June 18, 2009

Higher Expectations

Last week we took our Outdoor Ed class to Kananaskis and Banff. We went hiking, tented in below freezing weather, endured a snowstorm and went whitewater rafting. One of the teachers who helped (and by helped I mean did most of) with the hiking plans had lived in the area. She is a maniac. We nicknamed her little Hitler. Her hikes were hard. The first day we hiked through 2 - 3 feet of snow to get to a frozen lake at high altitude. The second day we climbed a mountain - a very steep mountain. Our first hike was 15.4 kms round trip. The second was a little shorter. It was hard (especially with an ankle sporting some torn ligaments).

The thing I came away with - we need to have higher expectations for our students. This is nothing new. We have heard it over and over. This was the first time I have truly witnessed the effects of having those higher expectations. The students were challenged - they could have given up; they could of complained; they could have said "this is too much"...and they might have been right. But we expected them to do it. And they did. And they were extremely glad they did. They had a strong sense of accomplishment. And they had tons of fun. Plus they weren't going to let "hop-a-long" beat them up the mountain.

One female student had, in the past, had a near death experience with canoeing. Her life jacket got stuck on some branches in a set of rapids. She almost drowned. Yet she came whitewater rafting - and she even did the cliff jump into freezing cold water...actually everyone did! She was glad that we had pushed her to do it. The most interesting part - the high expectations were easily transferable. Students started having higher expectations for themselves, and for each other. All this accomplishment and a highly successful experience just because "Little Hitler" believed in us. Thanks Little Hitler.

June 1, 2009

In Summary

This goes with my last post.  It is a question I have.  Is there such a thing as summative assessment?  And if the answer is yes, are we looking at education all wrong?  

An idea: there is no such thing as summative assessment.  Or at least there shouldn't be.  Isn't it our hope that students will continue to learn...and expand upon and deepen their skills?  Then isn't all assessment, in terms of our students, formative?  Summative assessment exists only for teachers.  It is a way for us to wrap things up.  But do things need to be "wrapped up" (okay, I know you're thinking it...there's a good Sex Ed. joke here).  Seriously though, what if we viewed all assessment as formative.  Would it mean that we would be much more connected with the grades below us and above us (does this include post secondary)?  Anyways, just a thought.  I haven't explored it too much yet, but it is an interesting concept.