Assessing Group Work

The first week of school, I gave my students a survey about how they can best show me what they are learning, and a large majority suggested group work. Now, I’ve never been much of a fan of group work. I remember scrambling to draw a picture about a Jack London story in 9th grade because my partner decided not to do his part; I’ve been the “victim” of the group paper with plagiarized material twice…I just hate group work. However, it’s only fair to listen to my students when I ask for their input.

My journey into preparing group work has been ok at best. One on hand, I’m thankful for the group work because some ELL students that speak the same language can work together and help each other. Also, it means less work for me to grade! However, I know that I need to really learn more about group work before I expect my students to learn effectively from it. A google search revealed the following article, and it gave me some insight as to how I could be presenting and grading these projects.

The article is titled “Assessing Group Work” and is an excerpt from “Assessing Learning in Australian Universities” written by James, R., McInnis, C., and Devlin, M. So here are a few things that stood out to me. Some may seem pretty simple, but important nonetheless!

  • students should be clear on the purpose and objective of the assignment
  • worries over group work often come from the assignment not be assessed or graded fairly
  • do not overuse the group project-type assignment
  • ensure that groups are working well together – students should spend time working on the project, not figuring out how to get along!
  • pros and cons of different grading methods: the article contains several charts showing the advantages and disadvantages of different grading methods (i.e. self-assessment, shared group grade, averaged grades, and so on.) Some of these I had never heard of…some I did not like at all, and others seemed rather interesting.

Bottom line for me: I’m going to work out something with my students to figure out what works best for them. I think I would prefer for them to use a combination of strategies where, for larger projects, students do some self-reporting and comment on the group as a whole (with the opportunity to mention if someone did more work than others). I will also assign a grade and average them together or combine them in some way. For future projects, I will be sure to include a rationale on why I chose this method of assessment and I will be sure to include a clear objective of what I want them to learn.


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One of my goals for this semester is to take time to reflect on my class. This can be difficult because it’s not always fun.  However, in an effort to become a better teacher and to push myself beyond what is comfortable, it is definitely a necessity! I will probably use this space primarily for reflection and research, as another one of my goals is to research and implement new assessment strategies and projects. My PNW class is made up of 13 students,  8 of which are international students with limited English proficiency. I want to bring things into the classroom that will help them learn best. The class has expressed interest in doing group projects, so I have been trying to set up activities in a way that they can work together. My hope for this class is that I will be able to give them assignments that will allow them to “discover” the history of the Pacific Northwest rather than simply hearing me prattle on about it (which I could easily do – I love my home!)

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Student Teaching: Week 10

This week was a good opportunity for me to exercise my new-ish and improving classroom management skills. On Monday, things were a bit hectic. The juniors were gone on a field trip, and I was once against asked to sub for the freshmen English classes. This meant that I spend all day with the same students, and I am proud to say that I stood my ground in the classroom management area! There were several times in which students were acting in ways that I felt inappropriate, and I had to follow through with consequences for their actions. It was an improvement over last week, that’s for sure!

Wednesday though Friday went well, again considering the fact that we are rapidly nearing the end of the school year! I have begun to modify my lessons to include less lecture and note-taking and more group work with some sort of assignment due at the end of the period to hold the students accountable.

One thing that I have continued to think about from last week’s reading is the fact that the students should be doing, essentially, more work than the teacher. As a result, I tried using different activities this week that gave students the opportunity to work together to learn while I walked around the room, keeping students on tasks and answering questions. I’ll admit that I enjoyed it very much; the students enjoy interacting with one another and I enjoy the fact that I am not at the front of the room the entire class period telling students what to do!

While last week’s readings were helpful, but I cannot exactly say I feel the same way about this week’s reading from The First Days of School. Quite frankly, I did not think it “the most important unit in the book for [me] personally.”[1] Many of the ideas either seemed like broad generalizations or rather restrictive categories. Either way, it is important to analyze our behavior and reasons behind our actions. I think much of that can be done through self-reflection and input from others around you. In addition, it is important for teachers (both old and new) to seek to better themselves through more education and keeping up with new information.

[1] P. 271

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Professional Development Plan

This Professional Development Plan is only the beginning of my reflections as a teacher. This document demonstrates how I have grown as a reflective teacher that is committed to professional and growth-centered practice. The strategies mentioned in this document are ideas that I will continue to use throughout my career as I continually develop and grow as a teacher.

Professional Development Plan

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Japanese Internment in World War II: Lesson Plan

I wanted to share this lesson that I created for the American history class. I felt like the lesson went really well; students were engaged and shared some very meaningful responses to the lesson afterwards. As I planned this lesson I tried to focus on having a variety of activities to keep students interest throughout the period. By starting with a song by an artist that most of the students would know, I could tell that they were eager to hear more about how the song related to our topic for the day. The reading excerpt that students read in class and finished as homework details the life of a Japanese American girl living in the Seattle area during World War II. As the students read about her experience, they could recognize landmarks and cities from their own area, which helped them make more personal connections to the story. Finally, in the PowerPoint lecture I tried to include pictures that would show students how severe the situation was for many people. The pictures were also helpful in showing students how the city of Seattle was affected during this time.

