Learning Targets--Helping Students Aim for Understanding in Today's Lesson
By Connie M. Moss & Susan M. Brookhart
I highly recommend that you read this book. It will really help your understanding of what Learning Targets are and their importance.
*I found used copies on Amazon.com-very inexpensive to purchase ISBN 978-1-4166-1441-8
Chapter 8—Using Learning Targets to Guide Summative Assessment and Grading
*Student’s grades should be based on the same learning targets that they have aimed for. It doesn’t make sense to have students learn on thing and then grade them on something else.
To truly base summative assessment and grading on the learning targets students actually worked toward, you need to do two things.
-Design classroom summative assessments to summarize achievement over a set of learning targets.
-Aggregate the grades from those summative assessments using a method that will result in a final report card grade that keeps the learning targets in balance.
*What Should Grades Mean?
Grades are supposed to communicate student achievement of state standards and curricular learning goals. Often, grades don’t reflect learning. Many teachers add points or credits that reflect effort and behavior so that the meaning of the resulting grade is not clear. Report cards need not report only academic learning outcomes, but effort and behavior and progress or improvement should be reported in separate sections, using different symbols from the academic grades, if desired.
Learning targets help clarify the grading process. Taking learning targets seriously leads to a grading philosophy rooted in the following beliefs:
-Academic grades should be based on achievement of learning goals.
-Effort and behavior should be assessed separately and handled by working with the student.
*Learning Targets and Grades
Learning targets are the connection between daily learning and the reportable achievement of learning goals. Today’s learning target should build on yesterday’s learning target, and any one learning target should fit into a learning trajectory that goes on to something bigger—at some point, something big enough to be reported.
The student’s report grades should reflect their developing understanding of the learning targets. From the students’ point of view, the rationale is simple:
-You (the teacher) asked me to learn these things.
-How well did I do?
(pg 134)From the teacher’s point of view, the main points are the same. Below is a list of reasoning that leads from learning targets to achievement-focused grading practices.
-I (the teacher) asked you to learn these things.
-I shared learning targets with you, in a sequence that makes sense.
-I presented you with learning opportunities and used strong performances of understanding.
-I gave you feedback on your work based on the learning targets.
-I gave you opportunities for self-assessment based on the learning targets.
-After all this, I will assign a grade that summarizes how well you learned.
-I will design summative assessments that check on your level of attainment of the learning targets, individually or in clusters that make sense.
-I will put the grades for these summative assessments together in such a way that the summary grade is the best indicator of your achievement level that is possible with the symbol system we use in our school.
-I will communicate additional information (because one summary grade can’t tell everything) in comments and in conferences with you and your parents, as needed.
Up to this point, the book has emphasized the reasoning delineated in the first two bullets. It has described learning targets and performances of understanding and explained how they are the means by which teachers design learning tasks for students, students engage in the learning tasks, and students make sense out of their learning.
But the intent of these learning targets would be nullified if we didn’t also honor them in summative assessment and grading. In the following sections, the book provides guidance on how to design summative assessments that yield grades that are faithful to your students’ learning targets and how to aggregate those grades into a reportable summary that is, in turn, faithful to those learning targets.
*Summative Assessments: The “Ingredients” for Grades
Designing summative assessments that summarize achievement over a set of learning targets involves two general principles:
1. For each summative assessment, use a plan, or blueprint, that faithfully represents the learning goals toward which the lesson-level learning targets were aimed.
2. Write test items or performance tasks that elicit the intended performances, and create scoring rubrics that give credit to all intended aspects of the performances.
*Planning Summative Assessments That Represent the Learning Goals
In your instructional planning, you derive unit goals from state standards and curriculum goals. Then you derive teacher instructional objectives and student learning targets from those unit goals. You make sure that students are engaging in strong performances of understanding that focus their work on the learning target and at the same time yield evidence of student progress toward the learning target.
For summative assessment, you reassemble what has been pulled apart for instruction and formative assessment at a higher level. Summative assessments that faithfully represent learning goals are analogous to performances of understanding that faithfully represent learning targets. The unit is larger than the lesson, encompassing understanding of a set of learning targets or a more complex learning goal farther along the learning trajectory. But the principle is the same.
