described scientific thought as a dynamic process of continual construction and reorganization. However, his findings were not readily accepted by educators. In contrast, the work of behaviorists such as Skinner (1953) and Thorndike and Stein (1937) described human behavior as a stimulusresponse relationship. Checking for Prior Knowledge In traditional teaching, it’s jot necessary to check for prior knowledge. If the objective is to teach Chapter 5 or to teach the causes of war, it’s not important what knowledge the students have upon entering the classroom. At the end of the class period, the teacher can proudly say, “I taught it.” The assumption is that the student is an empty vessel that the teacher will fill. However, if the objective is to have students learn, checking for prior knowledge is essential. Learner-centered environments pay close attention to the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs that learners bring to the educational setting. . . . The knowledge that students bring to the learning environment may help or hinder the acquisition of new knowledge or the performance of a new skill. One teacher asked, “What if I check to see how well the students can master the objective at the beginning of class and find out that some can already do it?” This teacher is ready to discuss differentiated instruction. Unfortunately, many students sit through classes bored because they have already mastered the skill that’s being taught. The traditional solution for many gifted students


is to give them more to do, rather than challenge them to explore other perspectives or take on more complex tasks. The method used to check for prior knowledge can be very simple and should take no more than five minutes. Students may write their responses, but the teacher should use techniques that allow her to quickly assess the group without getting caught in a blizzard of collecting and grading papers. Some examples: “Write down everything you know about communism.” • “Look at the chart on the board comparing and contrasting various religions according to five criteria. How many of you can fill in five of the squares? Ten? All fifteen?” • “Think about the debate last night for a few minutes, and then share your thoughts with your neighbor. Be prepared to tell us who your neighbor thought won the debate and why?”

This think-pair-share technique is an excellent way to check for prior knowledge in a non-threatening manner. Checking for prior knowledge not only gives the teacher valuable information regarding the knowledge and skills students bring to the class; it also prepares the students for the lesson to follow. Differentiated instruction responds to the readiness and interests of the students. How can the teacher make informed decisions about learning and teaching without this information? Metacognition Metacognition is often referred to as active learning. Using metacognition, the student learns to take control of his own learning. He sets goals and monitors his progress along the way. Much attention is given to the process that he uses to gain new knowledge and skills. Assessing for prior knowledge is a form of metacognition; students should receive feedback about their current status in regard to future learning goals. Teachers who encourage metacognition often use peer editing and reciprocal teaching. Initially, the teacher will structure the activities and monitor the feedback, but eventually the students should take more control of the process. Students achieve more when they reflect upon their work and the work of others.


so practice sessions should follow short periods of input. Teachers should encourage their students to predict by asking questions: “What do you think will happen next in the story and why?” “If I mix these two substances together. it’s too late to go back.Teachers should pose questions to students such as . Many teachers who try to rush through the content to get it covered find that they must reteach it the next day because the students didn’t get it the first time. In some cases. How do you think it works?” In order for students to learn to transfer. so they move on in order to have enough time to cover the next topic. they get negative results when they give the test a few days later. The processes of acquiring new information and internalizing that information can’t occur at the same time. Whether they were correct or mistaken is not as important as the process they used to make the predictions and the reflection that follows. Transfer One of the best ways to promote transfer of knowledge to other subjects and to the real world is to present information in multiple contexts: “You have learned how to find the area of a rectangle. information should be presented in small chunks followed by some activity that allows the students to internalize it. Predicting is also a form of metacognition—the student decides what information she has and how she can use it to develop a hypothesis. What other uses of this device can you think of?” “A doctor uses a stethoscope like this one to listen tot he heart. and what she needs to do to move forward successfully. 4 . “How did you reach that conclusion?” “Which advance organizer works best for you?” “What emotions caused you to react to the story the way you did?” Assessment for learning involves both the student and the teacher in knowing where the student is at the moment. How would you decide how much paint is needed to cover the back wall of this classroom?” “How would you decide how much wrapping paper is needed to cover this box?” Another way is to allow students to use “tools of the trade”: This plum bob is what the carpenter uses to align a board properly. what do you think will happen?” The key to making this work is to allow students to analyze their predictions at the end of the event. by then. Students must receive frequent feedback so that misconceptions don’t block future learning. how she got there.

and write a short paragraph describing how you feel after seeing what happened. students can satisfy their need to talk by reflecting along with their neighbors. Teachers should pose questions to the class that require thinking. . what. predict what would happen if we lowered the temperature. such as knowledge and comprehension.Students are enriched when they receive periodic feedback about their progress with challenging activities. “Teaching 5 . As Jensen (!998) wrote. Assessments must challenge students to go beyond the who. only recall. and if not. We will list your ideas on the board after you have had time to reach a conclusion.” Changing the conditions is an excellent way for students to be challenged while increasing the likelihood for transfer.The practice on calling on the first hand that goes up raises the concern that if a student is able to respond immediately.”) Alternatively. tell him what that word means to you. In addition. “As your partner shows a word on the flash card. Teachers who don’t check for prior knowledge don’t know if the planned will be challenging. and where.” “If you have already determined why the chemicals reacted the way they did. which requires time to process: “Think about how you would resolve this conflict if you were the president of the company. . but assess lower levels. The amount of time needed for reflection depends on the difficulty of the material and the skills of the student. then the teacher will answer the question herself. (“We have just watched a video clip of pearl Harbor. One of the best ways to address this issue is through the use of varied assessment techniques. Processing and Reflection Journal writing exercises can help students reflect after new information is presented. how does calling on the first person challenge the rest of the class? Many students don’t respond because the same one or two students will do it for them. Teachers often plan for higher level of learning. Then switch roles.” The effective teacher realizes that students are social beings and structures time during the class period for them to talk to their classmates in a meaningful manner. then thinking was not required. Students who plod along through class with no ideas how they’re doing aren’t likely to adjust along the way when headed in the wrong direction. Take out your journals.

