Sunday, July 15, 2012

Guided Math Book Study-Chapter 8

Thanks to Kim at Joy in 6th for hosting this chapter.  I really enjoyed this chapter and had some good reflections.  I took five pages of notes in Google Docs and definitely had to pare things down for this blog post.  I previously took a district sponsored grad class on assessment so most of what I read I had already heard about.  I also had to do a Summer Academy project a few years ago and one of the strands we focused on was assessment, so I found my files on that to answer the reflection questions below.  I do need to continue to focus on purposeful assessment and carving out the time to use the results to tailor my classroom instruction.  Hope you all enjoyed this chapter as much as I did.


"Assessment in Guided Math"
A Vision for Learning
When planning a unit of study, teachers need to closely examine the standards, identify what students need to learn, and determine how to assess and evaluate students’ learning.

Three steps for teachers in the process of linking descriptions of expectations to instruction:

  1. Describe what students need to learn in a language that students and parents will understand.  
  2. Share the description with students and explain how it relates to success in life outside of school.  
  3. Use the description to guide instruction, assessment, and evaluation.  

Establishing Criteria for Success with Checklists and Rubrics
With today’s emphasis on standards-based learning, teachers now determine how they will assess student learning by focusing on the standards before planning for instruction.  When they have determined how to assess their students, many teachers develop specific criteria for success from which they create checklists or rubrics.

Using Checklists
Although there are criteria listed, the checklist itself does not describe specifically what would be required to be considered proficient or exemplary in each criterion.  Even though a checklist maybe be more easily created than a rubric, it may not be as effective when used with students, unless the teacher provides a significant amount of very specific feedback supporting students as they strive to improve their work.  Checklists give students criteria without distinguishing levels of quality.

Using Rubrics
Rubrics usually list several criteria or domains and then specify gradations of proficiency for each criterion.  Sometimes, a scale is included, which allows teachers to determine a numerical grade using the rubric.

Rubrics that are developed to be used with multiple tasks or assignments allow students to become familiar with the criteria and the levels of proficiency described.  They should be available to students before they begin their work and should be posted in the classroom for reference by the teachers and students, whenever applicable.  Teachers should introduce rubrics by modeling their use with an exemplar, thinking aloud as they rate the quality of the work.

When rubrics are aligned with the mathematical standards, they are not just about evaluating a student’s work, they are about teaching.  Rubrics focus our instruction as we teach.  They help students understand the goals of their assignments so they can focus their efforts.  They allow teachers to provide critiques of student work that are individualized and constructive in a timely manner.

The Value of Descriptive Feedback
Research shows that one of the most effective instructional strategies that teachers employ is providing students specific descriptive feedback.  When feedback is guidance specific to learning targets, this assessment for learning scaffolds students as they work “to close the gap between where they are not and where we want them to be”
The Use of Feedback
  1. Feedback should be “corrective” in nature  
  2. Feedback should be timely 
  3. Feedback should be specific to criterion  
  4. Students can effectively provide some of their own feedback

Assessments for Guided Math Groups
  • Pretests for initial grouping when beginning a new unit
  • Brief formative assessments throughout a unit to monitor learning and adjust grouping as needed
  • Checklists of knowledge and skills based on instructional standards
  • Informal observations of student work
  • Conferences with students
  • Computerized data (MATHia)

What is essential and is a distinguishing characteristic of Guided Math classrooms, though, is the use of assessment for learning.  Assessment in Guided Math classrooms is ongoing and informs instructional decisions.  The strong links between teaching, learning, and assessment are evident.  Although evaluation certainly has a role in these classrooms, it is not a substitute for the consistent and pervasive use of formative assessment.  Formative assessment is the determining factor in creating groups, and, then in planning lessons for each group.  Assessment for learning is the defining characteristic of Guided Math.

Review and Reflect

  1. Why is assessment essential in a Guided Math classroom? It is one of the defining characteristics of Guided Math. What role does it play in teaching and learning? The information a teacher gains from assessment is used to guide the instruction of students. It also lets a teacher know if the student has mastered the given objectives. Assessment helps students shift from being passive learns to active participants.
  2. What kinds of assessments do you use in your classroom?

  • In class √ups  
  • Pretesting
  • Quick Five
  • Notesheet with √point questions
  • Thumbs Up/Thumbs down
  • Completion Assignments
  • Graded Assignments
  • Over the shoulder
  • Five Q Review
  • Quiz
  • Re-teaching
  • Discussion Questions
  • Test
  • Checklists (will do this coming year)
  • Rubrics (will do more of this coming year)
  • Math journal (will do this coming year)
Is there a blend of assessments and evaluation? There is a blend of both, but I do need to do a 
better job of evaluation of learning. That will definitely be something we work on during PLC 
time this year.


  1. I'm glad you pointed out that rubrics aren't just about evaluating students' work...they're about teaching, too!
    You already use lots of different assessments...what is 'over the shoulder'?. I'm planning to use math journals this year, too.
    Great post! Thanks for linking up!

    Primary Inspired

  2. I followed you here from your TBA post. I have been to your blog before and bookmarked you but seeing you are a middle school teacher I didn't sign up for google and all. Reading your post on TBA made me take a 2nd look. This post is right up my alley! Rubrics and all of the different ways of using them was a big issue in our school last year. Our principal, in her mini meetings would bring up topics and we would all see what the topic was when we arrived, giving us time to reflect upon it before the meeting. I loved those meetings and how she kept us on our toes. Rubrics and assessment and the different ways they can be used has always been something I have researched almost yearly. It's easy to learn a couple of ways and just stick with them but to open your mind to different ways opens up your mind to your teaching, your students, and your class as a whole. I can really relate to this. If you don't mind I would like to print this out and share it with some of my colleagues and my principal.
    Thank you for sharing!


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