Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tuesday Tech Tip: Exploring Mastery in COLE 3.0/Schoology

This month, our posts have been focused on how we can align, design, and refine what we do with students with an eye on mastery.  We've looked at how we can use learning objectives and standards in Schoology, what kinds of assignment options we have, and in what ways we can more effectively use digital feedback.  This week, we'll explore how mastery or competency reports can help inform both students and teachers in COLE 3.0/Schoology.

Teacher: Mastery Overview by Class
Once we have aligned student work to standards or learning objectives, Schoology can track student progress on those standards, based on the teacher's digital assessment of the work.  (Remember, student work doesn't have to be completed or submitted in a digital format, but the teacher does need to put scores in Schoology to track progress digitally.)  As the teacher, you can see class-wide, student-specific, and/or standard-specific information.
Teacher: Mastery Overview by Objective
Teacher: Mastery Settings
As the teacher, you can change the settings for the way the mastery reports are configured for you, including what minimum score meets the expectation, how many times students must achieve that score for mastery, and whether it's based on an average or the highest score. (These are based on grading scales you have in Schoology, so if you want to use a 1 - 5 scale, you would need to set those up in the Gradebook set-up prior to changing the mastery settings.)

Schoology will track how many assignments are tied to the standards or objectives and how your class or individual students do over time by assignment.  For students, they can see their own progress, but cannot see class overview information.  (As of now, parents do not see the mastery option.)  The student view of his/her mastery in Schoology is the same thing that teachers see when looking at an individual student's "Objectives Report."
Student: Mastery Report
Ultimately, using mastery reports for goal setting and feedback (for both students & teachers) should be taking us into deeper conversations about what mastery means, whether we're choosing the best ways for students to demonstrate that mastery, and what we do when students are not reaching those goals.  Schoology is one tool that we can now utilize to guide those conversations.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tuesday Tech Tip: Providing Feedback Digitally to Help Track Mastery

Now that we've looked at aligning and designing in COLE 3.0/Schoology, the next thing to think about is refining. "The most powerful single modification that enhances achievement is feedback" (John Hattie). As one of the most powerful tools we can use to impact student achievement, this week's post is about effectively using digital feedback for assessments, assignments, and discussion boards.

Feedback with Assessments:
At a very basic level, students can get feedback on assessments simply by looking point totals.  However, there is a bigger impact on student achievement if the feedback is timely, corrective, & specific (David Sousa, How the Brain Learns).  When creating assessments in Schoology, you can set feedback options so that students can get immediate feedback with correct answers, and for some question types like multiple choice, you can also automate feedback based on responses.
As a teacher, you can also give comments on specific question responses.  In the example on the left, the teacher can view each student's response and add a comment specific to that question when appropriate.

When thinking about the kinds of feedback students or student data can provide for teachers, there are detailed assessment reports available that help inform teachers about instructional needs for the class as a whole and/or for individual students.  (And, any items aligned to standards will also be tracked for mastery.)  Additionally, students can type in comments (for the assessment in general) to let teachers know personal impressions or specific feedback.

Feedback with Assignments:
When creating assignments in Schoology that will be submitted or uploaded online, the student submissions area has feedback options for both teachers & students.  A student can add a comment when uploading content, and teachers can type in comments (or give audio comments) that only the student can see.

If you would like to use a rubric as a way to provide specific, criterion-based feedback for an assignment, you can create rubrics that are aligned to standards from within an assignment.  Use the "Create New" option under "Scale/Rubric" and then select which standards or learning objectives you will be measuring (you can also create your own criteria in this step).  Any items aligned to standards or objectives will be tracked for mastery.

While the rubric builder defaults to a 1-4 scale with generic descriptions (excellent, good, satisfactory, needs improvement), you can change the number of descriptors, the points associated with each level, and edit each of those levels to further delineate what each scale score reflects.  When you grade the item, simply check the boxes that reflect the student's achievement levels and it will tally the points for you.

Feedback with Discussion Boards:
If working in a discussion board, you can use points or a rubric (if it's a graded discussion board) as a way to give feedback, but you can also add comments.  Those can either be seen by the student or just added for your own information.  This is different than replying to a student's post -- if you reply to a post on a discussion board, it is visible to anyone in the class.  If you comment as part of a grade, it is only visible to the specific student.