A critical ingredient for the successful completion of processing time is choice. and Pollock (2001) have found to have positive effects on student learning. Students process in different ways depending on their learning styles and personal preferences. For each of the strategies listed below. Teachers should never assume that students are using the same lenses that they are using. All strategies should be judged by how they affect learning. 6 . I share some thoughts based on my observations of their use in classrooms. emotions affect attention. students can help each other learn new information because they share the same perspective. Some may want to draw pictures that capture essential information. new’ content to novice learners may require a processing time of 2-5 minutes” (p. Meaning is added when students talk together to share stories or react to information that has been presented by the teacher. Meaning Teachers can increase the probability that students will draw connections to material by providing choice whenever possible. Specific Learning Strategies Many of the conditions needed for learning overlap. others may prefer to create an outline. Pickering. or chart that helps them organize the important details. table. The use of current events. For instance. The important thing is that teachers practice strategies that improve learning and discard those that inhibit it. Often. Memory improves when the information is meaningful. The remainder of this chapter focuses on specific learning strategies that Marzano. but that a mixture of what they want and what they need can produce positive results. it’s often not the act of reading that students dislike but rather the topic.47). Student-to-student conversation is too often discouraged rather than encouraged using certain guidelines.‘heavy. This doesn’t mean that students should be exposed only to topics that interest them. family trees. a student who dislikes reading novels may prefer to read extensively about skateboards. and personal narratives in lessons helps make learning meaningful for students.

Designing effective cooperative learning is hard work that can’t be accomplished successfully in a few class periods. how should students be assigned to groups? Great care should be taken when forming groups on the basis of ability. and conflict resolution) • Group processing (evaluating how well the group is doing and what needs to be done to improve) These elements distinguish cooperative learning from what is merely group work. Some teachers don’t use this technique because they had an unsuccessful experience that may have resulted in a loss of class control. Certain decisions need to be made. whereas placing advanced students together has little to no effect (Manzano. they aren’t engaging in cooperative learning. but it didn’t work. It’s important to make this distinction because the benefits of cooperative learning are not achieved merely by putting students in groups. The research is clear that continually putting struggling students in the same group is detrimental. “I tried that cooperative learning thing a few times. as well as the whole group.Cooperative Learning Cooperative learning is a popular teaching strategy used in school today. receives feedback) • Interpersonal and small group skills (communication. According to Johnson and Johnson (1984).” Prior planning can greatly increase the likelihood of success when using cooperative learning. trust. leadership. & Pollock. If five students get together and each takes 5 of 25 questions to work on and then copy from each other. decision making. It’s not uncommon to hear. Pickering. 7 . for example. there are five major elements of cooperative learning: • Positive interdependence (students rely on each other for accomplishment of the goal) • Face-to-face promotive interaction (peers provide feedback and acknowledge success) • Individual and group accountability (each member of the group. 2001).

Students should be aware of the process expected during cooperative learning. Who will keep the group on track? Who will record? Who will get supplies? Who will make sure that all members contribute? Don’t “Bumblebee. if the source of information is the teacher at the front of the classroom or a map on the side wall. Students should be grouped often enough that they remember how to function in a group. For some activities. Sometimes. If all students are expected to participate. groups of two can be highly effective. Change the seating arrangement to best facilitate the accomplishment of the objective. In some situations. Students should all contribute using “group voices” that are quieter than individual response voices. don’t wear it. so finding the best fit often determines the success of the group. Set up the process before worrying about content. this configuration may make it difficult to get and keep the student’s attention – if you don’t have the students’ eyes. The following basic guidelines can help teachers make cooperative learning more effective If it doesn’t fit. and some are good facilitators. students could be assigned according to their special talents. students who like sports could research a certain time period in history class and another group could be made up of students who share a love of music. The size of the group should routinely be small. Setting up the desks in quads with four students facing each other is a good way to get students ready for sharing. she repeats directions – 8 .” It’s common to see a teacher jump from group to group the minute the task is assigned. pushing all of the seats to the wall and leaving a big common area in the middle might work best. for example. students should decide upon roles. Setting up specific guidelines early allows the teacher to help with content as the routine become established. Groups usually work best when they consist of three or four students (Kagan. Sometimes. However. In addition. Having the students sit in quads all year is no more of a novelty than having them sit in rows. 1994). Some students like to lead.The key is variety. you don’t have their ears. For short periods of time. the grouping may be based on interests. the grouping can be random. Students should be able to ask questions of the teacher only if no one in their group knows the answer. some like to record. groups of five or more students will have a hard time meeting the five criteria for cooperative learning described earlier. Some days.

