Recently, my district made a commitment to helping its teachers reflect and rethink their grading and assessment practices. One of the phrases I kept hearing throughout our staff professional development sessions was authentic assessment. I understood (and agreed with) the basic premise—create more opportunities for students to perform tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills. Doing so involves going beyond, or even potentially replacing, traditional summative assessments at the end of each unit.
I took a tip from the elementary school teachers and created literacy stations to help increase the amount of reading and writing in my classroom. Literacy centers support students by arming them with the tools to utilize when examining text documents, charts, graphs, pictures etc. to take the content and make it comprehensible. Here I will provide examples of literacy centers I utilize in my classroom.
Say the words standardized test to most educators and you will likely notice a minor gag reflex. While I completely sympathize with this reaction given the frequently labeled testing culture that’s been far too often forced upon us within the past 15 years, I think it is appropriate to take a step back and recognize the meaningful role a standardized test can have on our curriculum and instruction. After a recent experience using an exam from the ACS Division of Chemical Education Examinations Institute1, I was able to recognize that meaningful role. So, the purpose of this article is to provide useful information for anyone interested in the exam implementation process.
The answer may be in the anecdotal evidence. The conversations between students were mini debates. “Are you sure this is correct?” “How do you know?” “What about this other data?” “Should we label that number?” “What about the energy of the particles during a phase change?” And on, and on, and on….They were having discussions between themselves that I would not have been able to elicit as a teacher.
My students are bright and motivated. Most work hard and prepare for class and tests. They perform extremely well on district-wide tests and my own classroom tests. However, I see real weaknesses on cumulative assessments requiring high levels of application. My students simply do not retain the content knowledge. I want to restructure my course to exclude "unit tests" and include only cumulative assessments. I'll share my early ideas here, and I would love to hear your experiences.
What do you do when you don’t have any local or affordable opportunities for professional development?
An educational reform that has been gaining a large amount of popularity in the last decade is standards-based grading (SBG). The heart of the SBG movement is truly rooted in one very important question, “what do you want your grades mean?”
Think it’s possible to get nostalgic over paperwork? I just did, spurred by editor-in-chief Norb Pienta’s editorial Thinking about Champions in the December 2015 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education.
“So what corners of the periodic table do I have to memorize in order to get an A on the trends quiz?” This was a question that was asked by one of my students at the beginning of our periodicity unit. For countless educators we teach chemistry because we have a passion for trying to understand the world from an atomic level. However many of our students have extrinsic motivators which result in attempts to find shortcuts to recall the material. If we want to avoid responses like the one stated above we have to identify if we are asking thorough questions when assessing our students.
As I write this, it is the day before the national AP Chemistry exam. We’ve been working toward this day since August. We’ve endured late hours, broken crucibles, anxiety, and tears. I’ve run weekend and evening review sessions, we’ve ta