Feedback with the Gradebook:
Schoology's gradebook is another place where teachers can give feedback via points, rubric scores, and comments.  This can be especially helpful when assessing items in Schoology that were not submitted via Schoology (student presentations, projects, offline assignments, etc.).  The gradebook can also be used to give overall comments on items that were submitted via Schoology (like online assessments), and comments can either be visible to students or visible only to you.  While rubric scores and comments stay in Schoology, all point totals can be pushed to PowerSchool's gradebook.

Providing feedback digitally for students and gathering feedback from students can help us refine what we do, how we do it, and how we can further strive for mastery.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tuesday Tech Tip: Designing Opportunities to Digitally Track Mastery

As a continuation of our post from last week (Aligning Work Digitally to Track Student Mastery), this week's post takes a look at the next step:  designing activities in COLE 3.0/Schoology that will align with standards or your own learning objectives.

Once you have identified which standards you want to address, you can think about what kinds of activities & assessments will best meet the demands of those standards.  Will you be asking students to create something? Interact with peers in a discussion? Present information? Respond to assessment items?  What opportunities will you design to aid in their learning, and how can you track their progress?

Designing in Schoology: Assignment*
Is creating something (a piece of writing,  a presentation, a project, etc.) the best way for students to demonstrate their understanding ? Or maybe they will be modifying or adapting something you've provided?  Regardless of how it will be "turned in," choose "Assignment" from the "Add Materials" pull-down. In addition to working for offline activities, student work can be collected in a Schoology assignment as well. Students can digitally create a written response, upload a file, link to something they've done online, or record themselves speaking.  As long as the assignment is aligned (see below), you'll be able to track how students do and provide feedback.
To align in Schoology, look for the blue target icon
(Tip: If your assignment hits more than 1 standard, your best bet is to create a rubric in Schoology and assess each standard separately.)

Designing in Schoology: Test/Quiz*
If students will be responding to an online assessment in Schoology to show what they know, you'll want to choose "Test/Quiz."  You can create your own questions or use ones that already exist in a Test Bank in Schoology. The following question types are available:

  1. True/False
  2. Multiple Choice
  3. Ordering
  4. Short answer/Essay
  5. Fill in the Blank
  6. Matching
The assessment itself isn't aligned to standards, but each question can be aligned separately (using the blue target icon in the question builder).  Schoology can then measure how well students do on aligned standards based on the points the students receive on the questions.

Designing in Schoology: Discussion*
Perhaps a class discussion is the best way to have students meet your chosen standard(s).  Discussion responses in Schoology can either be typed or submitted orally, but they are available for the entire class (for interaction between class members). After choosing the "Discussion" option, align the topic to standards or objectives.  (Again, if the Discussion topic will be addressing multiple standards, use Schoology's rubric tool to assess those items individually.)

The most important thing is deciding how to best assess students in relation to standards.  After students complete an activity that you've designed in this digital space, you can provide digital feedback.  We'll be addressing that topic in the next blog post.

*For more information, visit Schoology's Help Center article on Course Materials (or contact your technology support folks).

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tuesday Tech Tip: Aligning Work Digitally to Track Student Mastery

We recently got a new feature enabled in our Schoology domain called "Mastery," which provides a way to assess & track student work based on standards and learning outcomes. (You can read more about it here.)  Designed to work with the existing alignment tool in Schoology, this could be very powerful as we think about measuring what we value in our students' work and looking for growth on specific standards.

However, before utilizing this new feature, we need to think about what we're aligning, designing, and measuring.   We'll start with "aligning."

What standard(s) will the assignment or assessment target?  Schoology already has Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and Colorado Academic Standards in the system, so any item you create or add can be aligned to those.  However, if you need to align to a learning objective that isn't represented in those standards, you can create your own.  Or, you can create a collection of objectives that you will use repeatedly or for specific units.

When in the "Personal Resources" area in Schoology, you can select "Learning Objectives" from the list on the left.  Once in the Learning Objectives area, you can add folders (for grouping standards by content areas, grade levels, or units/topics), you can add existing standards from CAS, NGSS, and/or shared learning outcomes into your list (for quicker access), and you can add your own "custom learning objectives." Bottom line: before creating an assignment or assessment, it's a good idea to think about which standards you will be targeting (and maybe even collecting them into a folder).

If you're collaborating with a group in Schoology, the group admin can enable Learning Objectives in the Group Resources area.  This would be helpful if you are creating resources to share (like test bank items) and want to track something specific for your grade level team, PLC, or department.  Again, these can be collected into folders by unit, topic, grade level, etc.

Once Learning Outcomes are in place, we can start to think about what kinds of activities, assessments, or assignments will best support that standard or outcome.  Next week's post will explore online (and offline) assessments and assignments in Schoology.