the students worked with partners to place in piles small cards with powers listed on them: one for powers belonging to the federal government. and Interactive Notebooks As more and more information is readily available for students. and/or apply the information they have gathered.which only encourages students not to listen the first time. She can clarify information to help students who are lost. rather than having only a collection of unrelated facts. summarizing and note taking become essential skills. 9 . and analogies and metaphors in English. Sitting on the floor in the hallway. Who works well together? Who is observing the guidelines? What strengths are evident among the groups? Once the process becomes routine to move about without being pulled in various directions by the students. Another important asset is the ability to piece together the meaningful information so that the big picture becomes evident. During the first few days (sometimes weeks) of using cooperative learning. teacher Debi Stover had her students use tow large plastic rings in her civics class to compare and contrast the powers of the federal and state government. she doesn’t trust that they can actually get it on their own. and one for powers shared by both. so she’s hesitant to relinquish her power to them. evaluate. Summarizing. Sometimes. What is different is that these techniques are now being used successfully in other subjects. her need to teach overpowers her need to have the students learn. Students must be able to ignore irrelevant information and select or retain only the material that’s important for understanding the main idea. the teacher should sit back and observe the process. Identifying Similarities and Differences The use of various techniques to identify similarities and differences is not new. Example include the use of Venn diagrams in mathematics. classification systems in science. For example. She was impressed with how much this helped the students retain the information compared with traditional methods of delivery. which will not be retained. Assessing for learning requires the teacher to provide thought-provoking questions to get the students to synthesize. This technique can be applied to a variety of subjects. Note Taking.

but varies widely. This process often becomes no more than an electronic lecture. A popular trend is for teachers to put the notes in a PowerPoint presentation that the students then copy. If the reward for students who complete homework is the same as for those who don’t. some common characteristics should be present if the assignment of homework is to be worthwhile. • There must be some form of urgency attached to the completion of homework. All of these techniques operate according to the premise that there’s a fixed amount of information that students must put on paper and memorize. This often involves the teacher giving copies of the essential notes. By doing this. students relay the information in their own words but in an organized manner. cloze notes are provided that offer the bulk of the notes but require students to fill in information as it’s presented. Some teachers assign homework every night.One of the greatest wastes of student time and effort is copying notes. Despite these differences. I have seen much improvement in note taking when teachers use a technique called interactive notebooks (INB).1). Other put the notes on the board or an overhead. Some homework is graded. charts. the best way to prepare students for college or life after high school is to have them think. • Homework should be an extension of what happens in the classroom and not a “drill and kill” exercise in which students merely repeat the same skills over and over that they performed in class. In so doing. the students use pictures. or symbols to help them understand and remember the material that was pasted. This process helps them collect the most important information that’s presented. One excuse that I have heard in support of this techniques is that it prepare the students for college. Some teachers read from their own notes so that students can record what they hear on paper. Homework and Practice The practice of assigning homework is common in most schools. teachers can’t expect students to expend 10 . and some is ignored. whereas others hardly ever do. In some cases. or ask students to copy from the textbook. In may opinion. the students construct meaning for themselves rather than merely repeat how someone else interpreted the information. Debi Stover has students fill in frames while taking notes (see Figure 3. some is merely checked for effort.

• Homework should be graded with care. There’s nothing wrong with students working sample problems followed by feedback.” or “As you watch commercials tonight…. and defense 18-yr-old males register Protect national peace Protect nation’s security 11 Jury duty Witness . For example. “Ask your grandparents…. others might have to work until late in the night or go home to abusive or neglectful parents.1 Frame for SOL 3c Key Topic: Duties Things Citizens Are Required to Do by Law Main Idea Main Idea Main Idea Main Idea Obey laws Pay taxes Serve military Serve court Essential Details Essential Details Essential Details Essential Details Keep order Sales tax If called If called Keep from hurting others Protect citizen rights Income tax Pay for education.” • Homework is what is done outside of school. This doesn’t mean that homework has to be graded. Helping students after school is one way to level the playing field. The playing field at home is not level for all students: Whereas some have access to vast resources at home. Many students are responsible for babysitting their siblings. but that shouldn’t take the place of homework.much effort in the future. • The assignment of homework should take advantage of resources that aren’t available in the school setting. including educated and dedicated parents. Figure 3. Students can be responsible for sharing with their teams or reporting to the class. Peer pressure can be very motivating without the teacher’s getting caught in a paper blizzard.” or “While you are at work after school…. Teachers should resist the temptation to let students start homework if time allows during class time. computers. roads. and materials.

but how often do we recognize students who bring their grades up from an F to a C? 12 . organize it graphically so that spatial relationships can be noted. as described earlier in this Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition It’s unfortunate that many of our practices in schools discourage. Of the eight intelligences that Gardner (1983) describes. rather than encourage. draw it. That same teacher later will complain about how some of the students are “ “Your are on the right track. using INBs. The students who raises his hand to answer a question and get “no” as the response from the teacher quickly decides not to bother. The effective teacher dignifies the student’s response by finding something to support his effort. Kinesthetic learners react positively to movement.” Recognition for students who make A and A/B honor rolls is common. teachers typically dispense information through linguistic representation. use manipulatives to touch it. Why? Because the focus is on teaching. Some examples of graphic organizers can be found at www. and that’s how teachers were taught.So what? What is important to understand about this? For the government to be effective. only one relates directly to linguistics.sdcoe. not on learning. Tactile learners relate to things they can touch. However. is an excellent way to engage multiple senses so that the students take ownership of the information rather than just “rent” it until after the test.htm. Can someone help?” Teachers also discourage effort when they post a zero on an assignment because the final answer was wrong or the format was not what was desired. citizens must do their duties or face legal consequences. but I need a little more information. or act it out. Nonlinguistic Representations Students are engaged in nonlinguistic representations when they gather information in ways other than hearing about it or reading about it: They make models of it.k12. Unfortunately. students’ efforts.

