Knowing your class is the most important aspect of developing best practice.
This very simple fact has often been misconstrued as a need for complex and onerous assessment monitoring. Not quite.
Over the past year, I’ve developed a far better working knowledge of my classes, but the usual combination of progress levels + anecdotal evidence was not quite efficient enough to help me in my pedagogic development. This all changed with what I call ‘Lego Brick Profiling’:
Very, very simple. Names in a spreadsheet. Categories for Reading, Writing, Behaviour for Learning (these categories can of course be adapted). Each category colour coded 1 – 4 (1 = Novice, 2 = Developing, 3 = Confident, 4 = Expert). Each category includes an anecdotal note explaining the grade, eg: “secure vocab and verb choices. some work needed on commas for clauses”
Nothing groundbreaking in itself, this is essentially a live spreadsheet in which I colour code various aspects of my students, ranging from core skill ability to attitude and barriers to learning. What makes this an example of good design is in its flexibility in application:
- Identifying cohorts – by sorting the spreadsheet according to whatever category I choose to focus on, I can very quickly ascertain different ability cohorts within one class. This helps with differentiating work, seating plans, establishing working partners, etc, etc
- Live tracking – because the sheet is not focussed only on grades and progress, it’s easy to amend with the latest information. I frequently change a level based on recent outcomes, which is far more relevant than using clunky assessment points alone. I also add categories as necessary. For example, ‘Expert area’ in the screenshot above.
- Formally informal – The anecdotal nature of these notes makes this a far more human approach to monitoring than simple assessment monitoring. I actually use this as a kind of crib sheet for parents’ evenings, allowing me to articulate my thoughts quickly and precisely.
- Better than a seating plan – rather than ornate, baroque seating plans, all I need to do is produce this sheet and justify the set-up of my class accordingly.
I recommend you have a go profiling one of your classes in this way. The most technical bit is formatting the spreadsheet to automatically change colour when you input a number 1 – 4 (conditional formatting). After that, easy.
Yours, in teaching,