The attached documents include the lesson plan, song lyrics, PowerPoint, and reading excerpts used in class.

Japanese Internment lesson plan

Kenji lyrics

Japanese Internment

Nisei Daughter

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Filed under T2: Intentionally planned, T3: Influenced by multiple instructional strategies, Uncategorized

Standard P: Understanding Teaching as a Profession

One practice that has been exceptionally beneficial for me throughout my internship has been self-reflection. At the end of each lesson I take several minutes to reflect on what went well, what went wrong, and what I will do next time to improve. Sometimes it is as simple as changing the instructions that I give to the students, sometimes I have to realize that the ideas I found so wonderful in my head just did not materialize the way I had anticipated. Overall, teaching is one profession where no two days will be alike, and my performance not only affects myself, but hundreds of other people each and every day. I view my reflecting and desire for improvement as nothing short of an obligation to my students; they deserve a quality education and it is my job to do that and do it well.

I value student input in my teaching and planning. For that reason, I sometimes ask students how they felt a particular activity or assessment went for them. This gives me the opportunity to see how students view my teaching and planning. I also take into consideration student participation and interest when assessing myself. For example, one particular lesson stands out in my mind as one where students were extremely interested in the subject matter; much of the lesson was based off of their previously expressed desires to learn about gladiators during our unit on Ancient Rome. Both during and after class, students told me how interesting class was and, as reflected in their assessment afterwards, it seemed to be something that they remembered well. I planned this lesson based off of their reaction to previous lessons and their requests to learn more about a certain topic.

All of the self-reflection in the world could not fix some lessons; this shows the importance of community and communication among other teachers and administration throughout the school. This not only provides a fluency found in healthy communities, but it gives students the opportunity to know what is expected of them. Although some rules may vary from class to class, students have the right to know what is expected of them and their behavior. I strongly believe that a faculty and staff comprised of people who are passionate about their profession and are committed to their responsibilities will produce effective teachers and responsive learners.

A safe and respectful learning environment does not, unfortunately, seem to come naturally to high school students. For this reason, to say that we need consistency among teachers is not enough. The important thing is that we are all consistently modeling ethical behavior and that we are encouraging our students to do the same. Understanding the legal and ethical procedures in education is vital to the survival of an effective learning environment. Again, being in a private, Christian school for my internship has added an additional element to this idea in that not only am I forming my attitude and actions from ethical ideas, I am encouraged to share faith with students. This can be done in a number of ways, but most commonly I simply take the time to explain to students the reasons behind certain actions and consequences.

All students deserve access to a quality education, and much of that learning can take place only when the student feels like their environment is safe and secure for them. As a professional, a teacher, and a caring adult, it is my responsibility to make sure that I do whatever I can to ensure they have the tools they need to succeed.

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Standard T: Knowledge of Teaching

It seems that not many students are always comfortable with the idea of thinking critically or abstractly about how they learn. What I mean by this is the fact that many students need to be taught how to think about their learning processes and, with practice, can articulate how the process works for them. This is important on many levels, and it specifically helps students understand their progress and achievement.

Standard T1 shows that the work is “informed by standards-based assessment (analysis using formative, summative, and self-assessment.)” While planning different assessments throughout my internship, I have spent a great deal of time researching both the Washington State Classroom Based Assessments and different standards for the social studies. Another important part of standards-based assessment is the idea that students are well-aware of the expectations for their performance. By giving students specific criteria, including a detailed rubric, they know exactly what to expect and know what they need to do to succeed. Not only are my lessons informed by standards-based assessments, but they are very intentionally planned in that the standards are deliberately chosen to help students create their own product that aligns with several state social studies EALRs.

In addition to providing clear expectations for students, it is important to me that students feel that they have the opportunity to succeed. I attempt to do this by providing a variety of options for students that appeal to different learning styles. While it is easy for me to simply lecture for 40 minutes about history, this is certainly not the answer for every class session. Instead, I have tried a variety of strategies and approaches to lessons to see how students react to them. During this time, student achievement, attitude, and feedback are all taken into consideration to see whether or not it worked well. Even within one class session, I have tried using multiple strategies spread throughout the class with shorter activities. This might mean that there is a short lecture followed by silent reading, group work time, individual responses, and class discussion. By using different strategies, students are engaged in learning as they need to be paying attention to the changes. However, this can take time to accomplish as some students may struggle with the changes in strategies. I have found that providing clear verbal and written instructions helps a considerable amount.

One strategy that seems to be both a great advantage and challenge is technology. Students are increasingly familiar with different technologies that can be extremely useful in the classroom, but there is also plenty of room for students to misuse time and resources when using certain technologies, like the internet or computers. I personally try to use different technologies as often as possible for several reasons. The first, and probably most influential, is the fact that students today are so used to technology that they come to expect it. Modeling good “digital citizenship” is extremely important today and I believe that it is one of my many roles as a teacher to show students how to correctly use technology. The other reason for using it is quite simple: it is convenient! After an incident where several students used information directly copied from the internet to write an essay, I have made it a point to give credit for all of my sources when I create a PowerPoint presentation or use photographs or other media in the classroom. By showing students the proper way to use technology, I can demonstrate to them the positive relationship between the use of technology and learning.

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