Shifting Mindsets Through Assessments: A Two-Part Dialogue
A TLH podcast project by: Carolina Julian, Jessica Nicoll, Luis Feliciano, and Theodore Kesler
As a group, we were curious about shifting assessment practices in our classrooms. Whether in psychology, math, early childhood education, or dance courses, we aligned in our goal to encourage students to take ownership of the learning. To this aim, we focused our energies into creating classrooms that foster deep listening, observation, responsiveness to our students, culturally-responsive teaching practices, self-evaluation opportunities, and co-construction of course content. We learned more about what each individual brought into the classroom–from names, to lived experiences, and areas of curiosity–and emphasized the need for our students to learn from one another and build a dialogic community through practical, active approaches. We also consciously structured our courses to include student leadership opportunities, through which students developed their capacities to ask “who has the power?”, and to take greater responsibility for their learning.
We chose a podcast as the best way to represent both our voices as instructors and our students’ voices as participants. Our first podcast episode delves into the underlying motivators for changing our practice, the conditions that allowed us to produce change, and the strategies we implemented to reconceptualize assessment. Some insights include: implementing a spiraling curriculum that enables us to return to key concepts with a deeper dive in our understandings; using methods of the “flipped classroom” for students explore content in accessible ways for homework, which opens class sessions for more exploration and workshop structures; and engaging students in co-constructing criteria to self-evaluate their performance and raise their awareness of their learning process. In our second podcast session, we feature our students as “critical witnesses.” They addressed two inquiry questions: 1. What has been their experience as a student in our courses? and 2. What have they learned about themselves from the assessment processes utilized in our classes? Our students’ testimonies also gave us important insights. They spoke of being more engaged in their learning and motivated to pursue their interests. Not all of them approached this shift in learning easily. Some of our students were so used to education as something that is imposed and done to them that they were more comfortable with a passive stance of “just tell me how I’m doing so I know what grade I deserve.” Active learning takes effort and commitment. Ultimately, as they engaged with our course expectations, they all expressed much deeper understandings of course material and bigger impacts as lifelong learners.
On Tuesday, September 14th, we held virtual TLH Open Office Hours with the Mellon TLH Faculty Fellows. We had 11 participants, who shared their experiences with grading and ungrading (alternative forms of assessment).
Some of the challenges discussed included the tedium of grading in Blackboard; helping students understand how scaffolding works (and that missed assignments can snowball into weaker bigger-stakes assignments); guiding student decisions in co-created assessments; and, more generally, increasing student engagement and self-motivation.
Faculty also shared useful tips and strategies, such as:
talking students through HOW and WHY a given type of assessment or type of assignment works can help them understand the mechanics and gain a grasp of how syllabi and even institutions function–learn the unspoken rules and how to navigate them, an especially important skill for those who feel underprepared for college;
using group work (and peer review) to help extroverted students manage their speaking-time and help shier students open up (e.g., put all of the “extroverts” in one group and all the “introverts” in a different group);
asking students to set goals and learning outcomes for themselves at the beginning of the semester and, later, asking them to self-assess how close they came to achieving those goals (individual and/or collective) by the end of the semester;
making connections between the course content and students lives (e.g., ask students what they are most curious about).
I also presented a brief slide deck with some examples of ungrading, which you can view here.
Mellon TLH Faculty Fellow Michael L. J. Greer kindly shared some further resources with me after the workshop:
If you’d like to dive in further this semester, there is an #Ungrading Edcamp happening this November 4-6, 2021 (registration is free and the agenda will be informed by what participants are most interested in, so sign up and add your thoughts here).
A key component of our grant is that faculty will include their current students in the active learning process. CUNY faculty this Spring 2021 term are doing exactly that. This semester TLH is co-sponsoring over 60 events that are free, remotely accessible, and open to the public. These events are organized by CUNY faculty and students from across all of CUNY’s campuses as part of TLH’s active and participatory learning series. RSVP today for February events! Check our website as we continue to post more upcoming events to look forward to in March, April, and May.
All of these events are remotely accessible, free, and open to the public. Continue reading →