Voice, Choice, Revision, and Redemption
By Chief Technology Officer, Jamie Lewsadder
Dr. Denise Pope, in her book, Overloaded and Underprepared, advocates for “voice, choice, revision, and redemption” when making instructional decisions for students (97). Applying these big ideas to assessment can help shift the student mindset about focusing on grades over learning. The chapter entitled “Authentic and Alternative Assessments” offers some simple suggestions on implementation and I’ve learned some clever and empowering ways to use technology to support this work as well. This article serves to offer highlights from the case studies in that chapter along with my experiences, observations, and research.
Voice and Choice
Choice motivates students. So much of their world is scheduled and includes requirements. If we can build in ways to promote choice, they will feel more empowered to engage in the learning process. Offering choice in the assessment process can be in differentiating the product. This list of ideas is based on Bloom’s Taxonomy, despite being nearly ten years old, offers very concrete ways to use tech to offer student choice in demonstrating learning. For example, focusing on the “create and understanding” levels of the taxonomy, I used the concept of Iron Chef to have students create an end of the quarter project where content was prescriptive and the final product varied. I could assess both the standards and content taught as the students creatively showcased their learning in unique ways.
Concluding the project with a critique of the experience is a way I could have increased the student voice aspect or even in the project planning. Imagine if I consulted with the students before creating the guidelines and having them help construct the requirements and rubric. The level of buy-in and empowerment would have completely changed.
One school highlighted in Dr. Pope’s book discusses a strategy called “Show What You Know” as an alternative to the extra credit questions on quizzes and exams. As a teacher, I loved writing the obscure extra credit question to see who really listened to the random fact about the book we were reading. The show what you know approach would actually tell me more information about the students. On the exam, there is a box where students can include any problem, fact, equation, or piece of knowledge not covered on the test, but that shows something they learned during that unit or experience. The benefits of voice and choice are present in this assessment idea.
Revision and Redemption
In mid-October, I attended a workshop at Stanford’s D School on Design Thinking with our 7/8 History teachers. A major component of the workshop was on iteration, brainstorming, and revision, then testing a design and revising again. We see this process all around us. The technology world is a constant update. TVs have updates. Phones get updates. Candy Crush gets updates. As adults, we study problems, improve, and revise daily. There is a growing interest now to have our students experience that same cycle with assessments. Consider the message single chance assessments send outside of our end of unit exams or finals. The learning is over. Mistakes were made. We have to move on.
Easy ways to encourage revision and learning from errors include allowing for test corrections to regain lost points or giving written feedback and opportunities to revise writing. I suggest targeted and differentiated writing revision options. If a student struggles with a thesis statement, that is the allowed revision. If the trouble was connecting evidence to the argumentative claim, that is the allowed revision.
With Google Classroom and Docs, opportunities for written feedback encouraging revision comes naturally in those tools. In the image below I’m giving feedback to students (right side) while they are working on the document. In real time, they received notes asking clarifying questions or notes of validation. This allowed for revision before leaving class and misconceptions to be clarified when necessary.
My final strategy to share was one that I tried with my students and really infuriated them. I would grade essays and not write the grade down on the papers I returned. Then I’d make them do the revision without knowing the score. This dramatically refocuses the revision experience. It moves from raising the grade to improving writing. Today I would add a twist by having the students self-assess with the rubric and score themselves with the help of my written feedback, then revise and also submit the grade they believe they achieved. This can also be accomplished with a portfolio experience. Our students are so trained to seek the score of their work and not what learning needs to still occur. This mindset shift does not happen overnight, and then not for every student. Revisions and redemptions in assessments can change culture.
The margin of the chapter where I found Dr. Pope’s quote in contained my scribbled note, “eliminate the single chance experience” and I reflected that there aren’t many experiences outside of high school that are one shot, no do-over, type experiences (97). Of course, they exist. But not at the rate a student may experience them. And consider the message sent when revisions can happen. Aim higher, keep learning, reach for your goals. Or even more powerful, learn from your mistakes.
“Collaborate, iterate, and improve” is what we do in our jobs when we set high expectations for ourselves (Pope 97). The way we assess student work should support this mindset. The work we are engaging in with Challenge Success is helping us have conversations about homework, wellness, instruction, and assessment among others. The underlying truth is we are seeking a shift in mindset. We need to start asking questions about the way we’ve always done things and value what works while adding more opportunities for voice, choice, revision, and redemption for all learners.