What does innovation look like in my classroom?

The first ever Jean Augustine SS Blog Hop challenge is to write a (very short!) blog that answers, “What does innovation look like in my classroom?”

Innovation is a term often used interchangeably with technology. Innovation in the sense of the SAIL philosophy at JASS, however, is more about finding creative solutions to meet new requirements. Synonyms of innovation might be more appropriate: change, alteration, revolution, transformation.

Innovation in my English classroom, then, is about providing students with the opportunity to apply the skills they learn- about intended audience and purpose, about generating and researching ideas, about organizing and expressing ideas- and applying them in a context that is for a broader audience and for a greater purpose.

For example, students in ENG 2D (Grade 10 Academic) are required to take their learning related to our essential question (“Is all service ultimately selfish?”) and, for their Final Evaluation, develop a cohesive call to action regarding a social innovation issue, such as ending poverty in FNMI youth, using products from Reading, Writing, Oral Communication and Media strands. Students had vlogs about addressing homophobia, social media profiles developed to discouragesubstance abuse, informational reports about unequal pay and podcasts about Islamophobia. They were advocating for change and feeling empowered to do this advocacy using the skills they learned in English.

In this way, English has become a platform for student voice and social change. In this way, my classroom is innovative.

Gradual Release of Responsibility for Students to Co-Construct Success Criteria

Opening a brand new secondary school is an exciting and exhausting challenge that I am privileged enough to be embarking on for a second time. The first school I opened I was fresh out of the faculty and stepping into my first classroom. The second school I’m opening (we are brand new as of September 2016) I am now a department head.

My school is phenomenal and I am thrilled every day to be there. But as if opening a new school and building the vision isn’t enough, throw in an unfinished physical building (still…we are six months in!), me returning from five years outside of the classroom in a resource teacher and then instructional coaching capacity, and being in a building that actively pushes you to think and act outside of the box…and to fail forward when your cool idea fails miserably, well…blogging falls low on the list.

We practice essentialism and up until now, blogging wasn’t essential. But now I’m feeling the deep need to capture some of the things we are doing at my school before I even forget the process, the learning and the fun.

Check out Essentialism by Greg McKeown.

So I am jumping in with blogging about using the gradual release of responsibility to get to the point where my students (Grade 10 Academic English in this case) were teaching each other, co-constructing success criteria (and distinguishing criteria from task requirements) while I was simply observing, stepping in very rarely.

I’m going to worry less about a perfectly polished entry and more about getting the ideas out. So…

 

Focused Lesson

Early in the semester, as we took loads and loads of time to learn and build our understanding and get descriptive feedback and avoid, for the most part, any levels of any kind, I worked with my students to teach them about the curriculum, the Achievement Chart (our performance standards in Ontario), success criteria and task requirements. (This was all paired with our Overarching Learning Goals but that is about 10 more posts.)

An early attempt.

Guided Instruction

We co-constructed success criteria as a class, with me giving them time to think/pair/share, build ideas as groups, add ideas to the whiteboard, etc. I am the one who wrote the criteria on the board, or sorted them into categories, and I helped highlight gaps in their criteria or how to determine if something was a task requirement.

 

Collaborative Learning

I chose a couple of students over the course of several attempts, students who would not be the most outgoing or obvious choices, to lead the class in co-constructing criteria. I stepped in when necessary and we debriefed as a class about what was successful and what was not.

Student-led co-construction with support from the teacher but mostly collaborative.

Independent

By the time we reached the Media tasks, I had students divide into two groups of no more than 4 students. Each group was assigned either to become experts on vlogs or podcasts. We also discussed instructional strategies and they all agreed that they could not think of a time I spoke more than 15 minutes in a 75 minute period (except, perhaps, during our lesson on MLA formatting!). They planned their lesson and then I paired a vlog group with a podcast group. Each group was responsible for teaching about the product AND to lead the other group (their “students”) through a co-construction of success criteria.

