How do you capture your students’ learning?

Documenting my students learning.  This is a new thing for me.  I started documenting my students learning years ago but nowhere near the extent that I am doing this year.  I used to use a million sticky notes to jot down conversations and observations with my students and at the end of the day would spend some time sticking them in their folder.  I had a manila folder for each student and kept track of my anecdotal notes on them this way.  Did it work for me?  Yes, most of the time.  Unless I lost the sticky note or forgot to put it in.  This documentation helped me to develop observation and process marks for my students.  Over the last couple of years, I have grown to rely on this documentation even more.  At the beginning of the year, I share with my students and parents the different ways that I will be collecting evidence of their learning in my room.

“Evidence of student achievement for evaluation is collected over time from three different sources – observations, conversations, and student products. Using multiple sources of evidence increases the reliability and validity of the evaluation of student learning.”  Growing Success, pg 39.

For some of my students this evaluation style it is quite new, but (thank goodness) I have not received any negative feedback from either the students or the parents.  The information that I gather from my students this way is quite remarkable.  Students who struggled to put their thoughts on paper, can sometimes give me a somewhat clear oral explanation about what they are doing.  I had a group of teachers in my class last month and was pleasantly surprised to hear one of my struggling students using his patterning tiles to explain how he was able to decipher what the rule was and how he could extend his pattern using that same rule.  Talk about an opportunity.  If I had waited for his pen and pencil task I would have totally missed his sharing.  My good friend Aviva and my vice-principal Kristi have encouraged me take my documentation even further this year.  Last year I had moved to taking pictures along with my notes.  Aviva has encouraged me to let the students take the pictures and share them with me, as well as me recording their sharing during our conferences or small group collaborations. She has also suggested that the students can even record themselves.  How powerful would it be for the student to listen to their explanations at the beginning of the unit and then compare them at the end of that same unit, or even the end of the year?  Kristi, talks a lot about the process versus the product, and its relevance.  Why do we devalue the journey it took to reach the end?  Today, in my math inservice it once again came up that students can share their learning orally but struggle to write it clearly.  My questions were:  Do they have to write it down if they can say it orally?;  Why can’t they record their answer and then transfer it to the paper if that is the expectation?;  What about them making a sketch of their learning, taking a picture of it and then a short explanation to show that they get it?  Does math learning always have to be written down?  The new me says no, that is why if you come in my classroom I usually have my phone or my Ipad in my hand.

How do you capture your student’s learning?

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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5 Responses to How do you capture your students’ learning?

  1. Nmcfdelk says:

    I applaud your approach to making thinking/learning visible, especially since you teach an intermediate grade.

    Finally, we are hearing more and more educators embracing this ‘triangulated’ stance to gathering evidence of learning. This is democratizing education. It is ensuring a level playing field for all learners!

    If a child is able to demonstrate learning via talking, singing, acting, drawing, painting, constructing or diagramming, it would be folly to expect them to duplicate in writing….unless writing was their preferred way of communicating learning in the first place.

    The reason many still ascribe to this archaic belief that children must ‘write’ their responses traces back over 150 years when this was the only mode available albeit honoured/valued.

    Thank goodness we find ourselves in an Age of Enlightenment…..where educators can now admit to the ‘100 Languages’ of children through which deep thinking/learning can be conveyed.

    Bravo to you for being one of our revolutionaries leading the way and bringing us out of the darkness. Sadly, there are still too many educators still in need of your example.

    • jcorbinh says:

      Thank you so much for responding. My view is that it is the quality and content of the respond I should be evaluating not the format that is used to share it. Why make the student feel devalued because he does not or cannot write it out the way we want, if he can say it the way we want.

  2. adunsige says:

    A very interesting blog post, Jo-Ann (have I mentioned recently how much I love that you’re blogging?! 🙂 ). Thanks for the kind words as well! I think that you raise some great questions here, and important ones for people to think about.

    I guess that I would have to ask, Why do students need to write down their explanations in math? Can they choose how they capture their learning (assuming that the expectation for them is to capture their learning)? Are all of these documentation options available for all students, all the time? I guess this starts coming down to a universal design for learning, and not just differentiated instruction.

    I’d wonder what the value is in having students take their oral explanation and then put it into a written piece. I’m not saying that writing isn’t valuable, but why do the job twice? What about screencasting apps? I wonder if this might help those students that struggle with writing, bridge the writing and the oral. And the screencasts can be shared on a blog or easily shared with you to include in a digital portfolio.

    I also love your idea about having students reflect on their understanding from the beginning of the unit to the end. What have they learned? What questions do they still have? I can’t help but think of FDK documentation, and wonder how this documentation of learning might also be used regularly by students to support learning as well as push for new learning. What do you think?

    Thanks for getting me to think so much! I’m curious to hear what others have to say.

    • jcorbinh says:

      Thanks for commenting, Aviva. You made the statement “I’d wonder what the value is in having students take their oral explanation and then put it into a written piece. I’m not saying that writing isn’t valuable, but why do the job twice?”, I totally agree with you. The discussion came up today that some teachers wanted the thinking writing it down. This was one suggestion from me. Maybe then the student can see the disconnect between his oral explanation and his written one. Hopefully it could help him reflect back on his sharing and see what he is missing when he is writing.

      • adunsige says:

        Jo-Ann, I do like your suggestion, but I still wonder why this thinking has to be written down? Could it even be a combination of oral and written thinking? This is where a screencasting app is fantastic. Students could take a photograph of their written thinking, and extend it through their oral explanation. I guess that I’d just wonder, if students aren’t writing as much as they’re saying, are they receiving a lower mark? Why? Just some more food for thought …


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