How do you use process marks?

Today, I had the privilege of teaching a math lesson in front of a number of other adults, including a grade 9 teacher from our high school and one of our consultants.  Students completed a patterning activity using patterning tiles.  I have strongly believed that elementary students need to be doing while they are learning, especially in math.  They need to be able to manipulate the materials and get those visuals that help so many of them better understand the concepts that they are studying.  This is one of the reasons that I like Marilyn Burns & Van deWalle because they provide you with lots of examples that teachers can use manipulatives with.  One of the students was able to articulate how he arrived at his answer but needed a bit of prompting to get a thorough explanation of why his thinking was justified.  During our feedback session this conversation with the student was mentioned as one of the other teachers also had a similar conversation with another student. The feedback then shifted to ‘question of process marks’ and how do we take a student’s thinking, conversations with us and our observations of them and equate them with a mark or a grade?  We know according to the Growing Success document that these are some of the ways that we are supposed to use to gather student learning but how do we do it?  How do we know that my professional judgement on this concept will be the same as yours?  Also how do we go about communicating this to parents if we ourselves are not quite sure how to use it, or what the look-fors are, or what a level 3 or level 4 conversation sound like?  Do I use process marks, All the time.  I see great value in walking around and having those conversations as students are working.  I love to see how some of them who struggle with putting their thoughts on paper can clearly and precisely explain their thinking orally.  My struggle is how do I know that I am doing it right?  How do I know that my teaching partner would assign the same grade or comment to a response from my student?  Are any of you having these same experiences, and how are you handling it?​

p.s.  My fellow teachers were told that the lesson was not supposed to evaluate the teacher but I asked for feedback.  It was great to be able to have my peers assess my lesson and provide me with authentic feedback that I could use to improve the next part of my lesson.


About jcorbinh

I am a grade 8 teacher who absolutely love teaching language and math and would find it extremely stressful if I had to choose between the two. After 20 years of teaching I am still passionate about my job and enjoy learning new things with and from my students. I try to incorporate new things to motivate and encourage my students and integrating more technology into my lessons has become one of my major goals.
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12 Responses to How do you use process marks?

  1. Matt says:

    One trouble in math is the vague achievement chart. “Considerable effectiveness” is not good feedback. That’s where the actions of doing math-the processes come in! We can be more descriptive when we look at thinking, for example, through a specific process.

    Provocation: should our professional judgement of, say, one conversation with a specific student be exactly the same? Is that possible?

    • jcorbinh says:

      So true, Matthew. I honestly think that when the curriculum documents are rewritten that the achievement chart as it stands should be either revised or left out as it really serves no use as it now stands. I have never understood what ‘considerable effectiveness’ really means. We do need to be more descriptive otherwise how will students truly know what they need to work on and how. I do agree that professional judgement is subjective but should it be far apart? Don’t think it will be the same. On Friday, after discussing the student’s response, 3 of us equated it with a 3 and 1 with a 3+. The other 2 had no clear answer. I do hope though that people see the value of it even if we can’t agree on the same grade.

  2. Jonathan So says:

    Jo-Ann great post and questions. To be honest asking these questions makes sure that you are doing things right. When we share collaborate, conference or ask others about our marks it makes it easier to justify the answers. I also like looking at what the ministry has said my grade should accomplish. There is of course research which is a strong foundation for assessment.

    Like you I have opened up my assessment practises. To be honest I mark predominately on observations and conversations and occasionally have short quizzes. For the most part my observations tell me more about students then the quiz.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas and questions and kudos to you for opening up your classroom.

    • jcorbinh says:

      Thanks for responding Jonathan. I too have found that my observations and discussions tell me more about how well my students understand the concept than my quick assessments do. I’m hoping to discuss more with the students the language and what a good thorough response sounds like. I think we could all benefit from opening up our classroom, students get better from good descriptive feedback why shouldn’t we. If good honest feedback from my peers can make me a better teacher why wouldn’t I welcome it.

