This week I was asked to write a blog post about one of my most memorable experiences with congruence in education and think about my experiences as a learner, as opposed to a teacher.
One of the most positive learner experiences I can recall was in the Children’s Literature course I took during my undergraduate degree at SFU with Dr. Nicky Didicher. The day she showed up to lecture in full traditional and homemade Victorian garb (down to the undergarments!), I knew that this was going to be an awesome class. I remember her syllabus at the beginning of the term clearly outlined the layout of the course, the chosen text was a useful and enjoyable read, and her assessment practice was unlike anything I had experience at the college level.
At the beginning of the term, students were given the list of summative assessments they were to expect throughout the course with varying weights beside them. With some limitations in place, students decided what weight they would like each assignment to be for their final grade. If you were a strong oral learner, you could weigh the presentation heavier. If you found you were able to showcase your learning best through writing, you would weigh the final paper heavier. Each student all had to complete the same summative assessments, but their weights fit the preferred styles of showing their learning. It blew my mind.
I still use this inspiration in my own classrooms today, giving choice in summative assessment whenever possible. Nicky, if you ever stumble onto this blog post – thank you.
Upon reflection (an because the prompt this week has asked to explore a weakness), the one area I felt that perhaps could have made this class more congruent, as was the case with many of my university classes, was providing more information about the summative marking criteria. Often times, professors will provide a letter grade at the top of a paper with a few comments, but rarely would I see a specific criteria for where their determinations come from. I always found this frustrating, so I make it a point of dedicating class time to review my rubric criteria with students, provide time to ask questions, and opportunity for students to provide self-assessment prior to my marking.
One other area of incongruence that I found frustrating as a student was the (often unnecessary) disappointment I felt when I didn’t receive an “A.” (In hindsight now, they seems so unimportant now.) In response, one area that I’m starting to explore is Shelley Moore’s learning maps for creating meaningful rubrics. As opposed to an letter grade focus, her rubrics work backwards starting at the point of accessibility to which “all” students will meet by the end of the lesson and spans with increasingly more challenging levels of understand that students can choose to meet. That way, I find that students as less focused on being disappointed by a “B” and rather eager to push their learning to as high a level they feel comfortable while taking pride in how far they have come.
Image credit: https://pixabay.com/photos/books-literature-read-worn-paper-3482286/