It’s midterm at the Milton Skating Club. Over the past couple of years, this has been the week during which Luke receives an interim report and, if his skating has improved enough, gets moved to a new group of skaters and a new instructor. The exciting thing for Luke is not so much receiving the report, but finding out what his new colour will be, and admiring the ribbon attached to his report.
This week, however, ‘midterm’ took on new significance as dear old Dad (that’s me) stepped up to receive his report card as well. You may recall that I began taking adult skating lessons back in January, getting together with others on Thursday nights to learn and re-learn the fundamentals of ice skating.
I have to tell you, as much as I have worked with both teachers and students over the past several years on new ways of looking at assessment and evaluation, for me, there was still that initial moment of tension as the instructor gathered us all in a circle to hand out the report cards. There were still the covert attempts to glance over at the results of the person next to me in order to see how I was doing “in comparison” to her.
And there was no ribbon. What, no ribbon? “Well, we don’t give adults ribbons or badges… or stickers!”
It wasn’t until I sat down at home with my report card and a glass of Shiraz that I took a good look at what was being communicated. It was actually a very helpful document. The report was divided into six sections, each listing 10-15 discrete skills. Beginning at balancing on two feet with eye focus and moving through to rotating power jump (Waltz Jump), this was CanSkate’s breakdown of what you had to do in order to call yourself a skater.
In addition to the clear breakdown of skating proficiency, there were a few things that struck me about the report. First, there were no marks assigned. Instead, all skills were reported using an “on-off”, “yes-no” checklist. There is a sense in which I like that. I could either do a one foot side stop, or I couldn’t. And if I couldn’t, then I needed to work on that.
Second, according to the report, I have achieved proficiency within a few different levels. I have demonstrated satisfactory progress in the first two levels, but I have also “checkmarks” in levels three and four. This is cool because it recognizes that my progress is not always going to be linear; I will “get” some things quicker than others. Although at each level there are “mandatory skills” required before officially passing to the next stage, that doesn’t hold me back from working on and demonstrating proficiency across the continuum.
Finally, the report is clear; nothing is hidden. This is what it takes to move through the various levels. This is what you have to demonstrate in order to move on to the next program. I like that. It puts me in the driver’s seat and gives me a clear indication of what I need to do in order to succeed. It gives me the tools I need to plan my own progress.
It’s my goal to be playing in a hockey league within three years. And if my first report card is any indication, it’s an attainable goal.
But, as good as the CanSkate assessment piece is, it’s tough to break the old habits of mind associated with Report Cards. Yup, I counted the checkmarks, I tried to judge my progress against my peers, and I looked for the ribbon. And when all was said and done I found myself asking, “Who do I show this to? My wife? My mother?”
I did talk to my mother a couple of days later and I let her in on the results; her first question was, “How many A’s did you get?” Old habits…
Next time, I hope I get a ribbon!