Summary of record-keeping methods for informal assessments
RDG/502 – Diagnosis and Remediation
University of Phoenix – Mary M., Instructor
Monday, July 21, 2014
When using informal measures of reading that go beyond measuring objective reading and learning behaviors (words per minute, decoding, etc.), three questions that I ask to get more information are:
What do I want to know?
How will I get this information?
What will I do with this information?
What I want to know are the ‘non-measurable’ affective behaviors the students exhibit towards and when reading. I want to use this information for use in decision-making, in reading class placement, to help with needed accommodations in Gen Ed classrooms and to help family members understand what is happening with their children. Walking around the room and observing what a student is actually doing helps teachers better understand students’ needs in reading. I need to collect and document information from these observations in an efficient and effective manner, and herein lies the challenge. Informal assessments require a manageable system for keeping track of data.
To record this data, I may use a clipboard to document my observations. I walk around with a clipboard, charting my observations of each student. Each student has their own note-taking section. I make note of behavior (+ and -), reading improvement, new challenges and how well they interact with others (and with me). A sample:
“Used more resp. lang. in class, better effort on read. pass., cont. to prov. others near him.”
I write in shorthand (that others couldn’t begin to interpret). I try to type my written comments into the grade book asap after class (see next section).
I may also use a chart on my clipboard that allows me to make qualitative comments on responses to classroom prompts. These charts may be district-required forms, or other inventories of student outcomes.
A critical element is to get this data transferred directly to my electronic grade book (this includes my observations of how students are progressing in Learning Targets). A centralized record for each student (or of all students if analyzing the aggregate) allows for faster decision making and helps to create a clearer picture of how the student in doing. If I have enough data, I use Excel to create charts, graphs, and average numbers. For example, I will use spreadsheets to chart number of + and – behavioral interventions and other observations. Databases like school loop are catching up with the needs of teachers and date, and I plan to use them with my data and record-keeping as well. Hopefully at some point a program like school-Loop will integrate spreadsheets and grade-reporting.
However I feel that the simplest way to collect data and maintain records is to have student collect the work themselves and maintain their own binder. I can make anecdotal observations for each child directly in his or her binder. If I don’t have access to their binder in any given moment, I can write my observations on a post it note and put it in their binder at the end of class. This will create a running record, using the students’ folders to gather and store data from different sources to be used when needed. This binder can be used at decision-making meetings with only minimal changes or additions. Obviously this requires training the students to be responsible with their folders and remain organized.
I do find that I have challenges maintaining the above systems. The system that I am most capable of supporting is that of the initial charting and transfer to a database/excel (Excel is not a true database, but often serves as an adequate substitute for teachers). Every year I start with binders, intending to have a record-keeping system that I can use when needed to analyze student progress, and every year I fail to deliver to the standards that I set.
However the observations, anecdotal records, data analysis and whatever binder portfolios I do collect do help me make important decisions during parent conferences, for use in IEP meetings and with the reading coordinator to help make appropriate reading placement decisions. I always look at anecdotal evidence before IEP meetings. often, a comment written down by a teacher can lead to a good discussion on how to support a student. and may be more important than any other type of data. The observations of teachers who see the students everyday is very valuable. I try to keep notes of behavior and actions in class to help me in meetings. When I look at grades, I also look at my informal assessment data and when I meet with families, my observations help to complete the picture of how their son or daughter is doing. If I am suspecting a learning disability or significant behavioral challenges, record-keeping is of critical importance to document concerns.
However few of the above decisions based on informal assessment can be made without adequate record-keeping,
I know I want to know. I know what I want to do with this information. With practice and commitment, the question of, how will I get this information?, will be answered consistently. I will be better-able to bring data to the decision-making table and show that my concerns have merit.