Tag Archives: assessment

How to Assess or Not to Assess

We are currently reviewing our assessment and reporting schedule, asking ourselves if we assess the right things, at the right time, using the right tool.

We recognise we assess for different purposes; for the learner, for the teacher, for the parents, board, Ministry… there are no arguments there. We also acknowledge very clearly that students should be integral to the assessment process and as much as possible direct it and ultimately have the agency to know/request/use for their own learning.

This post is not about that side of things (or maybe it is and I haven’t made the link yet), instead an emerging theme is entering into our discussions related to the mechanics of completing some of the assessments. Let me try and explain this theme with a fictitious example…

Teacher A: Teacher A knows that that by the end week 8 they should have completed a JAM of all their students. As the assessment is required by week 8 they hold off completing any until the start of week 6, then go for it, intensely over a 2 week period to get them done. There is some disruption to classroom programme in order to make it happen.

Teacher B: Teacher B also has the same deadline in week 8. They have a different approach. Right from the beginning of the term, they start their JAMs, completing as required, usually 2-3 a week, starting with those learners who are a priority and the next steps for them are needed right now. There is minimal disruption to the normal classroom programme.

What is best? Does it matter? Perhaps if I try and explore the assumed beliefs that drive their learning, it may shed more light on it.

Teacher A: Teacher A believes that it is important that assessments are completed close together. This way they are more reliable and bring greater accuracy to teaching especially when making comparisons between learners for purposes such as grouping students in your classroom. They are driven by a do-more-less-often approach and the disruption to the classroom programme is outweighed by the value of the assessment information.

Teacher B: Teacher B understands the need for deadlines but does not necessarily agree with them, but they are a professional and do what is required. They look at each student as an individual and as much as possible want to personalise their learning. They are driven by a do-little-and-often approach that responds to the individual needs of the learners. They value the information the assessment provides for them and the learner.

I am more like teacher B than A. As a new entrant teacher I used to have my folder with a section for each student where there was an alphabet name/sound recognition, basic word lists and current running record for each student. Every day, during silent reading or pack up, or if there was a moment during the literacy programme I would call the next learner on the list up or the one I needed to assess. I did this because I needed this information to inform my teaching, I couldn’t wait for it. Students progressed at different speeds, so an ongoing, needs based assessment appraoch was required and the most effective. Even when I taught Year 7/8s for a term a couple of years ago, I used the same approach with my Probes and GloSS.

As I reflect on this now I have noted why I did it this way, and why I would continue to do so if I were be be back in the classroom…

  • completing little assessments often made it manageable and easy to meet those assessment checkpoints/expectations
  • it gave me the flexibility to assess my learners when they needed it most, especially those who you are monitoring more closely or those that you get that hunch about
  • it allowed the assessment to be a normalised part of the classroom programme, rather than something that was compartmentalised a fitted into a particular time slot
  • I it meant that the individual needs of the learner drove the assessment process first and foremost
  • it reinforced that assessment tools have value but there is greater value on the day-to-day learning conversations and observations taking place every moment of every day… and with minimal to no disruption caused by doing a little bit often, it made more time for the real stuff.

As my thoughts wander I am thinking that maybe we should introduce a 3rd teacher too.

Teacher C has the same deadlines described above however they work in a flexible learning space with 2 others teachers. As part of the way they organise their timetable, assessment time is built into each day’s timetable so at least 1 teacher has the time to complete any required assessments while the other 2 manage the learning of the students. Teacher C also happens to lead the maths learning in this collaborative team so she assumes responsibility for all maths assessments, undertaking testing, sharing outcomes both individually with teachers and collectively to analyse any trends. Teacher C beliefs that assessment is a collaborative exercise, that responds to students need and uses the collective expertise of the teachers to analyse data and plan next steps.

There are so many different teaching/assessment scenarios that you could illustrate to add to the dialogue around this theme. I do not expect my teachers to be clones of one another and I acknowledge that there is no right approach, but I do think there are ways you can work that are smarter and that keep learners and learning at the centre. So what do I really want though? Ideally I want to rip up/delete our schedule because:

  • teachers have the knowledge, skills and understanding (confidence?) to use the right assessment tool at the right time to best meet the needs of their learners
  • I have the professional trust to give teachers that agency
  • assessment should be meaningful, timely, and driven by the needs of the learners, not driven by a document or standard
  • as teachers naturally inquire into their practice, they need data to check the effectiveness of their actions.

