When I was little – which I know is hard to ever picture – I was told never to bite off more than I can chew. Probably sage advice, but rather than be overly cautious, I followed the letter of the law – rather than the spirit – and learned to chew more, rather than bite less.
When I was in university, I had a lab report to write on the comparative musculature of mammal and reptile jaws. While the lab itself was fun, the report was rather dry, so I needed something to make it more interesting – mostly for me, but I figured the TA would appreciate it as well. So I spent three times as long as I needed to in order to create diagrams that were layered on acetate, so they could be pealed away like an actual dissection. It was fun, I felt creative and proud of my work, and it was a hit with the TA. Later, as a TA myself in the same lab, I showed it to a colleague – a prof at Vanier College – who borrowed it, and used it as an exemplar in in his class for two decades.
Because I learned to chew more.
The strange irony I had discovered was that it can sometimes be easier to do more work – because it is easier to do work that is rewarding.
Which brings me to Cohort 21…
My question revolved around making assessment meaningful, and I moved toward adopting a standards/skills based grading (SBG) approach, as I described previously in this video:
But the issue became one of how to manage all the data – how to keep track of all the individual skills for each student. Since I am quite familiar with building database applications in Access, I went that route. I created a set of forms for entering assessments and skills, and reports for showing progress, which look something like this:
Since the whole point is that students should know exactly where they need to improve, I make these forms available by email, and reprint whenever a test or major assessment is completed. But the emailing is time consuming, and the printing is a waste, ideally they should be able to see their progress at any time. There are several online SBG gradebooks available (ActiveGrade, JumpRope, BlueHarvest…), but none quite matched what I was looking for.
You might guess where this is going.
Biting off and chewing, remember?
So for the past few weeks I’ve been teaching myself PHP, and developing a web-enabled version that currently works as a proof of concept on my machine, and will soon (hopefully) migrate it to a server on the school network, and I already have plans for expanding the application to provide students with guidance on how to improve on skills they are struggling with.
This whole process has been one of learning (new techniques and tools), experimentation, iteration, consultation, and, of course, chewing what I bit off.
Action Plan Presentation: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1i0BkAUcP1NKUoKfp8YiT-iv_qeK7viRv9iwhHVHI1NU/edit?usp=sharing