It is the product. 2001).. When we examine learning. Contracts that the teacher and the student develop collaboratively can help with this process. A powerful strategy is to have students stop after reading a few chapters in a novel and predict what will happen next. which must have the purpose of improving performance by identifying strengths and weaknesses in the work. After finding out the answer. If they do have goals. the students should develop their own personal goals. not the person who produced it. they can analyze the process they used to arrive at their conclusions. It’s not helpful to say. historical investigation. regardless of whether or not they were accurate. Students can’t monitor their learning in the absence of specific feedback. Once the teacher has communicated the class’s learning goals.Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback Marzano. the process used is often as important as the result. “This is not your best work” or “You need to study more for tests. In some cases. that should be evaluated. Problem solving. These techniques can be used in 13 . and decision making are all techniques that use the generating and testing of hypotheses (Marzano et. experimental inquiry. However. I have found that students often have very vague goals. if any at all. they typically don’t have a plan to accomplish those goals from day to day. Pickering. A student might say he wants a B in a given class and yet continue not to do his homework. Generating and Testing Hypotheses One of the best ways to have students pull information together and understand the big picture is through generating and testing hypotheses. al. invention. & Pollock (2001) point out that goal setting is important not only for the teacher but also for the students. a critical component of any plan is that the student should receive frequent feedback regarding his progress toward his goal. Students often get papers back with a letter grade and not much else. the problem is not what we recognize but how we recognize.” The feedback needs to be specific and have the goal of providing information that will help the student improve.

and Advance Organizers The purpose of using cues. skimming. question. she asks how she can take advantage of what motivates them to increase their learning. not on teaching. The student doesn’t have to fit into the agenda. This approach is consistent with the constructivist view to learning. Differentiated Instruction Teaching for learning and differentiated instruction go hand in hand. Asking a question prior to instruction serves to prepare students for the lesson of the day and to determine if they posses the necessary skills to move forward. After the question is asked. Marzano and colleagues (2001) list four types of advance organizers: expository. and advance organizer is to activate prior knowledge and check for understanding. graphic organizers used in advance of a lesson – can help students pull together the information they already have in a meaningful manner prior to new learning. Using this information. Cues. the teacher adjusts the process.isolation or in various combinations. and interest of each student. 14 . The key to their success is to get students to think and use a process that works for them. not at his weaknesses. Questions. or product to meet the needs of each student. Students also can benefit from hearing about a variety of methods used by other students to reach their conclusions. The starting point is to assess the learning style. wait time should be provided to allow for deep thought and to give all students an equal chance to respond. readiness. rather. content. Success can give them confidence by letting them see how much they already know before the start of instruction. The focus is on student learning. When a teacher decides to use differentiated instruction. The level of the questioning (Bloom’s taxonomy) should vary depending on the objective. narrative. She doesn’t ask how she can motivate her students. Using advance organizers can greatly increase student’s success in future experiences. Providing a cue following an incorrect response can turn a negative experience into a positive one for the student and increase the likelihood of future participation. and illustrated. Advance organizers – that is. the agenda is adjusted to fit the students. She looks at each student’s strengths. Having a procedure for gathering and interpreting facts in order to reach hypotheses will promote transfer to other situations. she makes a commitment to have all students learn.

Back. To fully implement a feedback system. B. Feed Back: Respond to Student Work The individual responses teachers give students about their work are the second component of a good feedback system. feed back. For example. when it’s clear that the purpose of a unit is to expect and the teacher can plan readings. and feed forward. Feed Up: Clarify the Goal The first component of an effective feedback system involves establishing a clear purpose. But feedback is a complex construct with at least three distinct components. Forward What Makes a Strong Feedback System? Feedback is a powerful way to affect student achievement (Hattie & Timperley. collaborative projects. they can align their various assessments. they are more likely to focus on the learning tasks at hand. Establishing a purpose is also crucial to a feedback system because when teachers have a clear overall purpose. Pp. investigations. and assessments to ensure that students focus on content related to this goal. Research consistently ranks feedback as among the strongest interventions at teachers’ disposal (Kluger & DeNisi. which we call feed up. teachers must use all three. 1996). 541-59 Reading 2 Feed Up. and the one that is most 15 . When students understand the ultimate goal.________________________________________ Beers. Learning-Driven Schools. VA:ASCD. 2007). (2006).

the teacher acknowledged areas of success and highlighted things students might focus on sharpening. How many students are in the lunchroom?” Nearly every group got the wrong answer to its problem. These responses should directly relate to the learning goal. and pictures. Ideally. Another teacher noted that six of his students regularly capitalized random words in sentences. leading off with an anecdote. Maurico. Students had to answer the questions in each problem using words. student groups in one 3rd grade class we observed each completed a collaborative poster in response to a word problem. in a unit on writing high-quality introductions. incorrectly capitalized fun. For example. a teacher gave students multiple opportunities to introduce topics using such techniques as beginning with a question or startling statistic. they use what they learn to modify their teaching. The best feedback provides students with information about their progress – or lack of it. Given this information.commonly recognized. hence the term feed forward. A typical problem read. For example.toward that goal and suggests actions they can take to come closer to the expected standard (Brookhart. teachers give feedback as students complete discrete tasks that are part of a larger project so that students can use teachers’ suggestions to better master content and improve their performance on the larger project. 2008). the teacher knew she needed to provide more modeling to the entire class on how to solve word problems. numbers. Feed Forward: Modify Instruction This formative aspect of a feedback system is often left out. teachers use assessment data to plan future instruction. and so on. “Six students are sitting at each table in the lunchroom. for example. Rather than simply noting mechanical errors. This demands greater flexibility in lesson planning because it means that teachers can’t simply implement a set series of lessons. The teacher provided students feedback on each introduction they wrote so students could revise that introduction and use the suggestions to improve their next attempt. very. and challenge. In an effective feedback system. There are 23 tables. whether from a checking-for-understanding task or a common formative assessment. Considering that the other students were not making this 16 . As teachers look at student work.

