Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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  Workshop 6: Civic Engagement  
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Workshop 6

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Teacher Perspectives: Assessment

Bill Mittlefehldt: Assessment is a big challenge in this domain. Traditionally, social studies has been oriented toward a cognitive domain, i.e., tell me what you know, and I can grade it with a Scantron machine. This gets into the affective domain, which is a more complex area to evaluate because you have to have gradations of achievement. What we look for is how the kids are actually applying and demonstrating skills. We have assessment rubrics. [A rubric] is a technical term for how we use a form to evaluate your progress as you move up the hierarchy. We sometimes invite community partners. For example, the mayor may be filling out a rubric on the student groups that present. And we have tribal elders—some of our senior citizens who have watched the kids grow over the four years in high school. We have some business and health leaders at the meeting. They will all be encouraged to give the kids feedback about how they’re using their emotion, courage, and creativity to add quality to the future. That’s where this notion of total community quality comes in. We try and ground our learning success in the community, not in the school. If we were just gathering data to put in the wastepaper basket, there would be very little effect of the assessment. But when the kids receive feedback from other kids, they read those comments. When the kids get feedback from the mayor and the City Council and some of the business leaders, they’re going to read that stuff. They take it to heart because it’s really the community affirming the character of the developing adolescent’s psyche, and it’s a powerful mix.

This project will demonstrate various degrees of competence. A four [on the rubric] is like college-level functioning, using a breadth of information to integrate, synthesize, and come up with some original statement. There will be a few fours. Three is pretty capable high school functioning with cognitive and affective domains involved in some kind of presentation, but the presentation might not be at the highest level of delivery. [Another part of the rubric measures teamwork] and working with community partners who are of a different age and expertise. It goes all the way down to ones. The rubric I’m going to give to the City Council and the ones in the classroom where we’re doing peer assessment are very much in line with the graduation standard for the geography class.


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