Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Professional Learning Community

16th November 2010
Reflection 9

Many of us take professional development seriously as we recognise the to stay current and relevant in terms of content mastery, teaching pedagogy, and assessment. This importance is also reflected in our Work Review Document and so we find ourselves attending workshops, seminars, conferences etc. to ensure that we maximise the number of training hours. We have been moving in the right direction but it is time to add more vigour to these initiatives by moving away from teacher emphasis to one that involves the school, teachers and pupils. Hence, the origin of Professional Learning Community by Richard Dufor.

So what is a PLC? A PLC is one where teachers work collaboratively in teams to achieve high levels of student learning and positive student outcomes which are aligned to school goals. Teams meet regularly and work interdependently to bring about positive change in student learning. Teachers adopt different tools to embark on this learning journey such as Action Research, Lesson Study, Learning Circles. Teachers collaborate in areas such as refining and redesigning lesson plans and materials as well as enhance teaching strategies and assessment practices. It is an ongoing cycle of reflection that promotes deep team learning through shared experience.

For a PLC to take off, we should start by considering what The 3 Big Ideas are:

a. Ensuring Students Learn
b. Building a Culture of Collaboration
c. Focusing on Student Outcomes
And we should ask ourselves the 4 Critical Questions, namely:
a) What is it we expect our pupils to learn?
b) How will we know that the pupils have learnt?
c) How will we respond if the pupils have not learnt?
d) How will we respond if the pupils already know what is to be learn?
Dr Yeap then discussed the use of Lesson study as a tool. He highlighted the need to formulate Research Themes so that we can bridge the gap between the ideal situation and the current reality.
An example of a research theme in a Lesson Study is: To engage pupils in the learning of Mathematics; To help pupils develop reasoning and communication skills.
After a rich discussion about PLC, we moved on to the hands-on session, where we were required to find the sum of the interior angles of a polygon giving the cut-outs of some polygons. Some of us remember learning this in schools many years ago and were trying to recall the formulae.
Other used the knowledge of the sum of the interior angles of a triangle to arrive at the answer which was 720 degrees (6 sided polygon) We then explored the ways to get this answer and incidentally came to this: ( n-2) x 180 Through effective questioning, we made us conscious of our meta cognitive processes.
Dr Yeap used this lesson to demonstrate how it encapsulated the principles of PETALS. The important factor to bear in mind is the crafting of the anchor problem. The nature of the problem should be open-ended and we could see the interplay of all the principles. I always enjoy the way Dr Yeap concludes the lesson by tying up all the fragments of the lesson neatly into a package. It is a simply a delight.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Authentic Performance Task

9th November 2010
Reflection 8

Initiatives in Assessment

In view of the changes recommended in the PERI Report, it is important to provide a foundation upon which pupils can build future knowledge and skills. For this to materialise, we have to consider the holistic assessment of the child and provide support in keys areas of his learning. Unlike formal assessments which can be intimidating to our young learners, performance assessments could be introduced to our pupils to build their confidence and shape their attitude towards learning.
So WHAT IS Performance assessment? Performance assessment or authentic assessment, is a form of testing that requires students to perform a task rather than select an answer from a ready-made list. Through the task, we can systematically document what the children know and can do based on the activities they engage in. through the use of rubrics. This is very useful as it provides feedback for the teacher in terms of improving instruction, and allows the teacher to plan a comprehensive, and developmentally oriented curriculum based on their knowledge of each child.
Performance assessment can take the form of developmental checklists, portfolios, and summary reports. Ongoing checklists allow the teachers to keep track of children's progress towards widely accepted curriculum goals. The use of portfolios enable us to see the differences in the quality of one child's work over time which might be hidden, and children's ability to take an active role in evaluating their own work ignored. And a summary report is a comprehensive report that provides a holistic report of the child’s capability. With this teachers would be in a better position to provide valuable, and in-depth information to parents, both in terms of quantitative and qualitative feedback.
Having established the context for the tutorial, we were given an authentic task. We were provided with some resources and asked to measure the height of a column on level 1. ( a very tall column! )
Some of the methods employed were:
1) Using direct measurement
2) Multiplying the height of I step by the number of steps
3) Estimating the height using one tile as a base
4) Using the trundle scale to measure the length of the shadow
5) Using the concept of ratio

We discussed the various strategies taken and examined the reliability and accuracy of the data collected. Throughout the session, we were constantly reflecting on our metacognitive process.

This is a good example to show how a teacher can assess the pupils’ understanding of concepts through observation, and allowing the pupils to articulate their strategies and documenting it in the form of rubrics or checklists. We watched a video of a Maths lesson conducted in Thailand. The pupils were asked to show the concept of addition ( 5 + 6 ) provided in a story context. The pupils showed various ways as to how it can be done. The teacher can then assess the pupils level of understanding based on the presentation of their answers.

Where international assessment such as TIMMS and PISA are concerned, the emphasis of assessment is on mathematical literacy. Questions are modelled after real authentic situations and pupils are tested on the reasoning ability. Hence it is pertinent to provide our pupils with various opportunities to experience Maths in the real world.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Can We Run Away From Assessment?

Reflection 7
26th October 2010

We started the lesson by brainstorming on ideas related to assessment and Dr Yeap skilfully mapped them out into a concept map to represent the big picture. This led to framing the definition of assessment as an on-going process of gathering, analysing and reflecting on data collected to make informed and consistent judgement to improve student learning. To put this in perspective, we need to understand the rationale for assessment. Is it for formative evaluation, authentic evaluation or summative evaluation. And based on these purposes, different testing instruments are used to validate the data so that a certain degree of reliability is achieved. Hence, assessment is a critical stage in the continuum of teaching and learning as we have to analyse the performance of the students, the validity of the test questions, identify the misconceptions
students surfaced in the test, see if it is aligned to learning outcomes and reflect on our teaching practice.

Assessment itself can be categorised as assessment for learning, assessment of learning and assessment as learning. Asessment as learning is very important as we want to encourage our pupils to become self-directed learners. Students are required to reflect on and monitor their own progress to develop and sharpen their intellectual competencies.

To give us a better understanding of how assessment can be crafted into an activity, Dr Yeap made us form quadrilaterals of 5 sq units on the geoboard. From this activity, we discovered certain things about the way we processed information. Certain strategies came naturally like combining triangles to form squares and decomposition while other strategies surfaced with a bit of scaffolding. Effective questioning techniques can also be used as a tool to assess students’ learning. This is an effective way to gauge what kind of direct teaching is required to bring the students to a higher level of learning. Creativity is also encouraged and a culture of success should be promoted so that all pupils can achieve based by building on their previous learning. To reiterate his points, Dr Yeap highlighted an exercise on subtraction from My Pals Are Here Workbook. I shared this with my colleague who is teaching a high ability class and she was amazed. It is important that as teachers we recognise the need to help children see beyond the obvious.

The most essential take away of the lesson is providing feedback to pupils and parents with regards to problem-solving. Newman’s six step strategy is very helpful in error analysis.
1. Pupils cannot read
2. Pupils cannot comprehend
3. Pupils lack knowledge of heuristics
4. Pupils unable to transform the story into a mathematical strategy
5. Pupils encounter error in computation
6. Pupils do not fit the computation into the solution

Wow! Truly another power-packed tutorial. This is only part 1 of Assessment. We’ll unravel more theories and concepts in a fortnight’s time.