2009).error. Check for Understanding At the core of daily teaching is the ability to check for understanding in such a way that teachers learn how to help students. student pairs were using this frame to compare the sizes of different animals on laminated cards (see to view a video of this lesson). practice making sentences using this language frame in several different contexts. more students excel academically (Stichter. one of the 17 . When Joseph. in pairs. justify. Kelly’s district. and ask for evidence. Using a feed-up strategy. The evidence on using student talk as a mechanism for learning is compelling. in classrooms with higher rates and levels of student talk. all measures must align with one another to present a rich portrait of how students are progressing toward a common goal. Fostering oral language and using questioning techniques aid this kind of informed check-in (Fisher & Frey. On the day we observed Ms. Kelly’s class. Moving Toward Alignment For a feedback system to be informative. Ms. Language frames are close statements that provide students with the academic language necessary to explain. and feeding forward. feeding back. The following practices form a system of assessment experiences that allow for feeding up. clarify. Kelly introduced her 1st grade English language learners to the language frame “The ______ is _______-er than the ______” to help them contrast the relative size of two objects. she explained that the students’ purpose was to approximate the size of two objects. the teacher knew that a whole class intervention was unnecessary. a math standard in Ms. In a mathematics lesson. in a course. 2007). he provided additional instruction for the six students who consistently capitalized at random. Instead. daily checking-for-understanding practices should contribute to a teacher’s understanding of how students will perform with similar material in a unit. & Lewis. Stormont. and on state assessments. She the had the students. Language frames help stimulate academic talk in the classroom and also help gauge students’ understanding of concepts. For example.ascd.

” Use Common Assessments In addition to providing a way to check daily for understanding. Questioning is vital to checking for understanding. “Earthquakes and volcanoes have something in common. an aligned system includes common formative assessments that enable teachers to coordinate with other teachers in their grade level or department.students. The assessments are usually based on units of instruction and become part of the pacing guide for each course. For example. we should remind ourselves that the answer usually makes sense to the student and reflects what he or she knows and does not know at the moment. • Probes that elicit the reasoning behind the answer to identify knowledge gaps (“What led you to think the character would do that?”) • A reworded question that reduces language demands. Walsh and Sattes (2005) suggest these follow-up prompts: • Words or phrases that foster recall (”Think about the role of hydrogen”). Ms. “The snake is wider than the duck?” to cue Joseph to rethink his answer. The assessment items teachers select 18 . let’s talk about that. Joseph could gesture correctly but could not accurately convert his knowledge to spoken language frame until Joseph could use it correctly (the feed-forward element). said. especially as it pertains to giving feedback on incorrect responses. Kelly let the boys know they needed to approximate more accurately and asked each boy to show the width of each animal with two hands spread apart. • Overt reminders to trigger memory (”The word begins with d”). Such benchmark assessments gauge increments of student performance and provide teachers with data that spur conversation about instructional and curricular design. We recommend that teachers meet in advance of teaching a unit to develop common formative assessments. instead of asking a student to “identify the role of tectonic plates in earth geophysical systems.” the teacher might say. When faced with a student error. We can rapidly form a hypothesis about what the student might not know to provide a prompt that will help that student achieve the needed understanding.

confused. Ms. After the English as a second language department administered its common formative assessment on affixes. Grant. asking Omar’s small group. Partial conceptual understanding is a common cause of incorrect responses. “I noticed some students in my class getting similar prefixes like in. the gap between short-term and long-term goals can be overwhelming.and inter. For example.’ or is it ‘-terlude’?” Ms. Goldstein explained that the lesson’s purpose was to analyze new vocabulary words (feed up). they offer students only snapshots of their progress. Goldstein questioned. Omar incorrectly identified in. 2007). Creating a system of specific competencies that students should achieve in a course and 19 . however. Goldstein’s English as a second language class was studying affixes in preparation for a benchmark assessment. Frey. This was a pattern in all our classes. “Could the root be ‘-lude.or inter-? I’ll let you figure it out” (providing feedback that something needed to be figured out). Goldstein remarked.should be geared to diagnose specific kinds of learning so that teachers can discuss any misconceptions students still hold after instruction and recognize patterns among students (Fisher. Identifying Competencies Although unit-based formative assessments are valuable benchmarks to inform teachers’ instruction. Ms. Ms. Goldstein checked a few minutes later on whether Omar and his group had arrived at the correct answer. Ms. “Is the prefix in.meant and received a correct reply. Goals should be a balance of short-term (“I’m going to ask good questions today”) and long-term (“I’ll pass biology”). Omar’s group talked about the two meanings and how they would affect the overall word. How can we teach look-alike prefixes more effectively?” The teachers decided to develop a jeopardy-style game that included easily confounded affixes to give students practice. Omar stayed with his initial correct answer. Learners need a system to measure their own attainment of course goals.and inter. so he tried the prefix interlude. & Johnson. Teachers should meet as soon as possible after they score each assessment to discuss the relationship between the results and teachers’ instruction and to plan next steps (the feed-forward component). Ms. Goldstein asked him what the prefixes in. Rather than simply supply Omar with the correct answer and move on.

