How making meaningful change is as easy at 1 Day, 2 Minutes & 3 Hours.
How long does it take to change a significant component of your classroom? I would argue that it is as easy as 1-2-3. You see just a day ago I participated in an earnest discussion in the principal’s office. This was a discussion about final exams (bah bah bahhhhh) and the relative weight of these exams as a percentage of students grades here at the high school. Now I know what some of you are thinking; “Exams are a relic of the past”, “Exams are poor assessment” and on the flip side “Exams prepare students for college” and “Exams are a measure of accountability”. My discussion, and larger question, is not the necessity of exams, that is a fact of my job as determined by my learning community and community expectations. My question is how best to use the “exam grade” (quotes are necessary as you will see) and the “exam” as a tool to play a useful role in my classroom. I believe this is a change that is as easy as 1-2-3.
Just a day ago I had an honest and frank educational conversation with my principal, a fellow teacher, and an academic liaison about exam percentages that grew into a discussion about the larger role of assessment in our learning community. This meant that four educators, and I intentionally include the non-classroom teachers as they are educators of the highest caliber, discussed, argued, agreed, disagreed, examined data, looked at student impact, and generally chewed on a tough education topic. Absolutely nothing was resolved into an action point or an entry into the “School Improvement Plan” but we all walked out of the office (except the principal…it was her office) with food for thought.
This morning I was walking into the building thinking about nothing in particular when it hit me; “Exam”! If I want quality assessment that is summative I need more than 90 minutes. If I want quality assessment it must be more than little bubbles. If I want quality assessment I need to change my thinking about exams before students can change their thinking. I believe the word you are looking for is “Duh”.
This epiphany is not really new, since I reorganized my classroom around flipped learning a few years back I have been learning and growing as an educator and assessment has been one of the areas that has seen big changes in my classroom, just not the final exam. Within the span of 2 minutes ideas that had been rolling around in my head for a while merged with the conversation I was a part of a day ago and I had the outline of a new “exam” plan for my classroom. 2 minutes! That is really all the measured time it took to begin a major adjustment in my classroom.
So I had a good idea, but ideas are like…well we all know what good ideas are like…we all have them, it was time to build something. Another change in our learning community is the expiration of our online textbooks for students, and for a variety of reasons those online texts are not being renewed. As a math teacher, skill practice is still an important part of learning, and student access is one of my major concerns. To address this concern, my colleagues and I have found a variety of online resources that are either free or more economically palatable to the district that we are implementing as student practice. My plan today is to use these resources to create one component of the summative “Exam” allowing students to do and redo this section of the exam until they have mastered the content. I will set restrictions of where and when this component must be accomplished to ensure that it is the student’s performance that is being measured, but that is the ongoing tug of war in which all teachers are engaged.
Another component of the “exam” will be a student creation portion in which they will choose from a selection of summative topics. The students will then create an exam question for themselves that meets a variety of criteria for breath and depth of knowledge while providing the accompanying work and answer to their exam question. This is a process I use as part of assessment throughout the year and will be scored using a student conference with me.
Finally, there will be a multiple choice component given on exam day to meet community expectations but it will focus far more on only the most key elements of recall and analysis students must have to meet the goals of the course and be successful in the next course. This portion will be shorter, more focused, and only a portion of the overall score.
Implementation is the hardest and strangely longest component of the change. I have allotted it 3 hours, but as every teacher knows this number is highly variable, but it fits the 1-2-3 title well. However, as every teacher is also aware, once we have an idea and a solid plan, the actual building of a tool or supporting documents for a change is no longer a chore, but a productive and enjoyable part of improving learning for kids.
1 day, 2 minutes, & 3 hours
1-2-3 that is really all it takes to make a major adjustment to your classroom. 1 day of subconsciously mulling a meaningful conversion. 2 minutes of exploration when an important realization bubbles to the surface. 3 hours, or so, of implementation, creation, and revision of the idea into a workable process. Change is only hard when we resist it. Change can be effective and even enjoyable when we are active participants in its direction. Most importantly change can be good if it is effective for improved learning and student success.
Matthew is the author of the book DIBs: Using Digital Instruction Blocks, available on Amazon.com. He is also a board member for the Flipped Learning Network and a Co-founder of the Illinois Flipped & Blended Learning Network. Matthew is a mathematics teacher with seventeen years of experience at the high school level and has also served as an adjunct instructor at the local community college for the since 2004. He can be followed at @matthew_t_moore and maintains a web site at matthewtmoore.wordpress.com.