Teaching tool or testing tool?


Assessment is the mother of good planning, The common core emphasizes formative assessment, the act of taking measurement of skill development at specific checkpoints over a time frame. The formative outcomes are evidence of weaknesses and strengths during the learning process rather than at the end (summative) when it is too late to intervene.

The CCSS encourage educators to know the status of each student’s learning by deepening the assessment process. The following link to Education Week is an example of how two teachers provide differentiated instruction through their methods of formative assessment. Deepening Assessment is described as a clear vision of the progress each student is making. Using the methods described by teacher researchers at the UCLA Lab School, teachers can adjust their lesson plans and provide necessary interventions to improve individual achievement. As described by Nancy Gerzon, a researcher who specializes in formative assessment , “It’s differentiation with more evidence as to why you’re differentiating.”

The article in Education week is an excellent example of how applying self-regulation to assessment increases the teacher’s ability to differentiate instruction. Observing and measuring students’ behaviors during the planning, performance, and reflection phases of self-regulation can be a significant factor in formative assessment and successful outcomes.

What SR teachers do – page 17

Always Blooming!


I was working with an adolescent education student and asked him if he was applying Bloom’s Taxonomy in his lesson planning. He responded that he was familiar with Bloom’s but not sure if he was applying it correctly to levels of learning when planning his demo lesson.

It did not take me long to realize that although educators are aware of the importance of learning objectives being aligned with Bloom’s levels of learning, we have changed the title so many times that preservice teachers could become confused with the actual reason we use Benjamin Bloom’s conceptual approach to instruction and learning.  Benjamin Bloom, when a professor at Chicago University, participated in an informal meeting of college examiners attending the American Psychological Association Convention in Boston. Bloom held the title of Associate Director of the Board of Examinations of the University of Chicago. It was at this meeting that Bloom and a group of others expressed an interest in developing a theoretical framework that they could use to facilitate communication and to promote the exchange of test materials and ideas about testing with other examiners. The group mutually came to an agreement that they could obtain this type of framework through a system of classifying educational goals and objectives. They set out to develop a classification system for thinking behaviors that were important in the learning process, so that examiners might have a more reliable system for assessing students and educational outcomes. This group of college examiners continued to meet informally at a different university each year, and eight years later the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives – The Classification of Educational Goals – Handbook 1: The Cognitive Domain was published in 1956. (http://www.icels-educators-for-learning.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=52&Itemid=67)

They devised a stairway with six steps, six learning levels. The six steps are rough estimates of how learning develops sequentially.  Originally the steps were as depicted the diagram below (http://oaks.nvg.org/taxonomy-bloom.html).

Six levels of learning according to Bloom et al

The levels are thought to build on one another. The six levels in the figure pertain to thinking, the so-called cognitive domain. Here they are:

Taxonomy staircase
There are six levels of knowledge according to Benjamin Bloom et al. The terms are reformulated and simplified in the figure.

However, over the years the taxonomy has been revised to reflect creativity, depth of knowledge, and much more, yet, the framework provides a structure for how we apply the common core standards as well.  Spiraling up is a way to make sure that students “know” before they are asked to “comprehend”  and then “apply” a concept.

As we approach another year of learning and instruction my goal is to provide a crosswalk from Benjamin Bloom’s hierarch of learning to the CCSS and result in learning objectives that reflect SRL! Stay tuned, the summer of blogging has just begun!

Is “opting in” a self-regulatory strategy?

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 2.21.16 PM The simple response is yes. There is much chatter amongst parents in some areas of the country about opting out of the new PARCC state exams. For whatever the reasons the discussion made me wonder if opting out of a required assessment is ever a good idea. Furthermore, can sitting for state exams become a strong factor in teaching self-regulation to the youngest learners? Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar (http://www.ziglar.com/) was very clear about goal setting which is a significant factor in becoming a self-regulated learner. He is famous for the quote about aiming at nothing leading to poor outcomes.     aimzig Rather than opting out of state exams it might be a good idea to set specific goals using the assessments as type of formative assessment. If parents, teachers, and educators set specific and proximal goals for each testing segment, it is possible to change focus the students taking the exams on their performance and not the score. Teaching the youngest learners to self-evaluate and self-monitor how they approach a difficult task and individualize specific outcome expectations can also increase self-efficacy. Today I was in a NYC Public school where not one child has opted out of the upcoming tests. For the past three years the principal has had a mentoring program for parents and students staffed by teachers and volunteers from the school community. Early morning, after school, and Saturday interventions have been designed to make each family and their students comfortable with the subjects and formatting of the standardized tests. The support system is so strong that the students in the school are counting the days to when the PARCC tests begin and they will show everyone what they have learned! Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 2.28.10 PM Both parents and teachers together have help their students set proximal goals for each tutoring session – when specific goals are not met they are reset by reflecting on the performance, and when goals are met the students move onto the next level only after attributing their success to specific strategies. Self-monitoring, self-evaluation and self-assessment are all part of the learning process and can easily be applied to the common core assessments.  Let’s aim at shaping self-regulated learners while taking on the challenges of standardized exams in the earliest grades so that when the SAT score matters these students will say….”Bring it on!”

Barbie would never pass the marshmallow test!