The teachers developed a common formative assessment that measured how well students could cite information from a newspaper article. For example. a Web site. And we advocate assessment practices that build test wiseness by giving students encounters with test formats in the context of meaningful instruction. Competencies should reflect the state standards while offering students an array of ways to demonstrate mastery. one they are capable of mastering. the teacher might say. a poetry portfolio.a series of assessments that measure those competencies and provide clear feedback enable students to measure their progress through any course. The results indicated that even after studying plagiarism. and tests on persuasive writing techniques and summarizing. a book with two or more authors. many students still couldn’t correctly cite online sources. Although we do not believe that students should understand that tests are a genre. a math teacher might model thinking aloud as she eliminates distractors on multiple-choice questions. would help them write their formal essays. and an interview. two literary response essays. Ninth and 10th grade English teachers at one high school devised a series of 10 competency assessments for their common courses. as they explained to students in a “feed-up” message. These included four essays based on schoolwide essential questions. Knowing that students would need this competency to write their first essay. 20 . When faced with the problem 1/7 + 3/7 and three answer choices of 4/7. Grade-level teams or departments usually specify course competencies and corresponding assignments. 3/7. The competency assessments should be numerous enough that students can adequately gauge their own progress at attaining competencies. not just paper-and-pencil tasks. generally 7 to 10 per academic year is best. These teachers designed a two-week unit on plagiarizing that. Build Toward State Assessment An aligned system of assessments should build toward helping students do well on state tests that measure the progress of students and schools. an oral language assessment that included retelling a story and delivering a dramatic monologue. teachers analyzed students’ incorrect answers and retaught the specifics of this type of online citation accordingly. and 4/14.

N. _________________________________________________ 21 . Kluger. (2007). D. J. D... Thousand Oaks. 77. M. and a preliminary feedback intervention theory.. CA:Corwin. J. M. Review of Educational Research. A..“I see one of the choices has 14 as a numerator. & Frey. Alexandria. A. VA: ASCD. M. & Lewis. we risk ignoring something that may help us. P. VA:ASCD. A. 81-112. we can avoid mistaking help for hindrance.” When teachers embed test-format practice within daily checking for understanding. students acquire the stamina and skills they need to score well on state assessments. (2007). By viewing assessment as a system that gives us the power to feed up. Taking formative assessments schoolwide. The power of feedback. The mariner was doomed to walk the earth telling strangers that he had killed an albatross that had saved his ship from disaster. (2008). D. Hattie. formative assessments. J. What the Mariner Teachers Us “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is a cautionary tale about failing to learn from one’s mistakes. Stichter. Fisher. Instructional practices and behavior during reading: A descriptive summary and comparison of practices in Title 1 and non-title elementary schools. But I know you don’t add the numerator when adding fractions so that can’t be correct. & Sattes... If educators view data as a liability simply because we don’t know what to do with that data. Educational Leadership.. 172-183. (1996). N. Editor’s note: All names are pseudonyms. a meta-analysis. Alexandria. C. N.. H. J. and course competency exams. The effects of feedback interventions on performance: A historical review. Psychology in the Schools. T. (2009). (2005). Grant. Frey. B. (2007). S. Quality questioning: Research-based practices to engage every learner. 64-68. feed back. Checking for understanding: Formative assessment techniques for your classroom. and feed forward. 254-284. Fisher. Walsh. 119(2). & DeNisi. & Johnson. How to give effective feedback to your students.. & Timperley. References Brookhart. Stormont. 46(2). Psychological Bulletin. 65(4).

sdsu.Douglas Fisher (dfisher@mail. features. The principle seems simple enough. 1999. and school district) as well as individual students. location. 22 . American Psychological Association. condition. The question is. Doctors diagnosing an illness use multiple assessments: the patient’s medical history. lab tests.7) confirms. a decision or characterization that will have major impact on a student should not be made on the basis of a single test score. as well as the price of nearby homes. & National Council on Measurement in Education. As the National Council on Measurement in Education (1995) states in its Code of Professional Responsibilities in Educational Measurement (Section 6. and construction. The Many Meanings of “Multiple Measures” We wouldn’t think of making most of our important life decisions on the basis of one measure is Professor of Literacy and Nancy Frey (nfrey@mail. schools. The Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (American Educational Research Association.7) Persons who interpret. people who are considering buying a house look at the house’s age. Other relevant information should be taken into account if it will enhance the overall validity of the decision. Standard 13. In educational settings. is Associate Professor of Literacy at San Diego State University in California. For example. Why do education policymakers and practitioners sometimes opt to make important decisions based on only one indicator? What Do We Mean by Multiple Measures? Many people think of multiple measures in the plain English sense of the term. and so on. to mean using more than one score to make judgments about group (such as classes. style. and communicate assessment results have a professional responsibility to use multiple sources and types of relevant information about persons or programs whenever possible in making educational decisions. answer to questions about how the patient feels.

Using more than one measure also helps us recognize performance variations caused by format. there are many ways to define and apply the concept of multiple measures. A construct is the attribute you are trying to measure. attitudes. and other school outcomes (safety. taken together. mathematics. The first is that multiple measures enhance construct validity. instruction.) Construct validity is the degree to which any score conveys meaningful information about the attribute it measures. timing. his history with other interventions (for example. We might also consider his achievement in other school subjects. what counts as a “measure”? Second. processes (curriculum. Johnny’s reading comprehension is not the only important thing to know before we decide whether to place him in special education. we need to consider several different achievement measures (reading. student and parent satisfaction). graduation rate. financial. a reading support program). For any particular decision. First. We can’t really get a full picture of Johnny’s reading comprehension from one test score. The set of items or tasks on any one measure can’t adequately represent the depth and breadth of complex concepts like reading comprehension or math problem-solving. In practice. as well as information about resources (personnel. this is often achievement in a specific domain. The second reason for using multiple measures is that they enhance decision validity. and other logistical aspects of testing. school climate). policy).The Rationale for Multiple Measures There are two important reasons to use multiple measures for decision about education. his affective responses to school. and so on). and so on. (In education. each of which could have one or more measures. Two questions are at issue. Another example: To decide whether a school is doing a good job. and his parents’ observations of his work at home. there are usually several relevant types of information. Several measures. are likely to more adequately sample the things students should know and be able to do in the achievement domain being measured. but constructs also can be psychological traits. how are the multiple measures combined? Here we’ll discuss three 23 .

