Who do we learn more from, the COACH or the JUDGE?

April 23, 2014

Last week I had the opportunity to work with Damian Cooper, author of Redefining Fair: How to Plan, Assess and Grade for Excellence in Mixed-Ability Classroom.

It is interesting how my professional practice has changed from being a young teacher in the 1990s wondering why we were starting to talk about “assessment” at all, to my thinking now where I look at Assessment FOR Learning and Assessment AS Learning as being the most critical thing we can do to improve and enhance student learning.

Damian had us consider consider “Five Imperatives” that should guide teachers’ work:

  1. Curriculum must be meaningful, coherent and relevant
  2. Instruction must be responsive to students’ needs
  3. Assessment must be informative
  4. Grading must blend consistency with professional judgment
  5. Communication about learning must be truthful and transparent


One comment that really stuck out that he shared was:

If our assessment practices do not demand THINKING on the part of students, they are probably a waste of time…


He went on to explain by asking this phenomenal question:

“Who do kids learn more from, the COACH or the JUDGE?”


To me, this was a 10.0 comment! Is it the number at the end that the judge gives me on my performance that I learned from? Or, if thinking about professional sports players, is it the hours of video watched and critiqued, the work with the coach to improve, the formative feedback from coaches and teammates, the intent to improve their abilities and skills, and the discussions before, during, and after the practice or game that make all the difference? Or the score in the end? Without the other stuff, the score will not be affected…

Seems like a pretty easy question, but we need to make sure that we are utilizing this thinking with all of our students.

So, how can we support each other in this work? We, as teachers, need to take the time to talk about assessment and how it looks daily in our classrooms. I can help by ensuring that time and structures are in place to enable teachers to:

  • Collaborate with colleagues to agree upon essential learning
  • Collaborate with colleagues to agree upon the assessment tasks students must produce as evidence of essential learning
  • Communicate clearly to students what comprises critical evidence of essential learning
  • Collaborate to come to an understanding that this work is a major part of learning, and not just an add-on!

After all, this reflective thinking is the whole point in why I create this blog!

As an administrator, I need to ask myself some questions that have come out of this thinking:

  • “Who do TEACHERS learn more from, the COACH or the JUDGE?”
  • How can we be (learning) coaches, not judges (or just “principals”) for our teachers?
  • If we expect kids to get it wrong the first time… What about us as professionals? Do we encourage and support each other when we do make mistakes?
  • Is this work optional for teachers? Is it part of our teams? Our PLCs? Our own Professional Practice?

Easy questions to ask, harder to implement, but at least we are on the journey!

Damian Cooper can be found at @cooperd1954 on Twitter and more about him can be found at http://damiancooperassessment.com.


Reporting on Student Learning

October 30, 2013

It is interesting watching the news as there has been a lot in the digital world on some comments that teaching is a job like parenting, and that anyone can do it. I would say that effective teaching (and effective parenting) is another story… Parenting is not easy! Good educating is technically sophisticated and difficult, requires high levels of education and long periods of training, is developed through continuous improvement, involves wise judgment informed by evidence and experience, and is a collective accomplishment and responsibility among all of our stakeholders, including teachers, students, parents, and our community.

Reporting on our students’ learning is a big part of that work. I love my own children and know them well as a dad, but I am not there to see their performance and thinking while they are at school. I rely on our kids’ teachers to help me with that. There has been a lot of discussion around what excellent reporting of learning looks like, and I would say the biggest part of all of this is back to “relationships.”

The greater the relationships we try to create with parents, as teachers and principals, the greater the understanding of the successes and needs of their individual child. In order to provide parents with greater information and understanding about their child’s learning, as well as to provide more opportunities more often, Keeler school has developed the following reporting plan for the 2013-14 school year:

  1. Aug. 22 – Welcome Back Barbecue – our first chance to meet as a school community
  2. Sept. 19/20 – Meet the Teacher Conferences and Individual Program Plan Development – our first formal meeting with parents to develop learning plans and goals for individual students
  3. Dec. 5/6 – Parent Teacher Conferences and Individual Program Plan Reviews – an opportunity to meet with the teacher to examine your child’s growth and develop next steps
  4. Jan. 30 – Report Cards
  5. Mar. 20/21 – Student Led Conferences and Individual Program Plan Reviews – an opportunity to have your child “show off,” meet with the teacher to examine your child’s growth and develop next steps
  6. June 25 – Final Report Cards

This allows parents to be receiving information and providing input every couple of months. This formal reporting process would also be matched with informal reporting processes such as:

  • Notes in Students Agendas
  • Phone discussions with teachers
  • Letters to or from the teacher
  • Tracking and Monitoring Tools
  • Individual Program Plans (IPPs) for Students who are Coded
  • Iris – an online tool for students and teachers in creating Learning Plans and documenting student learning. We have just stared using this, so more information will be forthcoming.
  • Informal meetings before or after school
  • Formal meetings scheduled as needed

Knowing that we are all on the same team and trying to enhance the learning that our students are undertaking is the biggest part of helping our students be successful!

Work hard, learn tons!

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