I am eagerly awaiting my flight to Denver on Sunday. Admittedly, I’ve never been to Denver, so I look forward to experiencing the food, sights and sounds of a new city. Professionally, I am energized to be returning to a conference that in its 24th year of existence, is still an epicenter of conversation, debate and exploration around assessment – a term coined the ‘language of learning’.
Back in 2006 I was a high school social studies teacher who had his arm somewhat twisted by administration to attend the December Grading Conference in Portland. I was reluctant to attend as I simply did not see the promise in a conference that claimed to tackle grading. If you had told me it was about instruction, lesson planning or hands-on learning I would probably have been more interested, but grades seemed an open and closed topic, hardly deserving of a conference devoted to it. I was sorely mistaken.
It was the Trailblazers tickets that tipped the balance and I decided to attend the Portland conference in 2006. Rick Stiggins hooked me with the ‘Why’ during the first keynote by challenging me to consider the extent to which I set clear learning targets, and more importantly, how I reacted when they were not met. Ken O’Connor further challenged my thinking by delving into the reasons for changing the way I graded group projects, applied late deductions and used zeros – all things I was completely ok with doing before I had set foot in Oregon.
Since 2006 I have only missed one of the conferences; I prioritize these trips because I find the ATI Conferences to be a great balancing act between the ‘Why’ and the ‘How’. In the few days we have leading to Denver, I encourage all attendees to work on defining your purpose. It its important to know your purpose in education and the extent to which your purpose is supported (or eroded) by your assessment practices. Only when we drill down into what we most hope to achieve are we best able to refine our tools and practices. Looking over the 24th Annual Assessment Training Institute Summer Conference agenda, there is an amazing array of new and experienced presenters that will challenge convention, while offering alternatives. Conversations will reflect the need to establish purpose, while developing the reasons for rethinking assessment and the ways in which it can be done.
In my closing keynote, ‘Mixed Messages‘ I plan to tackle the topic of purpose and explore ways that we either support or erode that purpose by what we say and do. If assessment is indeed the ‘language of learning’, it is very important that we send messages that support our purpose around learning and relationships.
See you in Denver,
Myron writes at https://myrondueck.wordpress.com/
Myron Dueck is a vice-principal, teacher and author in SD 67 in British Columbia, Canada. He has previously taught in Manitoba and the South Island of New Zealand. Over the past 17 years of teaching, Myron has experience in a variety of subjects ranging from grades 4 to 12. Beginning in 2006, Myron developed a number of assessment and grading systems with his senior classes in which students have greater opportunity to show what they know and adapt to the feedback they receive. As a teaching and administrative leader, Myron has been a part of district work groups and school assessment committees that have further broadened his access to innovative steps taken by others. Through speaking of his experiences and showing a variety of student-friendly assessment procedures, Myron has visited many school districts and conferences across North America and Europe. Myron has twice been published in EL Magazine. His best-selling book, Grading Smarter, Not Harder – Assessment Strategies that Motivate Kids and Help Them Learn was released by ASCD in July 2014.