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  4. Gerald T Knox says:

    I think you are on the right track. When we open our assessment to capture conversations we permit students to demonstrate their learning in multiple ways and this, in turn, allows us to discover more of the misconceptions and ambiguities that students have about their learning. This, as you allude to, affords more opportunity to guide our instruction and provide formative feedback to students during the learning process. It also permits us to capture evidence of a greater array of curricular outcomes (standards). I agree with jcorbinh that developing a process rubric is key, and especially good if you can co-construct it with the students, making it more meaningful for them. Using the rubric with your students is very important, including using the language of the rubric to provide feedback to one another. Gathering anecdotal evidence is very important, as well. This provides a more complete picture of a student’s learning when you report out. Since you don’t want to become a ‘bean-counter’ focused solely on capturing anecdotals at the expense of corrective feedback, I suggest capturing highs and lows anecdotally. For instance, when a student articulates their learning well, capture a quick anecdotal. The same for a student that is struggling to articulate. Record this over time. Then create a decision rule to convert this evidence to a grade. Your decision rule might suggest something to the effect that a certain percentage of excellent responses results in an grade of excellent for the particular set of outcomes (based on your rubric). Ultimately, as you point out, it is the feedback that you receive through conversations while students are learning, that is most supportive of learning. Then you, in turn, are able to provide feedback to the students and this aids their learning most.

    • jcorbinh says:

      Thanks Gerard. Some more food for thought. I try to capture all levels of understanding. I use my notes to give feedback to my kids and use it to help determine where do we need to go and how can we get there. Having students email pictures of their work to me, taking anecdotal notes and videos has really given me more opportunities to capture misconceptions and deal with them a lot faster. And as you say they really do help to guide my instruction as they help me see who is ready to move on; and how much more we have to do to increase their level of understanding. I do agree with you and @avivaloca about having students create rubrics involving process thinking more and this will definitely be 1 of my next steps.

  5. Meg pj says:

    I do the same! I use confer 2.0 as I walk around, jotting notes and taking pictures I students work. Then I can debrief with a colleague on how they’re doing, what my next step would be, etc. And then I have documentation for meetings and reports. Love it!

    • jcorbinh says:

      Thanks for responding Meg. You get so much information from walking around and listening to students talk. It is unbelievable the learning you can hear that you don’t always see on paper. It is such a valuable way of evaluating most students’ level of understanding. I like the way you go back and moderate with your colleague. Moderate is so important as it keeps us as close as possible or at least gives us a chance to share what we looked for to arrive at the mark/grade.

  6. Aviva says:

    Jo-Ann, you ask some interesting questions here, & I’m not certain of the answers. Here’s my thinking though: how might teacher moderation happen? I know this could be more difficult than moderating work because you’re moderating thinking too, but this is where documentation is so important. Would photographs and videos help with this moderation?

    I wonder if a version of Success Criteria might help students too. Maybe they could think about what this “thinking” and “process” should look like. Then together you could design some kind of Sucess Criteria/Anchor Chart (I’m not sure which) that will help students and teachers with this type of evaluation.

    I’ve even created rubrics before that evaluate the “process” instead of the “product.” This also seems to help. Co-creation would be even better, I think. So much of the process is assessed through feedback — now how do we take this feedback & provide a mark (largely for the sake of report cards)?

    I’m curious to hear what others have to say about this. Thanks for starting such a great conversation!


    • jcorbinh says:

      Thanks for your response Aviva. The moderation part was what provoked this blog. The group of us started to moderate over a couple of pictures and anecdotal notes I had taken of the student’s work (was kicking myself for not recording). This student has been struggling to put those same thoughts down on paper so it was extremely pleasing to see that he could communicate them orally. So do we just discount them; how much weigh do we gave them; why don’t we allow more oral tests (and not only for our IEP students)? Couldn’t the kid record his thoughts, submit them and then later try to transfer them to paper? Does he even need to write them down? I love the idea of creating the rubrics and success criteria to evaluate the process. I have done them before but think they need to become more of a common thing in my room. If we say that if is so valuable, then kids need to know what a level 4 evaluation of process looks like compared to a level 3, and how they can bump them up. Tell me more?; can you give me an example?; what do you mean by …?, etc. As usual, Dunsiger you have given my more food for thought. :))

      • Aviva says:

        Thanks Jo-Ann for explaining more! I love your rubric idea and examples of communication with students.

        I’d argue that the student doesn’t need to write it down if he/she can explain it orally. Why can’t this option always exist? What are you really evaluating here? I’d love to see an anchor chart in classrooms on how students can explain their thinking. I see no reason that all of these options can’t be available for everyone.

        I’d even argue that there are multiple ways to write — but that may be for another blog post! 🙂


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