Recall back in chapter 2, how each day’s lesson feeds learning forward toward increasingly more complex understanding and skills. Like most formative assessment, most daily performances of understanding focus on small pieces of knowledge or aspects of skills.
The reason for this narrower focus is that the main purpose of performances of understanding is learning—not grading—and understanding these small chunks of knowledge is necessary to support next steps in learning. In contrast, summative assessment typically addresses larger chunks of knowledge or more integrated skills, because the purpose of summative assessment is to ascertain what has been learned. You could call summative assessments “meta-performances of understanding.”
To assemble the chunks students have learned into a valid indicator of integrated knowledge and skill, you need a plan—typically called an assessment blueprint. Assessment blueprints are useful for planning both tests and performance assessments. There are many ways to draw up an assessment blueprint.
Figure 8.1 pg 137 is a template for a
Two-Dimensional Assessment Blueprint for One Summative Assessment.
Content Outline- Knowledge- Comprehension- Application- Analysis- Total Pnts- %-
Figure 8.2 pg 138 is a template for a
One-Dimensional Assessment Blueprint
Outline- Total Pnts- %-
*Writing Test Items and Performance Tasks that Match Intended Assessment Outcomes
Example of a Test Blueprint
-The blueprint contains major decisions about the unit test you will write.
-It allows you to allocate the relative emphases you want the various learning targets to have in the test score by using the points and percentage column.
-If the proportions don’t look right, you can change them while you are still at the blueprint stage, before you have taken time to write or find good test questions.
A test blueprint also allows you to allocate the proportions of the test that will tap various kinds of thinking or cognitive processing, using the points and percentage rows at the bottom of the blueprint.
*Remember that the goal is not to fill all of the cells but to appropriately organize the learning targets for the unit so that you know what you are assessing and can write questions accordingly.
*Writing the questions is the next step. For each of the filled-in cells, write or select questions that are mini-performances of understanding for the content and cognitive level specified.
*When you write questions for each of the cells, understand that the purpose of the point allocation is to have the overall test score reflect the desired emphases. You would write or select the questions that best sample the knowledge and skills described by the blueprint.
On page 140, Table 8.3 shows an example of a test blueprint for 5th grade Unit Test on Weather.
So try to visualize this table…
Top Heading is: Cognitive Level
Under the Cognitive Level there are 6 other headings each in its own column:
Knowledge; Comprehension; Application; Analysis; Total Points; %
On the Left of these 6 headings is the “Content Outline” Column. In this column, under the Content Outline heading is: Row 1: Atmosphere; Row 2 Air pressure and wind; Row 3 Water vapor and humidity; Row 4 Clouds and precipitation.
Then at the bottom of the table under the “Content Outline” heading it Total Points and the row under that is %.
There are points & % given under each Cognitive Level Heading.
Without seeing the table you might not understand my description of it so I do apologize. As I’ve said during each chapter summary, I do recommend the book because there is so much more in it than I’m able to post.
*Report Card Grades
Report card grades that accurately summarize achievement over a set of learning goals must start with a set of ingredients—that is, individual summative assessments that accurately summarizes achievement of intended learning goals.
Report card grades that accurately summarize achievement of learning goals must combine the component grades in ways that maintain the intended meaning about student achievement.
*Have a Grading Plan that faithfully represents the set of learning goals on which you need to report.
On most report cards, academic achievement is reported in one of two ways: either as a list of subjects (reading, math, science) or as a list of standards with subjects (understand and used different skills and strategies to read). In either case, the subject or standard represents a domain of achievement that is larger than, but contains, the domain described by the learning targets and assessed with your summative assessments. The idea is to select, from the choices available in the grading scale on which achievement is reported, the symbol (usually a number, letter, or category) that best represents student achievement in that subject or on that standard. You have information from each of the summative assessments (the “ingredients” for the report card grade), and your task is to summarize that information in such a way as to be able to report the best representation of the student’s achievement.