Completely independent. I was just an observer.

Working together to co-construct criteria.

Results: They blew me away. They were on task; students were highly engaged and active in the teaching and the co-construction AND they were identifying success criteria, task requirements and gaps with me not having to say anything at all. I took copious observational notes and videos and photographs, but they were absolutely running the show. And the products they then constructed and submitted were amazing too!

I Taught High School Math- Twice- And I Liked It

NOTE: THIS BLOG ENTRY WAS WRITTEN ON APRIL 30, 2016 AND I FORGOT TO PUBLISH IT. ENJOY IT NOW!

One of the high schools I support is involved in a Ministry of Education initiative involving Grade 9 and 10 Applied Math students. I have been working with these teachers throughout this year as they attempted to use the high-yield strategy of reciprocal teaching. Part of this involved co-planning a lesson and then co-teaching the lesson.

While co-planning with the Grade 10 team it became quickly evident that the teachers were not confident in the strategies or sure of how it would work in reality. The students were at the end of a unit on linear relations and this lesson was going to be a chance to apply the unit worth of learning.  Because of their reluctance (which I totally understood) I was quick to volunteer myself to teach the first period (the Grade 1o Applied classes have three sections, period 2, period 3 and period 4 and I took period 2) and then have the other teachers in the group teach the other periods.

Now here is the thing. I did not have a positive experience with math in high school. I spent many years hating math, not understanding math and in general being anxious and lacking confident when it came to my math skills. I have been working hard, especially this year, to grow as a math learner and to have a growth mindset. But to teach math? High school math? I was a wee bit panicked. Even more so when I learned it was a linear relations consolidation and application lesson. I don’t think I ever truly understood y=mx+b and now I had to teach it?

Thanks to the support of the classroom teacher in the Grade 10 who walked me through the math concepts, and thanks to my own skills as a classroom teacher (because in reality, we teach kids, not subjects) the lesson went really well and I had a blast.

Fast forward to the Grade 9 Applied team. See, now I had confidence. I volunteered to use reciprocal teaching to do a review lesson on scatter plot graphs. I consulted with my own math gurus and then chose a Dan Meyer three-part lesson involving a melting candle. The lesson again went really well (despite the fact that this particular cast of characters was very high energy) and I felt elated (and relieved!) that I taught math…and survived!

Here is what I learned:

1. I teach students. This means that if I access all my skills with students, my understanding of the content can be secondary.

2. Math can be really fun to teach. But it is also really hard to teach. I struggled with one group of girls who absolutely could not grasp that negative y-intercepts were still on the y-axis. The Math teacher who sat with this group to observe complimented me on my attempts to help them understand (which was a relief since I was worried I was doing more damage than good!).

3. The best part of my job is working with other teachers. They were open and supportive of my teaching in their classes. I got to learn so much!

Hooray for Math teachers! Hooray for Math! What can I teach next? Hospitality? International Business? French? Oh my!

Should We Ban Erasers from Math Class?

Today I had the privilege of observing in two teachers’ classrooms, both of whom teach the same course, and then debrief my observations with them afterwards. This course is a Grade 11 University-bound Math course and the students were working on factoring, vertexes, standard form, parabolas and so on, all in the context of creating an Angry Birds level.

What struck me most in the experience, as I walked around and interacted with the groups (not being familiar with the students or the content), was the disconnect between the rich math talk that was happening and what they had written down.  As the students struggled through the task and worked together to try different approaches and solve the problem, they were quick to erase their mistakes and rewrite the “right” answer.

“Stop!” I cried after listening to a particularly rich discussion that had three out of four students promptly erase their first run through the problem. “Leave your mistakes in! Just cross them out! Then Ms. R can see your thinking.”

student work mistake

The students all thought I was strange but I couldn’t stop myself from trying to protect the precious evidence of their learning. Though I was circulating through the room and I was capturing little pieces of their thinking on my iPhone using voice recording and photographs, I knew that the teacher (who was also circulating) had missed this great example of collaboration. She would never have know, looking at the end result, where the errors were made and how they moved forward with a new plan.