Thoughts of adaptive expertise are coming into my head now, and one particular slide (#17) from a presentation called Schooling Improvement: What do we know? Perhaps Teacher A is caught in parts of routine expertise, Teacher A is beginning on the adapting pathway?

slide17
Schooling Improvement: What do we know? Helen Timperley Professor of Education The University of Auckland New Zealand.

I guess that as I ponder what this all means, if anything at all, I will continue to review what we do for or assessment. It is part of our ongoing review, changes have already been made in terms of teacher feedback, and now as we compare what we do alongside what others school do, it will only bring more clarity to the process of finding out what works best for us, in our school with our students. But, changing a few mindsets along the way will not be a bad thing…

Graham Attwell: Rethinking e-Portfolios

I have got a lot of time for Graham Attwell’s thoughts around eportfolios. I referenced his article e-Portfolios – the DNA of the Personal Learning Environment? in my ePortfolio research. He also contributed to the MOSEP (More Self-Esteem with my ePortfolio) project which is well worth a look.

Hot off the wire is his current thoughts around eportfolios, discussing such questions as these:

Is an e-Portfolio intended as a space for learners to record all their learning – that which takes place in the home or in the workplace as well as in a course environment or is it a place or responding to prescribed outcomes for a course or learning programme?

How much should an e-Portfolio be considered a tool for assessment and how much for reflection on learning?

Can one environment encompass all of these functions?

And such technologies as OSPI, Elgg and Mahara. Further discussion involves Mash Up Personal Learning Environments and research looking at the value of light weight widgets for promoting reflection that can be embedded in existing e-learning programmes.

All interesting stuff and worth a couple of minutes of your time.

PEN Forum on ePortfolios

This month the PEN (Principal’s Electronic Network) is hosting a forum on ePortfolios. I have been invited to join in this discussion and initiate the forum discussion.

It is always difficult to write an initial forum post that leads on to effective discussion about the topic. How long should it be? Should you play the devil’s advocate? Do you just state the facts as we know them now? How much crystal balling should you do?

If you have any answers, let me know. Otherwise here is my initial post designed to be the starting point for an ongoing discussion about eportfolios.

The NZ Curriculum “…gives schools the flexibility to design and deliver programmes that will engage all students and offer them appropriate learning pathways.”

The document further describes effective pedagogy and assessment, recognises parents as key partners, encourages elearning to open up new opportunities, and promotes student engagement in their learning.

My suggestion is that the eportfolio is able to provide the container that will capture the essence of a learning programme that caters for all of these features.

While the traditional portfolio focused on best examples of work to be showcased, the modern eportfolio, with its ability to network learners, integrate the best of Web 2.0 and show the process of learning, focuses more on supporting learners by being an integral component in the learning process.

How are you connecting learners, parents and teachers? How are you capturing feedback before, during and after learning? How are you facilitating learners in reflecting on and sharing learning through multimedia? How are you allowing learners to collect examples of their learning in an environment similar to what they use as part of their out of school networking?

The eportfolio makes this possible. It supports effective learning, assessment and elearning as described in the NZ Curriculum. It involves parents in the learning process and most importantly, engages students. Far from being a current buzzword in education, the eportfolio is an essential component that links the essential strands of learning together.

uLearn08 Workshop Presentation

Here is an abridged version of my uLearn 08 workshop presentation, minus any audio or video content, activities, links and of course the all important commentary. If I have time, a slidecast version will be added in the future.

Any feedback would be welcome either here or on SlideShare.

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: 2.0 web)

Research plan on Wordle

Wordle has been blogged about on almost every educational technology/elearning blog site you can think of. I wont go into describing what it is and how it works because that has already been done. Go here, here, here, here or here, to link just a few, if you are not familiar with this tag cloud tool.

Just out of interest I pasted in my eFellowship research plan with the following result. My purpose was to find out whether or not my core concepts would indeed be the words that were enlarged as their frequency assumes more importance.

Let’s look at the largest seven words:

feedback, eportfolios, learning, students, formative, assessment, teachers

With my research question being, What are the formative benefits of eportfolios? I think that these seven key words do highlight this and more specifically, the teacher‘s role and the impact on students.

All interesting stuff. It will be interesting to see what my literature review turns up when it is also pasted into Wordle. Will it compliment those key words above or contrast?