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Assessment Design Checklist

In this week’s module for CEP 813, I was asked to create an Assessment Design Checklist. This checklist is setup as a beginning foundation for what I would need to setup an impactful formative assessment in my content area (as a Spanish, level 2 instructor).

These first few modules have really opened my eyes to a better understanding of what formative assessment is and have helped me realize how much more I need to understand.  I’m wishing that I was given the opportunity to take this course as part of my undergraduate College of Education courses, because this is already forcing me to question my method of assessment in my classes.

Just yesterday, I used a pretty strict, summative assessment with my students to check their understanding of level one material, but when we went over the answers today in class, I asked students to orally give me an explanation as to how they got to their answers.

To check out the draft of my Assessment Design Checklist, Click Here.

WPP: Rethinking Teaching InfoGraphic

This week I got together with my Think Tank for my Wicked Problem Project. We brainstormed questions revolving around the wicked problem of Rethinking Teaching. After spending some time looking at the problem from several different standpoints – stubborn teacher, student and policy maker, we came up with three different sections to look at overall:

  1. Teacher Preparation
  2. Use of Technology
  3. Effective Assessment

These were the three main topics that came up as we ran through all of the questions we came up during our question brainstorming activity in week 3. After participating in the roundrobin discussion, we decided to prioritize our questions and came up with the following WHY questions:

  1. Why can’t the teaching and questioning be put into the hands of the students and away from the teacher?
  2. Why can’t traditional education change to be more hands-on?
  3. Why can’t there be more support to help teachers experiment in the classroom?
  4. Why are laws based on student performance on standardized assessment proficiency?
  5. Why can’t teacher performance be based on collaboration throughout the district or based on teacher creativity or teacher-student relationships?

After breaking our generalized topic (rethinking teaching) into specific questions my further research this week based on these questions has shown me how important this topic really has become as the 21st century has changed the way students gather information and work in a classroom setting.  I even came across an article from The Atlantic that questions the whole role of the teacher in general and asks the question of whether teachers are even necessary anymore. I am curious to see what the teaching profession could even become as rethinking education is a topic on the forefront of many policy makers and educational institutions in the United States.



Want to view the interactive infographic? Click Here.






Igniting Questioning in the Classroom




Moving forward into week 2 of CEP 812, I read through the first two chapters of Warren Berger’s (2014) book, “A More Beautiful Question.”  Berger, a journalist, decided to understand more about “the power of inquiry,” as he discovered that for many people, “their greatest successes — their breakthrough inventions, hot start-up companies, the radical solutions they’d found to stubborn problems — could be traced to a question (or a series of questions) they’d formulated and then answered,” (Berger, 2014. p. 1).

I too understand the inquiry that goes into journalism and felt connected to Berger when he was sparked to follow through on this topic after discovering it from a completely separate project he was working on. As an educator, I can agree to an extent his questioning of the current U.S. education system in that students are forced to sit still for hours at a time and have all of the right answers. “…Many educators and learning experts contend that the current system of education does not encourage, teach, or in some cases even tolerate questioning,” (Berger, 2014. p. 46).

Berger interviews Harvard’s Tony Wagner, who explains that:

“‘Somehow, we’ve defined the goal of schooling as enabling you to have more ‘right answers’ than the person next to you. And we penalize incorrect answers. And we do this at a pace — especially now, in this highly focused test-prep universe- where we don’t have time for extraneous questions,’” (Berger, 2014. p. 46).

This, in particular, is what got me thinking about the school that I currently teach at.  I teach at a charter high school in Detroit where the majority of our students are reading at an elementary (some at a middle school) level.  We are constantly bombarded by tests, this year alone, we have already scheduled our students to take the NWEA test four times, ANET testing four times, SAT, Work Keys, MSTEP (and I’m sure there are more tests that I am forgetting).  We are constantly pushing our students to work toward exams and offer incentives to students who test well and achieve high scores. I feel this takes away many opportunities for our students to be creative or more inquisitive in their classes because they are expected to remember facts for a test. And when a teacher’s “effectiveness” rating is tied to the students’ test scores, I think that there are times when many educators feel bombarded and/or rushed to not only teach the curriculum but also get students caught up on the previous curriculum that they are so behind in.

In the second chapter of Berger’s book, he asks the question: “If we’re born to inquire, then why must it be taught?” He discusses the Right Question Institute and their involvement in helping educators and businesses teach their students (or employees) how to ask questions and how to evolve their thinking through questioning.  This section was the most impactful for me because it had me thinking about my own classroom, and gave me ideas on ways that I could impact the students I teach daily.

