Friday, January 16, 2015

Including Students in the Assessment Process

It’s January! Along with the bitter cold, snow, and ice here in Massachusetts come the quarterly and mid-year progress reports. As teachers of the deaf/hard of hearing, we spend hours each quarter reviewing data from individual sessions with each student, analyzing observation notes, and compiling a semesters worth of information and work samples into a comprehensive report showing how we’ve addressed or met specific IEP goals and objectives. A few years ago a student who was in sixth grade at the time told me that his mom had shared my progress report with him. He was aware of his IEP but didn't know that I wrote reports about him each quarter. He had so many questions and stated that now he understood why I wrote so much in my notebook while we were working. This experience was eye opening for me as well – why shouldn’t students know about progress reports?  Better yet, why not include them in the process?

We all know the importance of including students in the IEP process, but including them in ongoing assessment throughout the year is equally as important. When students are familiar with their IEP goals and objectives and participate in regular self-assessment, their ability to advocate and actively participate in their educational programs improves. In addition, it helps students become more aware that our lessons have context; what we do together relates to their short and long term goals. It is important for students to understand why they receive support services from a teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing. Involvement in quarterly self-assessment is one way to approach this need as students become participants in the planning and assessment of their entire academic and social school programming rather than passive recipients of support services.

All of my junior high and high school students, and many of my upper elementary students (depending on individual readiness and ability), formally assess their own progress quarterly. I use my progress report due dates as a guide. During individual sessions, each student is given a print out of their IEP goals and objectives that we have targeted during the term, and with my support, they write a short narrative of how they feel they have progressed in each area. I encourage students to provide examples, discuss what was easy and what was challenging, what they feel they can now do independently and areas where they feel they need continued support, and what they see as the next steps. Sound familiar? These are the same aspects targeted in our quarterly reports! Not only do students become involved, but it’s also an opportunity for me to assess my own teaching:  Can my student articulate what we’ve worked on? Were my examples and lessons clear or is my student confused or off track?  Do my student and I agree about his independent and guided abilities? In my own progress narrative, I often cite examples from student self-assessment as this data is valuable not only to me, but to everyone working with the student. 

Here are a few tips for including students in quarterly self-assessment:

Discuss the purpose and process for quarterly self-assessment with the student’s parents. If parents have concerns, they can be addressed prior to beginning the process with the student.

Help the student understand the purpose of the self-assessment. When students understand that self-assessment is part of looking at growth and progress rather than focusing on deficits, they are more willing to participate honestly.

Structure the assessment according to student needs. I find creating a table with the objective in one column and space for the student to write is the most organized. For some objectives, I simplify the language in parentheses beside the formally written objective to be sure my student understands. I also include prompts for the criteria I want students to write about.

Make the self-assessment applicable. When students indicate areas where they want more support, I am sure to include those areas in our individual sessions and explicitly refer to their self-assessment notes. Sharing the assessment with other service providers and teachers (with the student’s permission) can help the student to see the benefit and carryover as well.

How do you include students in on-going assessments?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Mainstream News Available Online

Clarke's newsletter, Mainstream News,is now accessible online and free of charge thanks to sponsorship from our friends at Oticon Pediatrics. The Winter 2015 issue is now available, along with the Fall 2014 newsletter and those from the 2013-2014 school year. 

Mainstream News offers timely, practical articles to help professionals and parents provide students with effective support and access in mainstream educational settings. We are also committed to introducing our readers to role models who inspire, encourage and celebrate all that is possible for students with hearing loss. 
We are thrilled to offer this publication online so that it may reach school professionals and families far and wide. Be sure to sign up to receive email alerts when each new issue is posted online!

A Few Highlights from Our Winter 2015 Issue:

  • Learn why students with hearing loss need opportunities to recharge after periods of intense listening. Our lead article offers simple ways to incorporate breaks for students across the grades.
  • Meet a dynamic group of students from Hampshire Regional High School in Westhampton, MA. These students explained to school administrators the challenge of accessing public address announcements. As a result, they started this school year with a new system in place that improves access to announcements for all students at the school.
  • Our fifth-grade friend, Wil, returns for another installment of his "Dear Wil" column. This time around he responds thoughtfully to students who asked about managing communication and hearing aids at a pool party and during sports activities.
  • Does your student have a pass-around microphone as part of his or her FM system? Are you considering adding one? The final article in this issue answers frequently asked questions to help school teams make the most of this technology.