Newsletters To Staff Site



Posted 1-16-09 From the office of Principal Bill Johnson



Hopefully, you have spent time in your PLC’s lately. Discussion should center on the importance of appropriate homework, common assessment and the value of feedback. Each of these areas has a great influence on the achievement of our students.

Much has been made about homework and the rate that student’s turn in homework and how it affects grades. A look at the research on effective education tells us that, indeed, homework is a valuable tool when used correctly. What is the correct way to use that tool? Homework that reinforces lessons is important. Homework that prepares the students for the next lessons is also valuable. Most important, is the homework that is assigned to student’s must be viewed by the students as important and meaningful.

When homework is designed to produce grades, is too frequent, or is too long for its’ purpose is the homework that is often forgotten, not done or not turned in. Homework that the teacher can demonstrate as valuable to the student is the work that is more frequently turned in to the teacher. Feedback is one of the most effective ways of demonstrating value. 

Assessment is not testing. Assessment is a process aimed at understanding and improving student learning. It involves making clear expectations and setting appropriate outcomes. Using assessment in its’ various forms helps you and the students understand what and how they are learning. Assessment is for everyone’s benefit. Feedback is essential to a student understanding where they are, where they are going, and how they can get there.

Feedback holds the educational process together. The process starts with a clear goal or skill to be mastered. Everyone needs to understand what good work looks like and the steps the students must take to get there. Good homework and good assessment used with good feedback helps students learn how to move closer to the goal. Feedback involves students in their learning.

Too little feedback leaves students wondering, too much feedback leaves them wandering. Did your homework or assessment improve student learning? If it didn’t it wasn’t effective. Did the feedback you gave bring about better understanding? Start your attack on effective feedback with a plan. On every assignment list at least one strength and one suggestion for improvement.

Good students want teacher to notice their work. Not giving feedback or giving little feedback is a lost opportunity. Part of what PLC’s and what our school should be about is what happen when students master the work. Are they encouraged to go beyond their limits? A suggestion for improvement on even an A paper can help the student understand related content or go beyond expectations. Also don’t forget that students who meet goals should form new goals.

There is no such thing as a passive learner. If students are to learn they need to be active and engaged. Homework, classroom activities, formative assessments are chances to get students active and involved in the process of learning and gives them all a chance to be successful.



 At the last faculty meeting I talked about homework, assessment and feedback. Today, I would like to revisit that subject to again emphasize the importance of those areas. I hope I was able to convey to you the importance of feedback in using homework and assessment as tools. We cannot underestimate the value of communication. We need to express our goals to our students. Not in terms of  “today I will teach you about the First Amendment to the Constitution” but in terms of, “by the end of class today you, the students, will be able to communicate the importance of the First Amendment and highlight three ways it affects our lives today.” Focus on learning not teaching.

When students know what they are learning, when they goals understand the objectives, their performance, on average has been shown to be 37 percentile points higher than students who do not understand the goals and objectives. The conclusion is that one of the most powerful innovations in enhances achievement is feedback. In addition, using assessment to provide students with specific information about their progress in terms of particular objectives increases achievement.

Feedback on homework and assessments should provide students with a clear picture of their progress toward the stated goals and how they might improve. This feedback, based upon clear goals, is what forms the basis for differentiated instruction. Homework that reinforces goals or prepares the students for the next goals is effective. Homework that frustrates or reinforces bad habits does not lead to achievement. Feedback on homework and assessment should encourage students to improve. It should be formative and frequent. It should be skill and success oriented and reinforce that success comes from effort.

As PLC groups we can begin by identifying our skill goals (critical content). Then we need to construct a rubric or other sort of common scale as a means to determine if students have achieved the goal. As PLCs, we should meet formally and informally to evaluate the progress toward the goals. This information can then be used to discuss student progress and how it might be improved.