Assessing EdCafes

As a way to structure ongoing discussion, EdCafes serve as powerful opportunities for formative assessment. Here are some ways to help you think about how assessment and EdCafes work together with your students.

Low-to-Medium Stakes Assessment

EdCafes are meant to serve as discussion spaces, rarely as formal presentation spaces (this happens best if you’ve done EdCafes over the course of a unit). So, assessment here is intentionally supportive, responsive, and meaningful.

Whole Class Assessment

The flexibility of EdCafes is one of their strengths. For example, if you planned to do three sessions in a class period, but after two sessions noticed that students were being disrespectful by interrupting each other, you can pause everything and have a whole-group discussion about when/how talking over each other is supportive and when it isn’t. Or, on another day, you can start with a mini-lesson about question stems, and say “I’ll be listening over the course of today’s two sessions to hear how you all are asking each other questions.” In these larger ways, EdCafes serve as authentic contexts for building classroom culture.

Forms of Assessment Teachers Can Make

Checklist  – This is what I most often do. There are five parts: 1) signs up with topic, 2) gives introduction or ‘hook’ to class, 3) leads first minute-or-so of conversation to frame discussion, 4) keeps conversation going, 5) gives Take Away at end. Yes, this is meant to be a successful completion and 5pts for each student – the quality is what comes out of their doing it and the classroom culture you’re building.

Rubric  – If you make a rubric, keep it simple. You’re keeping track of a lot: 3-5 conversations in a 6-10min session. Thus, whatever you put on that rubric should be fair to what you can see and hear in that in snippets in that amount of time. To keep yourself sane, you might work with students to create the rubric, or have them keep an ongoing rubric they can annotate and you can add to. The most meaningful accountability comes in co-created texts.

Take Away Prompt – The ‘Take Away’ is what wraps up a session, a chance for each group to share something out to the entire class. Usually, I ask the session leader to share something that came up during their discussion. Depending on what I’ve overheard while walking around (and what I want to positively reinforce), I sometimes use other prompts:

  • What is a question that someone asked during your session?
  • What is a connection that someone made that surprised you, or that you hadn’t thought about before?

Digital Calendar – When using Google Docs, students sign up for their session and put their name in parenthesis. When they tell the class their Take Away, I type it in italics at the bottom. Then, when giving credit for EdCafe participation, I’m able to look back over the calendar and see what people have said.

What Students Make

Notes – Students can take daily, weekly, or unit notes on EdCafes. With the longer term notes, I suggest they add in class notes and reading notes, so the packet becomes a ‘keeping space’ for the unit. As such, it also becomes a review tool, and a place from which to generate essay questions and thesis statements.

Reflective Blog Posts – Students can also write reflective blog posts, like this one. Wording will depend on your objectives, but here are some sample reflection questions:

  • [Summarize] What happened in your conversation? How did you frame your topic/question and what did people contribute/ask? What was your ‘take away’ and why did you choose that?
  • [Evaluate] What went well about your EdCafe session? If given a ‘do over,’ what would you have liked to see also happen?
  • [Connect] How did your conversation tie across other conversations you had? If the topics weren’t necessarily related, what broader connections can you make?
  • [Reach] How did your EdCafe conversation connect to something beyond class (in another text, in current events, in life, etc.)?
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