I am quite grateful that I am a Spanish teacher — technically a required elective class— so I feel I can be more creative activities with my students. The “Question Formulation Technique,” from Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana’s Right Question Institute is something I’d like to incorporate in my own classroom. It allows students who normally sit in pairs (or groups) to ask questions (rather than answer them).

The program designed for K-12 classrooms goes like this:

1. Teachers design a Question Focus (Q-Focus).

2. Students produce questions (no help from the teacher; no answering or debating the questions; write down every question; change any statements into questions).

3. Students improve their questions (opening and closing them).

4. Students prioritize their questions. They are typically instructed to come to an agreement on three favorites.

5. Students and teachers decide on next steps, for acting on the prioritized questions.

6. Students reflect on what they have learned.

(Berger, 2014. p. 65)

I think incorporating activities like this into my Spanish class will give ALL students an opportunity to participate (because they’re not required to KNOW facts), and it will allow them to participate more in how they are learning (and even what they are learning).  It will also provide them the necessary support to know how to formulate questions that will get them to solutions in the long-run.

As educators, it is our goal to help our students continually grow and if we prevent them from understanding how to question more openly and freely to find new ideas, we are doing them a disservice (more so than when we don’t teach them straight curriculum facts).

Ever wonder how to ask the right question? Check out this video from Hal Gregersen during a TEDxYouth Talk about people can learn how to ask questions to navigate the challenges of today.




Berger, W. (2014). A more beautiful question: the power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York: Bloomsbury.

iz Quotes.  (2017). Albert Einstein Quote. [Online image].
Retrieved September 17, 2010 from

TedxYouth. [TedxYouth]. (2013, June 11). How To Ask The Right Question: Hal Gregersen at TEDxYouth@IFTA [Video file]. Retrieved from


Problems of Practice: Using a Digital tool to support an ill-structured problem in the classroom.

This past week in my CEP 812 course, we were introduced to various kinds of problems that we face regularly. Educators consistently learn from, create and help students understand and solve problems that fall under the categories of well-structured, ill-structured or wicked problems.

Focusing in this week on ill-structured problems, an ill-structured problem is one that Coulson, Feltovich and Anderson (2004) has described as learning situations in which, “many concepts (interacting contextually) are pertinent in the typical case of knowledge application, and that their patterns of combination are inconsistent across case applications of the same nominal type” (p. 641).  Ultimately it is a problem where there isn’t one exact solution (like a well-structured problem), but rather one must look at multiple variables and be flexible in coming up with a solution (which the initial solution could potentially change or need a varying response at a later given time) to the problem.

As a Spanish teacher, I regularly face ill-structured problems in that I have to help my students acquire the necessary tools to be able to read, write and create in a language other than their primary language. I took some time diligently looking at what needs I consistently see in my classroom and I chose to look at the specific learning disability (SLDs) involved with basic reading and comprehension. My ill-structured problem is reading comprehension.

“Much evidence exists to indicate that phoneme segmentation – the ability to separate a word into its constituent phonemes – is strongly linked to reading disability and plays a primary role in the speed of initial reading acquisition. Poor readers have been found to have difficulty making explicit reports about word segments at phoneme level and their poor perception of phonemes negatively affects word decoding, the most fundamental problem for poor readers at all age levels,” (Sparks & Ganschow, p. 293).

Students who have a specific learning disability in basic reading and comprehension have difficulty understanding phonics and thus a greater difficulty decoding meaning from what they are reading. Ultimately, this makes it difficult for the student(s) to reproduce written or oral information in the target language after they’ve read in the target language.

Much of the structure of Spanish levels one and two are based around the key development and understanding of vocabulary and grammar structure to be able to reproduce thought through written and oral formats.  When students have difficulty decoding words and comprehending sentences in their native language, doing the same thing but in a secondary (or foreign language) in theory could be just as difficult, or even more difficult.

“The theoretical assumption underlying our position is that individuals who have difficulties in the rule systems of their first language are likely to have related problems as they begin to learn a second language. For example, if a student has a poor phonological skill in the native language, concomitant difficulties will be experienced with the phonology of the [foreign language],” (Sparks & Ganschow, p. 290).