If put these together.different ways of counting what a measure is and three different ways combining measures to make instructional decisions. we end up with the nine different combinations shown in Figure 1 24 .

U.S. school accreditation ratings are based on students meeting achievement standards on tests in English. A teacher allows students to choose whether they will write a term paper or do a Different measures of the same construct For a student’s standardsbased report card grade.Figure 1. Using Multiple Measures for Education Decisions Three Ways to Combine Multiple Measures Three Ways to Define Multiple Measures Measures of different constructs Conjunctive Student or school must pass all measures In Virginia. An elementary school reading teacher requires a student to pass a reading Compensatory Complementary Higher performance on one Passing any one of several measure can compensate for multiple measures suffices.” One of its criteria involves computing a college-readiness index as a weighted average of advanced placement/International Baccalaureate participation rates and AP/IB performance quality. lower performance on another. under “Measures length to the 25 . The NCLB “safe harbor” provision means a school can meet its adequate yearly progress target if all subgroups meet the target percentage scoring proficient (achievement) or if the percentage of students who score below the proficient level in a subgroup decreases by 10 percent from the previous year (improvement). and science (with possible adjustments for ELL and transfer students and for preparing students for retakes of the state tests). history/ social science. News and World Report compiles a list of “America’s Best High Schools. mathematics.

They may choose either the math portion of the state test or an Algebra I or Geometry end-of-course exam. nearest inch and/or class presentation to show centimeter”. In Washington State. two performance assessments. students who have met all graduation requirements except passing the graduate exit exam may continue to retake it – even after completing grade 12 – until they pass. Multiple opportunities to pass the same test In Louisiana. 26 . A science teacher allows a student to retake a test that he or she failed after a unit on ecosystems and uses the average of the two test scores in the student’s grade. a teacher averages their understanding of results from two quizzes and Roosevelt’s New Deal. students in the class of 2013 will have to pass a mathematics test to graduate from high school.comprehension test on at least two stories at the same reading level before allowing the student to read stories at the next higher reading level.

graduation rate. school safety. this is sometimes called “multiple measures. 27 . several measures are better than one. states began experimenting with different indicator systems included measures of school context (resources. or spatial difficulties that make it difficult to fill in bubble sheets efficiently). Measuring different constructs is helpful when we should base a decision on a combination of factors. processes (curriculum coherence. and especially decisions about what to change to bring about improvement. Nevertheless. but if the student can read and performed poorly on one assessment for some other reason (perhaps an inability to connect with the stories or items on one particular test. additional measures of reading should confirm that fact. To measure the construct thoroughly and to make sure all students have a chance to show what they know. most states with graduation tests build in multiple opportunities for students to take the test. and so on). student background variables. and so on). require that we also consider the context and process factors that work together to determine those outcomes. Meaningful evaluations of outcomes. Multiple opportunities to pass the same test may seem like an odd definition to include in the list. Different measures of the same construct are especially helpful if the construct is some aspect of student achievement. leadership and teaching. then additional measures will probably pick up his or her true capability.What Counts as a “Measure”? “Multiple measures” describes at least three different ways of using more than one score: (1) measures of different constructs.” For example. in practice. and (3) multiple opportunities to pass the same test. and outcomes 9student achievement. as the standards movement was gaining momentum but before NCLB prescribed what sorts of measures states must report. For example. (2) different measures of the same construct. and so on). in the 1990s. If a student can’t read and scores poorly on one assessment. Indicator systems were designed because decisions about school effectiveness should be based on many different factors.

How Are the Multiple Measures Combined? Methods of combining information from multiple measures include (1) conjunctive. at least as regards achievement. Typically. The current NCLB accountability system. 2005) Most teachers’ classroom grading policies are compensatory: They summarize students’ scores on several achievement measures. those related to school improvement plans or curriculum – were based on the results of particular tests and subtests. We can use multiple measures in a compensatory way at the school level. (2) compensatory. these classroom grades don’t all measure the same construct – performance on a test and performance on a project tap different sets of knowledge and skills – but they are treated as though they do and summarized into a grade with one name (“mathematics”). however. Good performance on one measure can make up for poor performance on another. Decisions about the school’s’ overall effectiveness were based on the total School Performance Index score. Districts must show adequate yearly progress overall. plus the school’s overall attendance rate divided by the criterion of 94 (giving a school with 94 percent attendance a “perfect” score). judged a school’s performance by combining 13 factors: percent satisfactory or better on each of six tested content areas for 3rd grade and for 5th grade. in which higher performance on one measure can compensate for lower performance on another. usually either by calculating an average or by reviewing the whole set of measures with a rubric. but also for every subgroup. Good results for one subgroup don’t compensate for poor results for another subgroup. For example. in which the student or group must achieve the standard on just one of the multiple measures (Chester. which was used for state accountability before NCLB. and (3) complementary. Maryland’s School Performance Index (SPI). NCLB’s safe harbor provision. uses complementary logic: A subgroup that does not achieve its annual performance goal can still “pass” if the 28 . uses multiple measures in a conjunctive ways. the performance index not only provided an average measure of school quality. Thus. but also provided more fine-grained results to guide improvement (Schafer. too. Other decisions – for example. 2003). in which the student or group must pass all measures.

