One widespread way that schools have adapted to the pandemic, particularly at the secondary level, is a dramatic restructuring of the “bell schedule.” In the virtual and hybrid contexts we’re now operating in, many students are taking, and teachers are teaching, fewer classes at one time, typically made possible by shortening the length of courses or chunking them into alternating modules (which is what we are doing here at Envision Schools).
The challenges are obvious: These new schedules are born of compromise. They are harder to manage for some disciplines than others. Abrupt change is exhausting. But they do present an opportunity for advancing a key element of your performance assessment system—the culture of reflection and revision among teachers.
In a functioning performance assessment system, students’ work (their response to assignments) informs teachers’ work (their design of assignments) in a process that is collaborative and continual. With courses on faster cycles, there are more opportunities to iterate. A semester-long course, if offered twice during the year, doubles the pace of iteration.
Let’s acknowledge that making time for collaborative revision of courses is not easy. Right now, the brute logistics of delivering instruction in the midst of a pandemic are monopolizing our energies. But as we get deeper into the fall, ELP urges educators to dedicate some of your precious PD time, in whatever form it comes, to sharing assessments and analyzing student work, building your system’s muscles for reflection and revision.
Shorter courses demand even crisper answers to the questions that never go away: What do students need to learn, and how will we know they have learned it?
When teachers do have opportunities to share their work with each other, we encourage you to use ELP’s principles of High Quality Performance Assessment (HQPA) as a common language for exchanging feedback. We offer both a set of look-fors and single-point rubrics for each of the five principles. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us with questions on how to use these tools in your learning community.
with respect and gratitude for the work of educators everywhere,