Then I started noticing it more and more. All the students were erasing their thinking by worrying about their paper showing only the “right” answer or approach. The example in the photograph above was only captured because he forgot his eraser- I wish I was kidding.

When I talked about it with the two teachers they agreed that they could emphasize the power of mistakes and that they were going to encourage kids to leave their “mistakes” as evidence of their thinking. As the one teacher said “I might assume if your answer looks perfect that you just copied it from someone else since real thinking is messy.” They both said that though they tell their students they value mistakes, the kids don’t seem to take it seriously. The one teacher even said “We should really be giving them more space to write their answers on the test so I can see all the thinking they do to get to the answer.”

So here is my rallying cry- let’s ban erasers (and white out) from the math classroom. Specifically let’s look for those crossed out answers so we can see where the thinking began and where it ended. Making student thinking visible is helpful not only for us as teachers but for students to see how they got to an answer so they have strategies and tools to use the next time they are encountering a problem.

The Assessment Journey: Excitement

This is the last post in my series of posts about The Assessment Journey, my thoughts on my experiences (as well as the experiences of some of my peers) related to the journey that individuals, groups or schools take when learning and growing around assessment and evaluation.

To revisit the other entries about the journey, click on the links below.

This entry is about the final stage. That in itself is misleading, however, as the assessment journey is never really done. I certainly find I float back and forth between curiosity, risk-taking and excitement as my own learning happens.

assessment nerds unite

When individuals or groups have hit this step in the assessment journey you see a lot of evidence of assessment in the classroom or in the workrooms. This includes stacks of books on a teacher’s desk, posted copies of assessment tools in the classroom and a willingness to engage in positive, enthusiastic discussion about assessment. You hear a lot of open discussion about assessment, and a lot of sharing among colleagues. I have also found that teachers who are excited about assessment tends to lead to students who are excited and assessment literate; these students use the language of assessment fluidly as part of their learning.

The best advice I have for an assessment leader who wants to support this step in the assessment journey is to be part of the learning. Ask questions about what is going on. Show excitement over their successes. Brag about what they are doing to other administrators or teachers, or use social media to share the excitement.

One school in my board has been making serious gains in their building in terms of assessment. The principal of this school favourites and retweets the excited posts of her Assessment Committee teachers. This is showing her support and putting the discussion about assessment in the limelight. She also supports this enthusiasm by providing support for release days, professional development and resources for her team. This is a great way to support excited teachers.


 

I love assessment and many teachers are at first unsure as to the authenticity of my excitement. What I find, however, is that when teachers make it through all these stages they realize that they, too, love assessment. In the last two months, three different teachers have told me that they are, perhaps, also assessment geeks. Now that warms my heart!

Now that my posts are done, what do you think I’ve missed? I know I could have talked about grief (teachers who break into tears when they realize that their practice did not match their intentions) and cynicism (teachers who are willing to change but are very skeptical about “the latest thing”). What else have you encountered, and what would be your recommendations to assessment leaders encountering those stages?

The Assessment Journey: Risk-Taking

This is part six of a series of posts I am writing about my experiences working as an assessment leader to helps schools, groups/teams and individuals move forward on their assessment journey.

To catch up on past posts, click on the following:

Once teachers (or, hopefully, entire schools) are experiencing curiosity then the next step is Risk-Taking.

Risk-taking is a tricky step to support because it can be a delicate state for a teacher or school. Risk-taking only takes place when the teacher(s) feel safe and supported to be able to try new things. Risk-taking makes people uncomfortable- but if we don’t step out of our comfort zones how can we ever grow?

bungee jumping

What might you see or hear if your team is ready to take risks? You will see evidence of experimentation in classrooms. This includes things on the whiteboard, or new tools on the tables or new Apps added to iPads that are being used in the classroom. You also might hear things like “Today, students, we are going to try…” or “I tried ____________ and it didn’t work, but I’m going to try ____________.”

