Compassionate Assessment

UnknownOne of the many benefits of working with a student teacher this semester is that I am freed up from having to “do all the things” for my classes.  As she continues to assume duties in the classroom and with students, I am freed up to work on some other projects and explore ideas that otherwise get pushed to the back burner.  High on my list is trying to improve methods and tools to provide personalized feedback that helps students grow in their language skills.  Our school has been working with the ideas in Carol Dweck’s book Mindset, and I’ve been thinking for a while about how I might incorporate those concepts into my classes.

Which brings us to one of my first projects:


Several years ago, a wise colleague shared the origins of the word compassion with me:  to suffer with.  This thought has stuck with me because I’m a word nerd, but also because of the idea of “with”–that it is something that is done together.  When applied to assessment and combined with my desire to work on changing student mindsets and increasing language skills, I cannot escape the idea that feedback is very, but VERY critical in this process.  The feedback needs to be two-way, interactive, and personalized. Yet, practically speaking, it’s also very hard to provide effectively when you have large classes, many students, other duties, and a life away from school.  And this is what I’ve tried to address with a feedback tool that I adapted this week.

The catalyst for me was seeing an idea here.  While in a different situation, the teacher had a desire to give more feedback to her students and developed a checklist style form to facilitate it.  Inspired by that idea, I adapted her form to accompany my intermediate students’ most recent writing assignment comparing a couple of pieces of art.  While we have a rubric that we use consistently to assess students’ work, I wanted something that would help us identify specific areas for students to address.  I also wanted a way to help students appreciate the degree of their mastery of more specific concepts.

So here’s what I’ve come up with as a working first draft.

NEW on 3/6/15:  Download samples of the documents here.

la foto-4

Each of the elements of the form has a specific purpose tied to areas where students commonly struggle.

  • In the small boxes on the left, there’s a list of elements that should be in the performance, based on the prompt.  One area of concern has been that students simply don’t complete the whole prompt. I’ll check off the areas that they address in their writing.
  • Across the top is a proficiency spectrum thanks to JCPS that has our proficiency target highlighted.  I’ve circled this student’s performance level for this assignment so that she can compare her performance with our desired target.
  • The large grid is for language usage.  Here I’ve taken a mix of language from our rubric (variety of topic-oriented vocabulary words and phrases), lexical concepts (connecting words), and pertinent grammatical topics (changing verb tenses).  
    • For the vocabulary-oriented topics, I want to indicate an approximation of how consistently they are being employed in this piece–and check the appropriate box  accordingly.
    • For the grammar topics, I also add checks in the “generally accurate” or “accuracy needs attention” box as appropriate.  While grammar is not our primary driving force, we are at the point where we need to draw attention to some of the novice-level errors that are still being made.  I hope this will help students generate better questions about what they need, and help me understand what areas are still problematic for this student and this class.
    • Finally, the last column is color coded to indicate their overall strength in that skill as supported by evidence in the essay.  I’m using stoplight colors:  green is “good to go”; yellow is “needs attention”; and a red is “let’s work on this one on one”.
  • The boxes in the bottom third of the sheet are to allow space for comments.

I’m completing this form for each student, and will have a mini-conference with each one after they’ve had time to review their feedback.  I’ll also give them the opportunity to edit their work and incorporate the suggestions I’ve provided as a part of our growth model. I’ve found a few tweaks that I will make for the second edition of the form, and I know that the mini-conferences won’t always be possible.  However, I’m hopeful that students will find this experience helpful, and that we will see the growth that we all desire.

How about you?  How do you collaborate with your students to provide feedback?  What would make this process easier for you?  Please share your ideas in the comments!


photo credits: and

20 thoughts on “Compassionate Assessment

  1. Now *I* need a student teacher! Also, I need a little LovemysummerCamp to work on applying this. How reusable is this rubric? I like the task-based stuff on the left–easy to swap out–but is the rest something that pretty much applies across the board for any type of presentational assignment? Maybe just writing? How much is from proficiency standards? Is any just from personal preference or observed deficits in your specific classes? Why do some have checks only on the left, some only on the right, but the one in both?

    I want to steal this so bad, but I need at least a Hangout to walk me through it!

  2. Monica Angel says:

    This is a wonderful idea! my only concern would be time consuming but I think it would work perfectly. Would you mind sharing a copy of it?

  3. Kelly says:

    GREAT idea! I would love a copy to see “up close” – I’ve been looking for something like this! Thanks for sharing! (I left my email in the form here)

  4. Pam Sheppard says:

    Our school is also trying to implement ideas from Mindset. We are talking about
    “academic optimism”. I would love to share a copy of your work with colleagues. Please see email below. Thanks for your work. Pam

  5. Laura Catherine says:

    This is wonderful! I love that it’s very clear, quick and yet provides much-needed feedback for students to inform their writing (or speaking). I would love a copy when you have a chance. Gracias for always sharing your hard work with us!

  6. Therese says:

    This is excellent timing! Thank you so much for sharing this with the web! I’d love to hear how you will give a letter grade or points from this? Green = A, yellow = B? I feel like this form will provide my students with more useful feedback than a rubric (the latest one I’ve used is broken into categories – amount of details and elaboration; variety of vocabulary; comprehensibility; task completion; and accuracy). I’m just trying to figure out how to marry them together (points / grade & feedback). Not to mention that your great form has them thinking about longer sentences and transition words too. Thanks again. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  7. Lindsey Marie Nielson says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I’ve been thinking on how to give my students more individualized feedback instead of just a grade. Thanks for sharing your great ideas!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s