We know from research how important formative assessment is to instruction and student learning. But sometimes questions and statements we make as teachers fail to elicit a verbal response from students. When this happens, we can try to use non-verbal cues to gauge student understanding for a response. We might also consider how the kinds of language choices we make may not function in ways we intend. Perhaps one of the most notorious phrases that fails to adequately assess students’ formative knowledge is:
(1) Does that make sense?
Anson: “In higher ed, we often think that if students are disconnected and unmotivated in class, it’s their fault.” Poignant call. #4c13 -@chris_friend via Twitter retweeted over 20 times
Chris Anson’s speech, live-tweeted by… well just about everybody at 4C13 with a Twitter account, was an inspiring speech that set a good direction for the field of Rhet Comp. I was, however, concerned by the above statement when considered in the context of similar sentiments expressed within K-12 education.
A Cautionary Tale
When No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was passed in 2001, we began an age of accountability for students and teachers in K-12 education. Students were accountable to educational standards in all states via standardized tests and, barring “flexibility” (will get to that in a minute), schools and teachers were accountable for student performance. If students did not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for a given number of years, state intervention could force the school to close and reopen under new leadership and faculty. Anson’s remark implied that FYC instructors were on some level accountable for students being “disconnected” or “unmotivated.” This seems in line with the move toward accountability in K-12. Since we know from research that teacher effectiveness is a predictor of student success, this is not unreasonable. The next step is, perhaps, more uncomfortable.