In the framework Friesen outlines five principles that should guide teacher practice, many if not all of which apply to the DWA. Here are the five principles:
- Teachers are designers of learning
- Work students are asked to undertake is worth their time and attention
- Assessment practices improve student learning and guide teaching
- Teachers foster a variety of interdependent relationships
- Teachers improve their practice in the company of their peers
Without going into great detail, I wanted to refer to the third principle that deals specifically with assessment. The information shared in the framework, I believe, can help us teach narrative writing better and improve the way we teach and the way students learn how to write good narratives. Within the third principle, Friesen references The British Assessment Group (2006) as they have identified seven characteristics of assessment that promote learning:
- Assessment is embedded in the design of the teaching and learning;
- Students know the learning goals;
- Students recognize the standards they are aiming for;
- Students are involved in self-assessment;
- Feedback provided enables students to take their next steps;
- Teachers hold the belief that every student can improve; and
- Assessment involves both teacher and pupils reviewing and reflecting on the assessment data.
Reflecting on those characteristics, as they relate to the DWA, I honed in on the first four and how they could improve teacher practice for the benefit of students learning to write better narratives. As I look at the first four, I think that our teachers should be using the rubrics and exemplars for their respective grades to help students see and come to understand what good writing looks like as it relates to specific standards they are aiming for. I used to do this when I taught English language arts. I would have students look at student samples that were written by other children (from previous classes or from Alberta Education released items from PATs) and have them evaluate the samples according to the rubrics that I used to assess the students in their own writing. By doing this, they developed the ability to recognize good writing and compare their own abilities to what the standards were. This was especially beneficial because they were able to visualize it and have tangible evidence of what good writing, and sometimes poor writing, is and how to use that to improve their own writing.
My hope is that our teachers can take the rubrics and exemplars that we have developed for the DWA and find ways to incorporate them into how they teach narrative writing. By doing this, I believe that our students will be able to see what good writing is and can make the necessary changes to their own writing to improve over time. Making writing explicit in this way has helped me in teaching writing and has helped my students learn successfully in the past. In order for all our teachers and students to do this, I will attach (or send through email) copies of the rubrics and exemplars again so that teachers can begin using them in this way.
Good luck and happy teaching/learning.
Assessment Reform Group. (2006). The role of teachers in the assessment of learning. London, UK: Institute of Education, University of London.
Friesen, S. (2009). What did you do in school today? Teaching effectiveness: A framework and rubric. Toronto, ON: Canadian Education Association.