*If you summarize the information well, you will see that there is a direct link from the learning targets to the report card grades. The learning targets were the basis for learning in classroom lessons, and the performances of understanding yielded formative assessment information for improvement. At some point, you took stock of what had been learned with a summative assessment, using a blueprint that cross referenced the grades on individual assessments with reporting standards and learning targets. Now, you summarize those individual assessment grades in ways that maintain your intended balance of information about student achievement of the content and thinking skills assessed.
*Put Grades on Comparable Scales with Meaningful Performance Levels
If the grades from your individual summative assessments are not on the same scale, the properties of the scales will alter the final information. We call it “arithmetic injustice” when a teacher puts two scales together whose numbers or levels behave differently and gets a final result that isn’t what she intended. When you record your grades, put them all on the same scale. We recommend the performance scale that matches your reporting scale, if possible. For example, you might record whether a student is Advanced, Proficient, Basic, or Below Basic on each summative assessment. Or you might record whether the student’s performance was at the A, B, C, D, or F level for each summative assessment. If you have a test that results in a percentage correct (say, 82%) and a project that is graded with rubrics (perhaps with four 4-point criteria), don’t record these non-comparable numbers. Instead, translate students’ performance on each into the same scale, and record those. Then, when you summarize, you’ll be comparing apples to apples.
Be careful of how you handle failing grades and zeros. Because the F range in a percentage scale is so much bigger than all of the other grade ranges, a low grade in one assessment may end up contributing more to the final grade than the other summative assessment, even if that was not the intent.
*Combine Grades in a Way That Maintains the Performance-Level Meaning.
Once you have all your summative assessment (achievement) grades recorded on the same scale, it’s time to combine them into a summary grade. A blueprint-like grading plan is helpful here because it show you how much weight to give each summative assessment. Use the standards and learning targets to think through the weighting. Which learning targets are more important? On which learning targets did you spend more time? Those should carry more weight in the final grade.
After weighting the individual “ingredient” grades so that they contribute more or less heavily to the final grade, as you intended, summarize them into one grade by taking the median of the individual grades. In most circumstances, the median will be a better representation of typical performance on a standard than the more familiar mean (sometimes called the “average”).
But don’t stop there! Remember, your task is not to do a set of calculations on your class grades. Your task is to select, from the choices available in the grading scale on which achievement is reported, the symbol that best represents student achievement in that subject or on that standard. The median grade will be the best representation for most—but not all—students.
Therefore, after you have your class list of median grades, do a “judgment review” and revise the grade in the rare cases when the median is not, in your judgment, the best representation of student achievement. There are two circumstances when the median may not be the best representation.
1- When a student’s pattern of achievement has been on of steady improvement. In that case, privilege recent evidence. Suppose, for example, that a student began a repot period at Basic level on a standard, but improved so that h reliably performed at the Proficient level by the end of the report period. The median grade may be Basic, but this student’s current status on that standard is Proficient. Use your judgment, based on the pattern in the achievement evidence, to revise the grade and assign Proficient.
2- When the grade is right on the borderline between two categories. Then the question becomes, “In my judgment, does the higher or lower grade best represent this student’s achievement in the subject or on the standard?” Use additional achievement evidence to answer that question. Consider how the student did in the performances of understanding you observed. Which grade or proficiency level did the student’s work, overall, reflect? Use your judgment, based on this additional evidence, to assign the appropriate grade.
This chapter illustrated how keeping students’ learning targets in mind so that it will lead to grading decisions that generate meaningful, interpretable grades for individual summative assessments and report cards. Throughout this book, they have applied the idea of learning targets to various aspects of formative assessment, to differentiated instruction to higher-order thinking, and to grading. Those are the most obvious categories of application. As you pursue your understanding and use of learning targets you will find they are useful for every aspect of instruction and assessment.
Chapter 9 is the last chapter.
A Learning Target Theory of Action and Educational Leadership: Building a Culture of Evidence
As I’ve said each week, this is a great book with a lot of examples, tables and charts that I’m not including in the post. I highly recommend that you purchase a copy of the book for further information and study.
Until next time…