When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. When all you have is one lens for looking at student achievement, all you see is a narrow range of issues to address. English is a broad subject covering the fundamental skills of reading, writing, critical thinking, and speaking and listening. How could one measure possibly speak fully to each of these areas?
Each aspect of work within the Inquiry By Design ecosystem contributes to a larger, multiple-measures vision of student skill. Take, for example, the writing task at the end of the unit: as students construct text-based arguments, they put on display their knowledge and comprehension of the text itself, their ability to construct a reasonable and well-organized case for their position, and their ability to generate meaningful and elegant sentences. Our unique rubrics allow teachers insight into each of these different skills in ways that are both genre-specific and universal, and the cyclical nature of our curriculum allows multiple attempts at each type of writing.
But a formal writing task is only one lens. Consider the student thinking that becomes visible in their literacy notebooks, where they collect their quick writes and daily fluency writing, and where they add to their personal vocabulary lists. Consider what a teacher can see in students’ error journals, where they log their grammar and punctuation corrections for future reference, or in discussion, where teachers can listen to students’ thinking process as it happens. Consider, too, how much insight is gained when a teacher reads not only the students’ final products, but also students’ evaluations of their own work and their reflections on their strengths and weaknesses. Imagine a classroom where students regularly set goals for themselves and periodically examine their own progress. Imagine all of this collected in a student portfolio, ready to share with any audience.
It may sound like a lot. But imagine one more thing: a daily workflow that builds these tasks in along the way, provides teachers the tools and training they need, and encourages them to focus on what matters most – providing feedback and instruction that challenges students to achieve more.