How do you carefully nurture risk-taking if you are an assessment leader? I would say that risk-takers are most successful when there is a support system. Rarely do you see someone taking risks with their assessment strategies as lone wolves; risk-takers find each other and work together to try things so they have a sounding board, a confidant, a partner in crime. This is most effective when you have two teachers who are in the same department and teach the same thing, but it can happen within the same school or even with an external support person like an Instructional Coach, Instructional Technology Resource Teacher or other resource teacher.

Let me provide some examples of risk-takers and how I think they were able to thrive.

Two Math teachers within the same department were teaching the same grade 11 University course. They were the only two teachers who taught this course and they have a strong interpersonal relationship. Though discussion (they were firmly in the curiosity stage) they decided to try some new ways of assessing, including gathering evidence of observations and conversations and determining rather than calculating grades. The support they had included each other, me (their Instructional Coach and cheerleader), their department head (who is very open to risk-taking that supports student learning) and the administration team. They have gained momentum and are trying more and more things with confidence because they know they can debrief with each other and with me and they have been seeing results. Their success has also fostered curiosity amongst other members of the department. You will often see them huddled together at lunch, eating and sharing ideas and showing each other their assessment tasks and tools. Sometimes this pairing needs to happen with the encouragement of an external observer who can see which pairings would make sense.

What if you are on your own in your department and want to find someone to try new things in assessment? In one school I support, a teacher with a passion for assessment and a high tolerance for risk-taking found another teacher in her building who was young, excited and also willing to try new things beyond what her department was doing. They formed a team and even started an Assessment and Evaluation committee in their school. They were able to try things and then talk about it with someone who would not judge them when things weren’t an immediate success. They found in each other assessment buddies.

And then there are people who do not have someone with whom they can connect in their schools and need an external support person. This is where an administrator could encourage a meeting with a resource teacher or instructional coach (or whatever the model looks like in each board) where the person has someone to plan and then talk about the risks. One teacher that I worked with did not have support from her peers for the changes she was considering. She wanted to be trying new assessment tools; she wanted to involve students in assessment; she wanted to include learning goals and align what she was doing with the curriculum expectations. Her department thought she was crazy. So we met on her prep periods and came up with new approaches and strategies and I went into her classroom and tried out some of the tools and we regularly debriefed. She felt safe enough with me to tell me when something we had come up with crashed and burned and then we could talk about how to revise it for next time (unlike the conversations from her colleagues where their instinct was “It didn’t work? Then stop trying.”). This ability to collaborate with someone and talk out her assessment tools and assessment plans allowed her to take risks and not be discouraged by the apathy, denial and anger around her.

To sum up, I think the most essential ingredient needed for risk-taking is support. Having support includes being safe (not being attacked by admin or peers for trying something), being encouraged (by a department head, administrators, instructional coach) and having a chance to collaborate (with a department member, another teacher or outside support person).

How do you encourage risk taking in assessment? How can you get teachers to begin to make changes in their practice?

The Assessment Journey: Curiosity

My experiences with working with individuals, groups or teams and sometimes whole schools has led to me summing up my thoughts into something I call The Assessment Journey.  This is the entry in which I will speak about curiosity, or what I consider to be the fourth step in the journey.

If you would like to begin at the start of my posts, start with the Overview, then Stage One: Apathy, Stage Two: Denial and then Stage Three: Anger.

Curious George

Curiosity is, of course, a delightful stage of the assessment journey. It is also sometimes associated with lack of action which can be frustrating for an assessment leader who is pushing forward and hoping for more immediate change.

