The Reflective Educator

Education ∪ Math ∪ Technology

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Day: March 26, 2010

Moderating external projects

For the past three years, I’ve been an official IB Assistant Examiner.  This means that each May (or November, but I usually don’t sign up for the November sessions, too busy), I get sent a whole bunch of external exams or projects, and I have to grade the assignments.  The money isn’t great, it’s a huge amount of work, but I see it as really valuable.

I had just received yet another package this morning, which one of the administrative staff gave to me, so I felt obligated to explain to her about my role as an assistant examiner for the IB.  Her response was "Wow, that’s cool, it must really give you some perspective into your own students’ work."  

This really is true, I love being able to see what other schools do.  I can’t share it directly with my peers for confidentiality reasons, but certainly I share the principles behind how student work is arranged, and what the expectations are around the world.  I’ve now observed a few dozen different school’s work, which means that I have a few dozen perspectives on what it means to produce a student project.  The best part is, almost all of these projects are based on the same small set of projects, so I can actually control for type of project.

I highly recommend moderating other school’s work, the perspective you gain is totally worth it, even if the money is not.

Miscommunication through minutes

So had a minor incident happen today. I was taking minutes for our weekly meeting, trying desperately to keep up and summarizing as I went. One of the things I wrote was apparently too much of a summary, and missed the gist of what was trying to be said.  As a result, someone else got into trouble for something that they probably would not have, had they been able to keep track of what was said.  This happens as a result of the failure of the written word, especially the poorly written and quickly done written word, to actually capture what everyone means.  It also happens because as human beings we often mean to say something, or phrase something in a certain way, and oops, out comes something else.

Anyway, a solution we are going to try is to make the process of creating the minutes more open.  I’ll post a Google doc (that everyone can edit) and people can add their agenda items to the Google doc as the week progresses.  This way, we will all have control over what is published about our meeting, and as the week unfolds, people get updates and information on an ongoing basis, rather than in a short 20 minute meeting before a busy school day.  At the meeting itself, we may find that we are discussing issues more rather than giving brief summaries of things going on and trying to jam them into 30 second blurbs.

This process won’t replace the meetings we have, which I think are a great way to connect during the week, and reduce some of the teacher isolation that normally occurs.  I’m just hopeful it will help clear up misunderstandings, and oversimplification of complicated ideas that are conveyed in these meetings.

Collaborating for end of year assessments

This year we are collaborating at my school for our end of year assessments. Our objective is to create assessments which are somewhat open ended, while providing opportunities for the students to demonstrate that they understand, and can use, what they have learned this year. In my 9th grade class, it looks like we will be collaborating in Science, Math, and Design & Technology to produce an assessment. I’m pretty excited about it, it’s actually my first time doing a collaborative end of year assessment.  I can’t tell you what it is yet, don’t want to let the cat out of the bag for my class.  Every other school I’ve worked at the end of year assessment meant "Let’s give the students a final exam."

Although I’m still not convinced that these assessments are truly representative of everything the students have learned, I think they strike a much better balance between our need as educators to find out what the kids know, and the kids need to express themselves creatively.

Some sample assessments which could span multiple disciplines that could be used include:

  • Create an eco-friendly model for our new school and find the cost of this new building. Present your findings to your peers, critically analyzing the process you went through. (Math, Science, Design & Technology, English)
  • Determine if the water from the local lake is safe to drink. Present your findings to your peers. (Math, Science, English)

Please comment below if you have any other ideas as I am sure there are lots and lots of good ideas out there.