educators do have a choice. These are. only onethird of the resultant decision about achievement (10 points out of 30) was based on content. The teacher wanted to assess the students’ understanding of the plot of a novel the class measures of the same construct (understanding of the plot) in a compensatory manner. the bad example. Sometimes. To evaluate student-created posters about different U. and why do you need to know it (Chester. Classroom-Level Decisions First. Thus. Knowing the nature of the measures and the combination method in any particular application of multiple measures helps us understand the results and the value of decisions or consequences based on those results. 2005)? Here are some examples. the teacher added the points together (a compensatory method).percentage of students scoring below proficient in that subgroup decreases by 10 percent or more. To arrive at the grade. Classroom rubrics sometimes mass multiple measures together in ways that distort the purpose of accurately reporting how well students have achieved learning goals.S. The guiding principle for decisions about what measures to use and how to combine them should be purpose: What do you need to know. an elementary social studies teacher used a rubric consisting of four different measures: directions followed (5 points). 29 . though. however. A high school English teacher’s class showed a wide range of ability to communicate in standard written English. in their school’s reporting of adequate yearly progress under NCLB. measures of at least two different constructs: Knowledge about states and poster-making skills. individual educators don’t have a choice about the application of multiple measures – for example. and design/color/neatness (5 points). a good example. it’s important to have a clear understanding of what’s going on. Now. information conveyed (10 points). Even in these cases. arguably. states. Multiple Measures Linked to Purpose In many cases. a grade intended to reflect achievement of a social studies objective actually largely reflected achievement of design and construction skills.

New York. But if we are convinced that each of several measures is vital to quality. then we might want to use a compensatory approach combining multiple measures of that construct. Pennsylvania. if severe consequences are in place for failing to meet a standard – then we might want to use complementary multiple measures so that a school can pass by meeting the standard on any one measure. In addition. One obvious measure 30 . Rustique-Forrester. Another measure was an assignment in which students wrote openended questions at the end of each chapter. the graduation rates for these four states were higher overall in 2001 (73-86 percent) than those for the five exam-only states (51-67 percent). and a multiple-choice section that didn’t require writing but couldn’t measure extended thinking about the novel. If false negatives are a major concern – for example. this task revealed students’ thinking about the plot without requiring much formal writing. Florida. of course. Evaluations of school programs are also best accomplished by using multiple measures of different constructs. which demonstrated students’ ability to apply their understanding but was also. and Pecheone (2005) reported that graduation rates stayed the same or declined slightly from 1998 to 2001 in five states that required students to pass an exit exam (Indiana. When states design high school graduation policies. Four states that used a multiple-measures approach to graduation during that time (New Jersey. For example. affected by students’ writing ability. suppose a district wanted to evaluate its K-12 science curriculum.One measure was a test that had two parts: a written essay. and Connecticut) fared better: Rates stayed the same in three states and rose in one. and South Carolina). a multiple measures policy can help them avoid defining achievement narrowly as performance on one test. School-Level and Policy Decisions If our main concern is to know for certain whether a school has reached a goal on a particular achievement construct (for example. The teacher combined grades from all three measures to give a richer picture of plot understanding for all students in the class. Darling-Hammond. Wisconsin. we’ll probably want to use a conjunctive approach in which a school must pass all measures. North Carolina. a certain level of reading or mathematics performance).

References American Education Research Association. Making valid and consistent inferences about school effectiveness from multiple measures. 31 . Standards for educational and psychological To make wise decisions about the science curriculum. A clear understanding of the many faces of multiple measures helps us think about the logic used in each case. R. Chester. 24 (4). Multiple measures approaches to high school graduation. the number of graduates who go on to major in science or work in a scientific field. American Psychological Association. and so on. These are all different constructs. M. the district would probably want to include other measures – for example. & Pecheone. CA: Stanford University School Redesign Network.pdf. but they all have a bearing on making decisions about the science program. student participation is science-related clubs and activities. (2005).srnleads. What’s important is that multiple measures result in meaningful. Wise actions can only result if the measures and logic are right for their intended purposes. L. D. Stanford. Available: www. E.. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice. Washington. L. & National Council on Measurement in Education. Rustique-Forrested . however. how students perceive the importance of science or how confident they feel a science learners.would be performance on state exams mapped to district science standards – both absolute levels of achievement (status) and the amount of change in achievement (growth). DC: Authors. Darling-Hammond. useful decisions. 40-52. (2005). (1999). Multiple Measures for Meaningful Decisions The term multiple measures can mean many things.

S. Code of professional responsibilities in educational measurement. “The Many Meanings of Multiple Measures” is Educational Leadership. 1111(b)(3)(C) (vi).ed. W. 22(3). ASCD. A state perspective on multiple measures and school accountability. (1995). 67. _______________________________________ Brook. Vol. Available: www.html No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. 107-110. November 2009. D. Pub. No. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practices.html Schafer.natd.National Council on Measurement in Education. 32 . (2003). 3. L. No. Available: www. [Online].

3. VA:AS 33 . November 2009. Forward. “Feed Up. 67. Vol. D. No. and Frey.Fisher. Back.” in Educational Leadership. N.

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