As discussed by Jonathan F. Arries, in his article entitled “An Experimental Spanish Course for Learning Disabled Students,” Arries talks about how a high school Spanish teacher had demonstrated a technique to help students with a learning disability comprehend the key vocabulary and grammar in a lesson.

“The teacher pre-taught the component graphemes and phonemes in the lesson and required her students to manipulate them multisensorily. She required her LD students to first look at the grapheme, listen to her pronounce the phoneme, copy the syllables, and finally say them aloud to a classmate. The objective of all these steps was to increase the probability that students would correctly read, write and remember the content of the vocabulary and grammar lesson,” (p. 113. 1994).

Reading as an ill-structured problem doesn’t have a specific answer, nor is there one specific way to address reading comprehension difficulties in a foreign language classroom.  After talking with some of my peer educators and wanting to integrate more technology tools in my foreign language classroom, I found the website Quizlet to be a powerful and free (with additional paid options) source to help facilitate learning and understanding for a student with a learning disability in the foreign language classroom.

Quizlet allows the teacher to create a set of vocabulary flash cards, attach pictures to them so that meaning is given to the specific flash card, as well as provide the pronunciation of the word(s) with a click of the mouse. The website will store those word sets and students can refer back to it at home or from a mobile device and use it to study or play games from those vocabulary sets.

Ultimately, I believe Quizlet would enable a learner with a specific learning disability for basic reading comprehension to thrive academically because it allows them an opportunity to break down the structure of the vocabulary word through a visualization of the vocabulary terms, listen to someone pronounce the words and provides them with multiple ways to practice those functions both in and outside of the classroom.

Check out my screencast on Quizlet here for further information about this wonderful digital tool:



Arries, J. (1994). An Experimental Spanish Course for Learning Disabled Students. Hispania, 77(1), 110-117. doi:10.2307/344462

Arries, J. (1999). Learning Disabilities and Foreign Languages: A Curriculum Approach to the Design of Inclusive Courses. The Modern Language Journal, 83(1), 98-110. Retrieved from

Sparks, R., & Ganschow, L. (1993). Searching for the Cognitive Locus of Foreign Language Learning Difficulties: Linking First and Second Language Learning. The Modern Language Journal, 77(3), 289-302. doi:10.2307/329098

Spiro, R.J., Coulson, R.L., Feltovich, P.J. & Anderson, D.K. (2004). Cognitive flexibility theory: Advanced knowledge acquisition in ill-structured domains. In R.B. Ruddell, N.J. Unrau (Eds). Theoretical Models and Processes of Reading (5th Ed., pp 640-659). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Shaping Maker Thinking in CEP 811

This is my final post for my CEP 811 class for my Master’s of Arts in Educational Technology.  The past seven weeks flew by and I can’t believe I am writing my final post for this class.   I will admit that prior to this class I didn’t know much about Maker Education, Maker Spaces, and/or Making.  This class has shown me a whole different way of thinking and being creative that I never thought I’d honestly enjoy. I’ve heard of the Maker Faire that happens every year at the Henry Ford Museum but I’ve never gone.  I can’t wait to go next year!

This class forced me completely out of my comfort zone when it comes to thinking and being creative.  I don’t necessarily think that I’m someone who is necessarily “creative” or even “logic,” but I was thoroughly inspired to try.  I really enjoyed the Maker Kit that I used, Circuit Scribe, and I was introduced to new resources online like Google’s SketchUp program and different infographic tools.  My goal is to find a way to get my students into a computer lab so they can create infographics or posters to express some of the grammar concepts we have been going over this semester as a final exam review.

This upcoming Summer I’d like to collaborate with other educators (specifically language teachers) to create projects for my students that can revolve around making, so that when the Fall comes, I can incorporate more project-based learning AND Maker Education in my classroom.  I would love to look into getting some funding (through and so that I can have the supplies in my classroom that my students need to produce their work.

I have always been intrigued by computer science and coding (I took a class last year on C++ language), and CEP 811 inspired to get involved in the Hour of Code that has been conducted this week in conjunction with Next year, I’d like to find a way to get more classes at my school involved in the Hour of Code because I think it’s important for students to be exposed to computer science language so that they may find an interest in some of the STEM careers (or even just hobbies) that are available out there.

