Learning as Evidence: Improving Argumentation through Formative Assessment Practice (Winter 2017)

Sara Rutherford-Quach, Lecturer in the Stanford Graduate School of Education
Karen Thompson, Assistant Professor, College of Education, Oregon State University
Steven Weiss, Senior Research Associate and Project Manager, Stanford ELL Leadership Network
A free course from Stanford University Graduate School of Education and Oregon State University
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The Course

Course Description:

Formative assessment is an instructional practice to gauge where your students are in their learning by gathering evidence of their learning, assessing the evidence, and planning the next steps in instruction. The Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics, the Next Generation Science Standards, and new English Language Proficiency Standards all include a focus on argumentation, requiring that students construct claims supported by evidence and/or reasoning. In this course, we will explore how formative assessment practices can be targeted in improve student argumentation skills, an essential, cross-disciplinary practice.

Participants in this course will use a range of practical tools for gathering and analyzing language samples that show how students currently construct claims supported by evidence and/or reasoning, as well as identifying next steps in students' development. These tools support formative assessment and instructional planning. Focal topics include: articulating claims; linking evidence and/or reasoning to claims; and evaluating evidence and/or reasoning. We will also explore similarities and differences in argumentation across content areas and grade levels. This course will enable teachers to collaborate with other educators and build professional relationships that result in an online community focused on improving students' abilities to engage in argumentation across content areas. This course is offered jointly by Stanford University and Oregon State University.

Course Objectives:

The main objectives of this course are for participants to:

  1. Recognize and engage in the essential components of formative assessment
  2. Develop a practical understanding of argumentation
  3. Use the entire formative assessment process to focus on language to help ELLs develop argumentation skills
  4. Use Argumentation Analysis Tool to analyze student arguments, focusing on structure and language us
  5. Learn and implement teaching strategies for building students' capacities for argumentation
  6. Collaborate with other educators and build professional relationships

Course Organization:

This MOOC is organized around four sessions. The content for each session will become available on a particular date.

  • Session 1: Introduction to the formative assessment process and how to focus on language while practicing formative assessment
  • Session 2: Argumentation, its role in the new standards and associated language demands
  • Session 3: Using the formative assessment process to interpret students' argumentation skills
  • Session 4: Implementing and adjusting instructional strategies to improve student argumentation

For each of these sessions, course participants will be asked to complete a series of tasks such as watching videos, reading articles or book chapters, and completing individual and team assignments. For the sequencing of the course to be effective, the tasks for Session 1 must be completed before Session 2 begins, and so on. Yet unlike a traditional classroom, there is no specific time or day that participants must log on or "attend" class; participants are free to complete the session tasks at their own pace as long as they finish them in the allotted time.

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