Am I Successful?

A few years ago I got a call from Elisa Carlson. She was inquiring about having me come speak in Surrey for their Digital Learner Series. I didn’t know Elisa and she really didn’t know me. As she asked about what I would speak about, she said, “I don’t even know if you’re any good.” Since then Elisa has become one of my dearest colleagues and I often point to her as an example of great leadership. But that initial question is actually a pretty good one.

I’ve had my struggles in measuring success. I first encountered my mild disdain for the notion when I was introduced to SMART goals. Every time I tried to create a goal I was excited about, I was immediately confused and challenged by my inability to identify measurable goals. Some told me my goals weren’t written correctly. They were probably right. I also struggle with such a strong focus on goals in general. Many will tell you that unless you write down your goals you’ll never achieve them. Maybe. Maybe not.

As a teacher, I knew my efforts to help students be successful went way beyond grades and scores, yet that remains the … Read the rest

Joe Bower

Joe Bower leads a session in Calgary

Today a Canadian hero in education died suddenly from a massive heart attack. Joe Bower as a middle school teacher from Alberta. He was 37 years old.

I almost didn’t write this since some folks had already written about Joe. But then I realized the more people know about Joe and his work, the richer his legacy. If you know Joe, followed him on twitter, read his blog or heard him speak, you likely already know what a smart, passionate thinker he was. My own interactions largely revolved around me introducing my pre-service teachers to his work as well as referencing him in any presentations I did around assessment. I use this slide to showcase those that have influenced my thinking around assessment. Some of these folks are world renowned “experts”. Joe was every bit as important as any of them. (Sadly Grant Wiggins passed away in 2015)


As eloquently and passionately as Joe shared, what was overwhelming evident to me is how much he cared for children. He was willing to speak the truth, even when it was harsh and unpopular with many. Not to be provocative but because he truly … Read the rest

What Does A Trophy Mean Anyway?

It’s a popular sentiment to put on a curmudgeon hat and denounce  society for giving kids medals and trophies for just showing up.

“Kids are too soft”
“We coddle our kids too much”
“In my day…”
“Get off my lawn”

This message got highlighted today when former Pittsburgh Steeler Superbowl champion James Harrison posted this on his instagram account.

My Ongoing Struggle with Diffusing the Impact of Grades


Assessment continues to occupy much of my thinking and experimentation both as a teacher and in broader conversations  with educators. If you search my blog categories you’ll see I’ve written specifically about assessment over 50 times. They represent some of the most challenging ideas and change since many practices and beliefs are both deeply ingrained in institutions and also because it’s a complex subject. I don’t claim to have the answers but I have thought about, explored and implemented many ideas, some that I like, others I’m still exploring.

One area that I’m still struggling with is how much time and effort I put into grading. I believe mostly in feedback. I try to give and create an environment where students reflect deeply and I try to provide timely and insightful feedback and comments. I also work to have them seek feedback from others as well. This is where the bulk of my time is spent. Because of institutional requirements, I still need to provide a grade. I believe in self assessment and grading. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask every learning, even our youngest to assess themselves. This is essentially what reflecting entails. However, moving from a descriptive … Read the rest

When Data and Numbers Ruin the Game

My favorite shot in golf is hitting a long iron on the green. For most golfers, even pros, hitting the ball on the green from over 200 yards is a difficult shot. When you pull it off there’s a great feeling of satisfaction.

Photo by Ben Grey:

I was playing by myself a few weeks back on a lovely golf course and came upon a long par 3 measuring 170 yards from the tees I was playing. I noticed the back tees behind me were about 220 yards and required a long carry over water. Since there was no one behind me I decided to give it a shot. I hit my first 3 iron right in the water. Hit my second poorly and was way short. Took out a third ball and hit it perfectly. It landed on the front of the green and rolled to within 10 feet of the cup. Those of you who golf know exactly how I felt. (If you don’t, I feel a little sorry for you 😉 but here’s the thing: if I was playing a “proper round” I would have scored about 7. Not very good. I probably would have felt … Read the rest