Teachers who have entered the stage of curiosity are often the ones who lean forward while learning is happening. They are engaged in the readings provided or the presentation being made. The most obvious thing you will both see and hear when you have a school or person who is in the stage of curiosity is questioning. These questions are often along the lines of “Well what do you do about____?” or “Would it work if I___?” or “How did you____?”

I recently had an experience with an amazing teacher who was firmly (and self-admittedly) in the curiosity stage. She told me the story of how she had been in her department workroom making a phone call to a parent. As she was waiting for the parent to pick up the phone, she caught a glance of something on her colleague’s desk: a student self-assessment template combined with a teacher evaluation rubric that emphasized descriptive feedback. This teacher was captivated and started asking questions; she learned more about the template and the work her colleague had been doing with me. Then, she was in the workroom while another colleague was discussing changes he was making to his assessment process though his work with me. In particular, she was struck by his enthusiasm about separating requirements from criteria when developing assessment tools. With this learning and work around her she got very curious and booked a meeting of her own with me. Now she’s firmly moving towards the next stage, risk taking!

So what would be my advice for fostering this stage of curiosity?

I think that often curiosity grows with exposure and with safety to learn and grow. Sometimes there is an instinct not to push too much, or to let the issue of assessment rest. “We’ll talk about it another time” or “Next semester will be a better time to address these issues.” It becomes too easy, if that is the case, to not be talking about assessment openly. I learn so much from talking about assessment with teachers; the teacher I mentioned above shared some of her practices with me and opened my eyes to some approaches I hadn’t considered. Sometimes the growth I have witnessed resulted from someone simply being present when another conversation was happening.

Safety is, of course, of utmost importance. Teachers need to feel like the can be open and honest about their practice and that what they do can be shared- and even changed- without fear of evaluation, criticism or personal attack. Most teachers are very protective of their practice because being a teacher is part of who they are; opening who you are to others makes you vulnerable. I like to point out things I like about someone’s current practice. I also like to ask questions. Just today, for example, a teacher I was working with shared with me an assessment she was very proud of. There were great things about it and then I asked about how she, in the current format, was able to assign a 3-, 3 or 3+ (instead of just a 3). She paused and then had a great discussion with me about what she might try to do that. It was a great discussion! Sometimes the way this safety in discussion happens is to bring in an outside person, like me, an Instructional Coach, into the mix. I don’t come in with preconceived ideas about what a teacher knows or does not know. And I’m not in an authority or reporting position- I’m just there to talk! Another suggestion is to have off-site release professional development days focused on assessment. I’ve done this with cross-curricular assessment teams, whole departments, course teams, administration teams (vice-principals and principals) and individual teachers. There is something about being away from the school that ups the safety factor, and there is something to be said about assessment being valued enough that administration is willing to pay for supply teachers to have the work done.

I continue personally to move between curiosity, risk taking and excitement, and I think that if I ever reach the point where I’m not curious- asking questions, questioning my own practice- then I should find a new job!

How would you suggest promoting curiosity in assessment?

The Assessment Journey: Anger

Having worked extensively to support individuals, groups and schools as they learn and grow in regards to assessment and evaluation, I put together a presentation I call The Assessment Journey to help other assessment leaders understand some of the stages they might encounter. This is the one that I think many of you may have been waiting for- Stage Three: Anger.

Click here for the Overview. Click here for Stage One: Apathy. Click here for Stage Two: Denial.

As someone who held a position as the cross-curricular head of Assessment, Evaluation and Literacy and then became an Instructional Resource Teacher and now am in an Instructional Coaching role, I have worked with a broad range of individuals (mostly at the secondary level) across my large and diverse school board. And as someone with a Twitter handle @AssessmentGeek, you can guess that much of my work tends to end up with a discussion about assessment.

