So, I have been THINKING…

“Learning is a consequence of thinking.”

–Mark Church

Something that really resonated with me last week in our sessions with Mark Church was his push for each of us to define what thinking looked like in our daily lives and in our classrooms.  How do we know we are thinking?  How do we know when to employ different thinking skills?  What type of thinking are we asking our students to do on a regular basis, and how do we know they are actually being successful?

He put forth a challenge in one of his sessions about using the word thinking in our classrooms.  Just imagine if we put a ban, yes a ban, on that word for a while.  Instead of asking our students to think for a minute, let’s ask them instead to draw connections, describe what they see, or build an explanation.  I wonder about the power of naming the type of thinking we are asking them to do. Will our students start to identify the different ways in which they think?  Will they develop the capacity to use those skills on their own?

To truly understand, students need to be able to express their thinking in many different ways.  This Understanding Map (© Project Zero) is designed to help clarify the types of thinking we ask our students to do in our lessons to foster a deep understanding.

Understanding map (2)A second challenge from Mark Church was to put our “tasks/lessons to task”.  Using the map above, what are the types of thinking you are asking your students to do when they:

  • listen to a story
  • watch a movie
  • write a reflection
  • design a model
  • solve a problem
  • turn and talk
  • etc, etc, etc…

When we examine our lessons more closely, is there a way for us to provide more opportunities and time for thinking in our classrooms?

If we are purposeful in building specific thinking opportunities into our lessons, our students will surely gain a deeper understanding of the curriculum.  “Learning is a consequence of thinking”.


Clarifying the Complexity of Assessments

In the middle school’s PD this week, there was a focus on Formative Assessments.                  A topic that is very applicable beyond the middle school.

Assessment is Complex 

The term assessment is used to describe a multitude of learning activities.  As teachers, we assess our students in many different ways each day.  These include assessments such as: exit tickets, drafts of reports, discussions, and final learning assessments. These assessments are common because they are all designed to give feedback on student learning. However, the specific purposes for the assessments and the feedback provided on the assessments are varied.  Because of these variations, assessment is complex.

To help clarify the complexity of assessments, we designed this model with the intent that it would assist in identifying the types and purposes of assessments, and in turn, provide a common structure for understanding the complexities of assessment.  We see this model as a potentially useful tool for facilitating conversations around assessments with your colleagues and your students.

Tiers of Standard-Based Assessment System

I found this article by Rick Stiggins, Assessment for Learning: An Essential Foundation of Productive Instruction, to be extremely valuable for bringing further clarity to the complexities of assessment.  The focus of this piece is on the construction of quality assessments.  Here is quick snapshot from the chapter:

The Keys of Assessment Quality

  • “Start with a clear purpose for assessment–a sense of why you are assessing and for which standard.
  • Include a clear learning target–a vision of what you need to assess in relation to your standards.
  • Design an assessment that accurately reflects the targeted standard and satisfies the purpose.
  • Communicate results effectively to the intended user(s).”

(The excerpt above was adapted from the Rick Stiggins chapter mentioned above.)