My youngest granddaughter and I were watching a Barbie dream house movie where everything happens instantly. Cupcakes pop out of toaster like appliances fully decorated, the closet dresses her, and her barbecue produces perfectly assembled hot dogs and hamburgers. The only thing Barbie is lacking is glitter, and that becomes the quest: searching for glitter.

I said to Reese, “Would Barbie pass the marshmallow test?”  Remembering her own experience with the marshmallow challenge, the five-year old giggled and responded “Oh no! Never!”

What is the marshmallow test? I recommend watching the youtube video with Joachim de Posada sharing his landmark experiment on delayed gratification (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWURnHkYuxM) and how it can predict future success. Included in his short talk is a video of youngsters trying their hardest not to eat the marshmallow. What I find most interesting is the strategies they use to remain focused on the goal to not eat the marshmallow even when they are very tempted to have instant gratification. What is remarkable is the studies that followed the children collected evidence of the lifelong value of delaying gratification.


So while Barbie has her instant gratification lifestyle, Reese has her Nana reminding her that everything is a process and how much better it is to save our money for a trip to Target than to spend it on the candy placed strategically at the checkout counter. Delaying gratification is a self-regulatory strategy. I am wondering if the common core is attempting to teach  young students to strategically approach learning, using tools and strategies to take difficult tests and as a result, raise their self-efficacy for future testing (Regents, SAT, ACT).

Warning…….Going In Reverse!!!

Someone needs to tell the thousands of adults sitting at their dining room table with children who are frustrated with their homework, that not everything is covered in class before it is sent home for homework. Homework has become preparation for what is to be learned in a future class.


Homework is now actually challenging and often the first exposure to the problem. Polya,the great mathematician, said problem solving must be a struggle, and he provided a sequence of steps to problem solve. Many schools offer parents and caregivers extra help to make homework the discovery of new ideas in preparation for instructional segments.

Backwards planning, or the flipped classroom has come into practice without telling the most important participants, the parents! Educators have found that the process of stepping back for the old model of using class time to expose students to new material has been a successful motivational factor in learning. Devoting class time to interactions rather than lectures takes students beyond content and into the stimulating world of problem solving and critical thinking.

So don’t be surprised if your student comes home with a challenging new task. It is okay to discover together that learning is a journey and our goal is to learn to ask the right questions not necessarily finding the correct answer until class time. Knowing how to ask questions is a goal of the common core and a significant part of the learning process….Self-regulated learners are help-seekers, asking for hints and moving on with their inquiry is a key motivational factor as well as a means towards building self-efficacy.

Why Morphemes?

Can 4th graders infer meaning from context clues and morpheme clues?


Self-regulation of vocabulary acquisition includes linking learning process goals and encouraging self-recording of individual progress (Zimmerman 2008; Zimmerman & Kitsantas, 1999).  The CCSS for K-5 invites students to confront challenging words or phases by making several attempts to arrive at a viable approximation of the meaning, rather than skipping over them or making one attempt and moving on (Caulkins, Ehrenworth, & Lehman, 2012). It is suggested that texts with spiraling like content in increasing complexity can be an effective means for both students and teachers to become engaged in constantly building a transferable vocabulary.

No Skipping! Infer Meaning From Context Clues and Morpheme Clues

Words Have Parts!

A working knowledge of academic language is foundational for learning concepts and processes taught at the middle and high school level. Without a working knowledge of an academic vocabulary, readers and writers most likely will struggle in classes across the curriculum.

  • Teachers cannot possibly teach all of the words students need to know directly, however, providing students with tools and strategies for learning words on their own, one such strategy being morphology (Kieffer & Lesaux, 2010).
  • Students from grades 1-6 have evidenced success in word reading and reading comprehension through training in some aspects of morphology (Bowers, Kirby, & Deacon (2010)
  • Morphology provides a key to developing both word knowledge and high quality mental representations and that knowledge and contributes to word reading and to reading comprehension (Nagy, Berninger, & Abbot, 2006; Nunes & Bryant, 2006).

VTRIX is a combination of a reading passage aligned with morphemes and their meanings. As the student reads through a passage, he/she is self-monitoring while using an Outside/Inside word attack strategy by first attempting to define the word from context, and then from the available morpheme definitions. I made adaptations to a well known Vocabulary Tricks derived from Baumann and his colleagues (2003) by adding self-regulatory vocabulary learning instruction strategies, calling it VTRIX. Learner’s use the Outside/Inside approach to look both inside and outside a word in order to read a challenging passage. 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4   Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone

Are the revised common core standards still standards?

Yesterday I went to Costco to get apples, There were sixteen varieties of apples, yet they were all a type of apple. Now, an apple expert would immediately know that some were good for baking, others of eating, and still others represented a variety of flavors. However, none of the apples could claim to be oranges!

As states begin to individually revise approaches to implementing the common core the essential skills needed to be college ready remain unchanged. Learning achievement requires a common core of learning goals that emphasize college readiness and self-regulated learning.

When not being politicized, the common core initiative can be viewed as an excellent set of guidelines for curriculum, instructional planning, and good teaching. The old saying that states, “If you aim at nothing you will hit it everytime!”, has not been the problem with our educational system. In reality, aiming at mixed sets of goals and curriculum planning has led to poor learning outcomes.

As educators we need to embrace the concept of common standards. Educational excellence is the goal of all those involved in teaching and learning, although approaches to achieving the goals are varied, we are all headed in the same direction.