Assessment, Critical thinking, Differentiation, Growth mentality, Learning Maps, Personalized Learning, Self-Regulated Learning, writing

Getting down to specifics: How I’m connecting learning maps with day to day writing assessment.

As I’ve been documenting on this blog, I spent 7 weeks of my summer completing the first two of 10 courses towards earning an MEd degree from Queen’s University. One of those courses, PME 800 or Self-Regulated Inquiry and Learning, required me to complete an inquiry project and to learn how self-regulated learning facilitates and supports inquiry. I chose to revisit my previous work around learning maps, which proved to be a fascinating look at how I had already used self-regulation and how knowledge of the process could improve both my current and future use of inquiry.

I began by revising my French 8 learning map, and have now also revised my French 10 and 11 learning maps. Those are the courses I will be teaching in the first semester of this school year, so they were my priority.

Because I’m viewing learning maps as a way of expressing distal goals, or things that students will progressively work towards as they go through a course, I focused on how to connect my learning maps with my formative assessment and the tools I use to provide daily feedback on the learning tasks throughout the course. These will be the communication pieces that help students to know if they are on the right track or not.

In a second language class, learning is expressed through four basic modalities: speaking, listening/viewing, reading, and writing. Now that I have my learning maps completed, I am working on aligning the criteria I use for assessing work in each of those areas with the learning map. I’m looking at my writing rubric as an example for this blog post.

Here is my old writing rubric (see Google doc version here for a closer look):

Holistic writing rubric with revision criteria

I tend to use one rubric for a wide range of tasks using a particular modality, so that students get used to seeing it and using it, and can measure growth as they go through a course. This prevents me and my students from getting caught in what is sometimes described as “rubric hell”, where rubrics become so task specific that a new one is needed for every assignment. Keeping things general enough that rubrics can be used at a range of grade levels means that the only change I need to make as a teacher is to be aware of the content, verb tenses, grammatical structures, vocabulary, and idiom I should see at each level.

I’ve used this one to assess four elements of student writing: message or information, vocabulary or idiom, language (meaning grammar and sentence structures), and revision. The first three categories came from an old rubric that was used my many French teachers in my district back when we had provincial exams, but are still current enough to be used with BC’s revised curriculum. Grammar is often a student’s focus as they are writing, and sometimes teachers focus on it in assessment, but in written communication it’s important to remember there are other components that are equally important. Assessing this way also gives students an opportunity to use their cross-curricular competencies, because the message being conveyed and the vocabulary used to communicate it are components of many different subject areas. Setting students up to approach a task from a strength-based perspective helps to maintain motivation levels, and gives a broader perspective on what communication is.

I often use the revision category as a self-assessment, but I added it some time ago to help develop student awareness of their own writing ability and to help eliminate the use of translators. If a student has used a translator, they will not be able to revise their work effectively because they didn’t make the choices that led to its creation.

Given my new understanding of learning maps and formative assessment, I decided that my rubric needed a thorough overhaul, for several reasons.

  • The language of assessment needs to connect directly to the learning map, and this rubric doesn’t make that connection.
  • It’s written using a lot of “teacher language”, and doesn’t contain wording that students can use to understand how to improve their work over time.
  • The layout of the page places heavy emphasis on the marks (listed down the left hand side) and not enough emphasis on the skills needed to get there.
  • Much of the description of the writing and revision process is too general and could relate to any subject. While it’s important for students to be able to use skills they have developed in other subject areas to show their learning in a second language, there are some unique features of second language writing that need to be reflected in assessment and the skill growth that should come from it.

Here’s what I came up with in my newly revised rubric (view a PDF version here):

This version changes the orientation so that the elements of writing being assessed are down the left-hand side, and the proficiency descriptions run left to right. The language is much more specific and connects to the learning maps I’m using in each grade. The proficiency descriptions are structured so that students can look at them and have a strong idea of how to improve their work, which allows me to then take this detailed version of my rubric and translate it to this single point rubric, which I’ll be using as formative assessment:

Single Point Rubric – Writing

Students will fill this out based on the detailed rubric above. I have not included the revision category here, because revision will be done after a student has self-evaluated their draft using the information shown here. They begin on the left by focusing on their strengths. Identifying what is going well will allow them to begin their revisions from a place of capacity rather than deficit, and using self-regulated learning theory, should increase their motivation. The writing competencies in the second column are copied from the detailed writing rubric, using the “extending” level of proficiency. Not all students will be here, but it is a goal and relevant portions can be highlighted. In the third column, students will self-identify where they feel their writing is currently for that category, and in the fourth column, they will write specific lists of things they will improve. Once completed, the single point rubric can be used for self-reflection, peer conversation, or a writing conference with the teacher, and is intended to guide revision.

In a previous blog post, I identified ways in which single point rubrics can meet all the criteria of good formative assessment. Because of this, I will be using them frequently and incorporating them into my speaking and writing assessments in particular. The process will look like this:

  1. Students complete a piece of writing.
  2. Students self-assess using the single-point rubric.
  3. Students may also complete a reflection, peer conference, or teacher conference.
  4. Students revise their work based on steps identified in the single-point rubric.
  5. Before handing in the final written piece, students will self-assess their revision from the detailed version of the rubric.
  6. Students hand in their final work and the teacher assesses it using the detailed rubric.
  7. After students have received feedback on 2-3 written tasks, they will go back to the learning map and reflect on their progress, checking in with those distal goals and planning for how to get there.
  8. The best examples of written work from a range of contexts and genres will go into a portfolio of student work, and at the end of the course, the learning map is used to look at those pieces as well as progress and participation through the course in generating the final assessment.

“black white negative” by foundin_a_attic is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

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