Now, I love talking about assessment. I am genuinely passionate about assessment because I think it has life-changing impact on students and student learning. That’s not a shtick; I’m an assessment geek deep down. However, being engaged in so many conversations about assessment has meant that I have encountered a LOT of angry people. People have sworn at me, walked out on me, shouted at me and called me names. I wish I was joking.

baby university angry

The thing is, I’m (now) in a very zen place about angry people. I came to the understanding that teachers who are angry about assessment are angry because they care deeply and passionately about students and about teaching. This perspective has completely changed how I think about people, groups and schools at the angry stage. After all, they care enough to get mad, to huff and puff and to challenge everything I say (and sometimes point out typos in my PowerPoint just for spite).

What might you see a person in the angry stage of the assessment journey do? Oh, I’ve seen things. You might see them get up and walk out of a discussion or presentation. You might see fist shaking and red faces. You might see assessment policy documents whipped across the room. There are, of course, lots of crossed arms and frowns.

You might hear some gems like these: “How can you think this is good for kids? “, “How is this preparing them for university?”, “But if I don’t mark everything then they won’t do it!”, “Maybe that works for your kids but it would never work for my students!”, “Kids have no responsibility these days!” and “It has worked for me for the last twenty years. Who do you think you are to question how I assess?”

Ahhh. Fond memories.

But if these individuals or groups are so passionate about their students and what they do that they are willing to pretty much challenge me to a fist fight out in the parking lot, then I’ll take them in my building any day over an apathetic teacher! I mean, I hope the anger is a temporary stage, but what amazing educators to care that much! They care about the integrity of their subject area and course, they care about preparing their students for the future and then definitely care about student responsibility!

So what to do about all this anger?

Well, let me share something I don’t do. I don’t “agree to disagree”. I don’t back down. I truly believe this is right for students, and, in addition to how I feel about assessment and evaluation, some aspects are non-negotiable. After all, in Ontario we work for the Ministry of Education, and assessment policy is what we are required to follow. Fortunately we use Growing Success which I have to say is one of the best assessment policy documents I have ever encountered; Growing Success emphasizes student learning and teacher informed professional judgement. I don’t love everything about it but I do believe in it and I will stand my ground. Nicely, of course. Professionally. Firmly. I don’t resort to name calling. I don’t try to literally shake some sense into them, despite my instincts to do just that. I think I have a particularly developed endurance level for marathon assessment challenges. Often I will sit with a single teacher and address challenge after challenge for 10, 20, 30, 75 minutes. One Science teacher I worked with came back to me on four different occasions to challenge something I had shared, and each time I heard him out and responded calmly and with evidence and honesty. And then he said, finally, “I think I’m okay now. I’m going to try it out.” Battling passion with passion can lead to great understanding.

That brings me to my next suggestion: be honest. I really do not have all the answers. And sometimes I don’t know if something will work in a certain way with a teacher or subject area or in that school at that time. I often have to say “I don’t know. But I can ask!” And I share my personal stories of what assessment looked like in my classroom with my students and when I failed at things I tried to do. That helps, too.

Finally, I would offer this suggestion for working with Stage Three: Anger: Focus on the thing that you already know they value- the students. Every single angry person I have encountered cared deeply and passionately about their students, and when I consistently come back to our singular purpose (to improve student learning) then we have found common ground and can move forward inch by inch. I think of it like the “home” button on your browser or in your Twitter account. When you have fallen down a rabbit hole of disagreement and are mired in the details of Achievement Charts and rubrics and assessment for learning strategies, pause and reset on the common purpose: student learning.

Do you have any tips for working with Stage Three: Anger? And have you found yourself at this stage? I certainly have been- like when the Ministry changed from  the terms formative, summative and diagnostic assessment to assessment of, as and for learning. I shook my fist at the sky! And then I talked it through with someone and came to understand the why of that change (the explanation is page 30-31 of Growing Success, if my Ontario peeps are interested). And then I was okay again.

Check in soon for Stage Four:Curiosity.

The Assessment Journey: Denial

This is my third post as I blog about what I am calling The Assessment Journey, a series of stages schools or departments/groups or individuals might experience as they learn and grow in assessment in education.

