Recently, I assigned my Twosies an end-of-term project. The project requires them to apply their learning and understanding of verbs, grammar structures and vocabulary related to sports. They have a week to complete it, and, is worth 30% of their grade. The 30% caught the attention 0f my department chair, who emailed me, wanting to know more about the project. I sent her the handout and rubric given to the students, with the following comments:
Is 30% too much? Should it be less? I’m wondering if I’m placing too much weight and importance on it.
I have attached the documents I gave to the students.
I want to distribute the grade for the project to include speaking and writing, which are the central areas of focus.
After a time, my department chair emailed a rather lengthy response. While it acknowledged the positive use of an alternative assessment via a poster project, it also prompted me to re-examine my practice by taking the proverbial deep dive, which is something I had not done in a long time, and, which presented something of a curricular crisis for me. And, it was instructive. I read my department chair’s words, and deeply contemplated each of her questions. Following this re-examination and deep contemplation, I made significant changes to better support the students, including significantly lowering the weight of the project, providing time in class for students to work, and allowing students to construct their sentences in advance and receive feedback – changes prompted by the thoughtful questions and comments of my department chair.
But, perhaps the things that truly surprised me the most were these:
1. The fact that I reached out to my department chair, via the questions I asked; and
2. The fact that I did not take her questions and comments personally, i.e. I am a “bad teacher.” Although I did take her questions and comments to heart, I realized that the questions and comments were issued out of respect for me as a colleague, out of concern for me regarding the potentially heavy workload I was creating for myself end-of-term, and, what is in the best interest of the student population at our place of employ.
3. The above two points signal a significant and positive shift in my own professionalism, and one which I am not sure I was ready to make even one or two years ago.
Following the email exchange between my department chair and me, I immediately emailed my students, informing them of the changes I was making. I then emailed my department chair, and informed her of what I had done. Some time later, my department chair emailed me, praising me for re-examining my practice. Additionally, she re-affirmed that the choice of a poster project focusing on writing and oral presentation was a good alternative means of assessment.