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Growth Over Grades Podcast: Episode 16 - Michele Jones “Finding Focus With Formative Assessment”

Ep. 16 | Michele Jones “Finding Focus With Formative Assessment”
Melody McAllister
July 17, 2023

Ep. 16 | Michele Jones “Finding Focus With Formative Assessment” 

Welcome to the Growth Over Grades Podcast where we talk about education ideas and topics that matter most to our SpacesEDU Educator Community

At the beginning of each episode, I like to feature an amazing member in our community, and for this episode, I want to shout out educator, author, and speaker, Nicole Biscotti. Nicole helps host our monthly PLNCoffeeTalk Zoom Meetup. She is an author and speaker who focuses on best practices of reaching and teaching learners with ADHD. She and her son co-wrote, “I Can Learn When I'm Moving: Going to School with ADHD. Nicole is an active member in our SpacesEDU Community and regularly shares her work and wisdom on her socials. Thank you for supporting this podcast and our PLN, Nicole. Nicole’s work in education has progressed through the years and she has become a teacher who utilizes strategies that connect and engage her students and the families who support them. Give her a follow!

Meet Michele Jones

Nicole reminds me of today’s guest, Michele Jones. Michele Jones is the Executive Director for the Alberta Assessment Consortium. When I first talked with Michele, her transparency truly resonated with me regarding her personal story of growth when it comes to assessment practices because I know most educators will nod their heads and say, “yeah, me too,” when they hear it. Jone’s background includes teaching physical education and social studies in secondary education. 

In her current role, Michele Jones is responsible for Professional Development and wants teachers to feel confident in assessing their students without adding to their workload. The word assessment often comes with baggage because it’s been used in ways that aren’t helpful for students or teachers. But when I picked Jones’ brain about formative assessment, she expressed ideas that will help those of us in the classroom focus on what our students need and how we can reach them. She knows formative assessment is the key to help teachers improve instruction, grow more informed learners, and form deeper relationships with our students and their families. 

Formative Assessment Routines

When Michele Jones talks about formative assessment, she lights up. She knows when done well and used consistently, students and teachers will feel empowered. Have you ever wondered what it looks like in class? She gives us a few examples but keep in mind it’s conversations that happen between teachers and students, whether individually, small groups, or classwide. 

Jones also mentions the 25% Rule that she credits to Dylan Wiliam and a training with the Alberta Assessment Consortium. This rule states, “25% of assessment should be detailed teacher feedback, 25% of assessment should be skimmed and summarized for whole class feedback, and 25% of assessment should be peer feedback, and the last 25% is self-assessment/reflection. 

Empower Your Students: 14 Engaging Reflection Prompts for a Well-Rounded Education

Want to know what formative assessment during lessons looks like? It’s feedback that is as simple as thumbs up or holding numbers/letters to the chest using multiple choice. It could also be a partner activity like “write all you know using letters A-Z to activate prior knowledge.” Jones shares that a teacher can use classroom debates with strongly agree/disagree and why using movement as students to go to a side of the room they agree with. 

If looking for more routines, Jones suggests checking out Project Zero’s Thinking Routines Toolbox, too. 

Lightening the Teacher’s Workload

Perhaps the most compelling case for better formative assessment is that it lightens the teacher’s workload and creates better class flow. 

Michele Jones encourages teachers to refrain from marking every piece of learning evidence and instead choose five or six “well-crafted” and meaningful artifacts that truly showcase what a student knows. This will also keep us from spending hours in our learning management systems trying to make the twenty items in our gradebook reflect the true mark our students have earned. When we create better assessments, we are teaching more efficiently, students are growing even more, and assessments aren’t getting in the way of learning. 

However the mic drop that Jones shared about getting away from grading every piece of learning is that when students are being graded more frequently, oftentimes negative messages about limitations are being pushed on to them. We want to reinforce and support them in what they can do and coach them to help them continue to grow, which means stronger relationships with our students…and stronger relationships creates a more productive learning environment.   

Formative Assessment for the win here, folks. I am so appreciative of the wisdom and resources shared in this episode from Michele Jones. All of it has the potential to help us teach in a stronger way and empower our students. 

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Follows & Show Notes:

@michelejones38 

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You are invited to our SpacesEDU Educator Community

Follow Michele Jones on Twitter

Follow Alberta Assessment Consortium on Twitter

Melody McAllister

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