Click here for the Overview. Click here for Stage One: Apathy.

One of the more challenging stages of assessment as a journey is dealing with schools, teams or individuals who consider themselves already “there”- even though there is no evidence to suggest that this is actually the case. This is the stage I like to call Denial.

denial

When you are talking to this group of people, you get a lot of vigorous head nodding and agreement. Sometimes there are dismissive hand gestures (something along the lines of a sweeping hand to say “I do all of this” or a shooing gesture to say “Get on with you. I know all this already!”). You hear a lot of “I already do this” or “Yes, that is what I’ve been doing for years” or “I’ve been doing this since 1998!” This is hard to challenge because they already consider themselves “done” on their assessment journey.

So how do I think assessment leaders should approach denial? In my experience, schools/people in denial usually are not purposely avoiding change. Rather, I find that often the denial stems from not having had a chance to thoroughly reflect on their practice. This can be addressed with questions. Questions such as:

Can you show me what you used to design this assessment tool?

How do you check in to see if students understand during the lesson?

What are your learning goals for this lesson? How do the students know?

What Achievement Chart subcategories are you focusing on for this assignment?

How do students know how to earn these marks?

Which Overall Expectations does this cover?

How do the skills from this unit/task/assignment support student learning for the Final Evaluation/exam?

Often with some opportunity to reflect- and particularly when they have other colleagues there doing the same thing- it becomes evident that perhaps the individual or school or group is not, as they/he/she thought, on the cutting edge of assessment practice after all.

Have you ever been in denial about your assessment practice? I know I certainly have. When people I respected asked me questions about, for example, how often I used student work samples to ensure students understand the difference between a level 2 and a level three, I realized that I had lots of work to do in that area. I was glad for the moment of reflection!

 

The Assessment Journey: Apathy

I have been blogging about something I shared recently at a session for assessment leaders in my board regarding what I am referring to as The Assessment Journey. I broke down the stages of learning and growing around assessment into Apathy, Denial, Anger, Curiosity, Risk-Taking and Excitement. This post is to look at Apathy in more depth.

To me, Apathy is the most discouraging aspect of the assessment journey. This is when there is no talking going on about assessment because, as sometimes will even be stated out loud, “Who cares?”

apathy caption

Schools/department/people whom I would consider apathetic are often the ones you see rolling their eyes. They’re the ones that have to attend professional development related to assessment and bring a big stack of marking with them because they know in advance that they will be disengaged with the learning. These are also the people you will see who have much more interesting things to do on their phones, tablets or laptops and don’t engage in the discussion happening all around them.

Apathy is also sometimes evident in what little they do say about assessment. They often use statements like “”This will pass” or “This again?” as if assessment should be a one-and-done conversation (and not a vibrant, complicated, dynamic entity that is always changing to best reflect the latest research on student learning).

You might be able to think of someone or a group of someones whom you would classify as apathetic. You might even see a bit of yourself in this description. Are you engaged in talking about assessment, particularly around major evaluation times but all year as well? Do you have a dusty policy document on a shelf somewhere that you have never opened? Being aware of where you are on the assessment journey is useful for your own growth as an educator.

And what to do about apathetic schools/groups/people? I tend to spend limited energy on these individuals at first because I find that apathy is often combated by exposure and the influence of those around them. If everyone around you is engaged in talking about assessment, pretty soon sitting there without participating feels isolating. If enough professional development opportunities are provided, even people with their ears turned off start having ideas filter their way into the subconscious. Apathy’s biggest enemy is excitement, and it only takes a few excited people to start seeing apathy morph (unfortunately sometimes into anger or denial before curiosity and risk-taking,but it is still positive change in my opinion!).

Do you agree with my characterization of apathy towards assessment? What other suggestions would you have for tackling that “I don’t really care” or “I don’t have time for this” mentality?