I decided to finalize my thoughts on what I’ve learned about Maker Education and how to incorporate Maker Education into the classroom by creating another infographic:


Deloitte Center for the Edge and Maker Media from the Maker Impact Summit (2013, December). Impact of the maker movement. Article retrieved from

Good, Travis. (2013, January 28). What is making? [Web log comment]. Retrieved from


Swaaley, Scott. (2014, September 19). Maker Movement Reinvents Education. Newsweek Article. Retrieved from

Thomas, A. (2012, September 7). Engaging Students in the STEM Classroom Through “Making”. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Assessing Creative Problem Solving…

As CEP 811 is in its final week, it’s time to take a step back and look at the overall picture of the maker world and creativity. How, as an educator, can I push myself (and other educators) to assess problem solving during maker-inspired lessons.  Personally, I think I’d begin with finding ways to incorporate making and creating in my classroom more.  I teach Spanish (so definitely not a science/math class), however, I think that I could incorporate more project-based learning activities with my students and have them create their own review games. Making doesn’t even necessarily have to be electronics – it could be food, sewing, wood creations, art, etc.

Along with inspiring myself to be more creative with the type of projects that I have students create, I will make it a point to come up with a guideline or rubric as to what creativity looks like.  In the past I’ve had students create Spanish “picture-books” and I’ll tell them “Be creative!” I’ve had students in the past look at me and go “well, what does that mean?”  And then the finalized work that gets turned in looks like anything from a black and white stick-figure picture-book to an elaborate, colorful and detailed picture-book.

Grant Wiggins discusses his support for assessment on creativity in his blogpost “On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should,” and explains that it’s important to let students know the expectations and define what creativity should look like.

“So, it is vital when asking students to perform or produce a product that you are crystal-clear on the purpose of the task, and that you state the purpose (to make clear that the purpose is to cause an intrinsic effect, NOT please the teacher,” (Wiggins, 2012).

After a clear explanation, I would provide students with that guideline (or rubric) for creativity.  Wiggins brought up in his blogpost that some students feel that rubrics are stifling their creativity, “If rubrics are sending the message that a formulaic response on an uninteresting task is what performance assessment is all about, then we are subverting our mission as teachers,” (Wiggins, 2012).

So rather than creating a rubric, I could potentially just offer up to my students the question “is your project engaging?”  And allow students to present their projects to the class showing off their creation and potentially allow other students to answer that question for them.  Is that student’s project engaging? Why or why not?

The design of these assessments is justified not just based on Wiggins’ blogpost, but also from an Edutopia article written by Eric Isslehardt called “Creating Schoolwide PBL Aligned to Common Core,” where he examines the work done by himself and his colleagues at Green Street Academy to create curriculum for the entire school that’s completely Project-Based.  Isslehardt talks about the process and how they piloted the program first, a step that I, myself, as an educator would also consider as I create better assessments for my students on their maker projects for my class. He came up with 6 lessons learned throughout his pilot program, but two I think stick out the most:

  1. How we introduce the project to students is much more important than we thought (and we thought it was very important).
  2. As a teaching group, we must maintain a flexible, problem-solving attitude to productively work through the inevitable implementation challenges.

(Isslehardt, 2013).

Both of these lessons come as a reminder to all educators, that as we are creating and inspiring our students to create, make and do more, we, ourselves, need to connect with each other, be more flexible, more problem-solving oriented and ultimately, be able to be innovators just like our students. Because inevitably we are just as much the student as we are the educator within our own classrooms.


This week’s resources:

Gee, J. (2010, July 20). James Paul Gee on Grading with Games. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Isslehardt, E. (2013, February 11). Creating Schoolwide PBL Aligned to Common Core. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Thomas, A. (2012, September 7). Engaging Students in the STEM Classroom Through “Making”. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should.  [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Infographic: 10 Reasons to Embrace Maker Education in Traditional Education

This week in CEP 811, we were asked to create an infographic talking about Maker Education.  As we are slowly coming to an end for this class, we have taken on several different tasks that not only introduced me to Maker Education but also forced me to understand how amazing and wonderful the world of Maker Education really is.  I personally got the chance to have the “WOW” moment in this class where I was surprised and delighted by the wonders of creating something using my Circuit Scribe kit.   I loved watching different YouTube videos about Maker Education and seeing how young minds are so intrigued by being independent thinkers in their own personal educational experiences.

I think so many traditional educators, mostly because learning can be quantified in Maker Education aside from seeing the finalized products or creations, turn their eyes away from embracing Maker Education.  So this week, I created an infographic giving traditional educators (teachers & administrators) reasons as to why they should embrace Maker Education and either create their own Maker Spaces at school OR to go on field trips to Maker Spaces within their communities.

Here’s my infographic: