Nicole Dimich Vagle

Nicole Dimich Vagle works with elementary and secondary educators in presentations, trainings, and consultations that address today’s most critical issues all in the spirit of facilitating improved support of student learning.

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Assessment in Action: Lessons from Learning to Snowmobile

Categories: Assessment

It was a warm winter day. Snow was falling and my 8-year-old was ready to ride the youth snowmobile. I was determined that he was going to learn to do this. While Chase loves to “drive,” he is more concerned with everything around him than the road right in front of him. He watched his older brother jump on and thought that he should be able to ride as fast as he does.

It became clear very quickly that jumping on with loose supervision was not going to be enough. After running into the car, running over the landscape (although covered in snow), it took two of us to form a barricade, wave our hands, and teach him to slowly press the gas. With multiple attempts, he got it. However, it was not without a major re-assessment of strategy (and a few minor dents in a car and some trampled plants).

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How should we distribute our resources?

Moving from Quantities to Qualities: Standards-Based Learning and Reporting

Categories: Assessment

In an effort to communicate more clearly, educators all over are exploring ways to provide feedback and report achievement. The move to being standards-based is intended to create a culture focused on learning, where students receive more specific information about what they understand and what they need to learn more about. We report to communicate achievement and work habits at school. This is the kind of information that has great potential to help students make deeper connections to what they are learning and increase the rigor of their school experience.

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Dance steps: Assess, Teach, Learn

Beyond “Great Job”: Descriptive Feedback That Inspires & Requires Action

Categories: Assessment

Maya is in second grade. On Wednesday of each week, students in her classroom receive an object. With this object, they are asked to create something and write about it using details. They bring the “imagination creation” and description back to school on Friday to share it with their peers. Maya brings her writing home on Monday and most often the feedback provided is “great job.” After doing these imagination creations for about two months, I looked more closely and was struck by a few things in Maya’s writing. First, her spacing was getting progressively worse. She was putting spaces in the middle of words, connecting words that shouldn’t be connected, and tossing capital letters in the middle of words. As a former English teacher and her mother, I decided to ask her about it. The conversation went something like this:

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Using the microscope of assessment to evaluate students

Using Assessment to See Possibility

Categories: Assessment

He sat in the back, slumped deeply in his chair. His hat was pulled low over his eyes—a signal he was not having a good day. The teacher at the front of the room asked the students to engage in a warm-up activity.

I was in this classroom as an instructional coach helping out for the day. The algebra teacher of this classroom of students was out on maternity leave, and a substitute walked these learners through the lesson. This particular class was a double-blocked algebra course, and some of the students were not excited about the idea of being there to engage in a subject where they had not been incredibly successful in the past.

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Putting money in the piggy bank

Three Practices That Inspire Student Investment

Categories: Instruction

Some people call it “being in the zone”—this state of being where one is deeply engaged in a task or thought. Time passes without notice; ideas come easily or if they don’t, there’s a persistence to stick with the task no matter what; energy comes and the drive to create, solve, produce, play is unquenchable. Artists experience this when inspiration hits and hours are spent writing, drawing, or painting. Students experience this in a classroom where their passion or curiosity is tapped or the task is such that they just can’t help themselves. Csikszentmihaly (1990) describes this state of conscientiousness as “flow”—optimal moments of growth and engagement. One can sense this type of engagement when you walk into a classroom where students are invested.

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