Tag Archives: formative assessment

Authentic Learning

14 Sep

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Authentic learning is a measure of connectedness based on pertinence, interest, and immediacy of a given context. Relevance is critical. Teachers will have a difficult time increasing rigor for learners who do not find the tasks at hand very relevant.

There are degrees of relevance. Something is less relevant if it is an isolated experience and far more relevant if it offers knowledge and skills to support life-long endeavours. Relevance is also contextual. Studying the setting of a story will seem less relevant to a student who hates reading literature than it will to a student who aspires to be a novelist. Fortunately, teachers can increase the relevance for everyone by helping learners find personal value in the studied content or skills. For example, disinterested readers can understand that their entire lives are defined by their personal settings. They can then begin to explore the variables within their own control to alter their settings for the better, making setting a relevant concept to explore beyond literary options. When content (e.g. literature) is used as a medium (not the end goal) to explore critical, real world skills, then relevance is maximized.

When considering if learning is relevant, as a teacher I explore the following questions:

  • Are the questions, prompts, or tasks interesting for the learners? Consider age, region, and modern trends as variables.
  • Might the questions, prompts, or tasks unintentionally exclude some learners (e.g. those who aren’t interested in sports, those who don’t have access to gardens, those who don’t wish to become historians, etc.)?
  • Do the questions, prompts, or tasks replicate processes that are authentic to ‘real world’ applications?
  • Will the questions, prompts, or tasks be fun or engaging? Will they be explained in the context of life-long application?

Few learners will accept robust challenges if they 1) don’t believe someone is there to support their efforts, and 2) can’t find a worthy reason to engage in something that will not be easy.

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Review

31 Aug

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This week I have been writing a Faculty Review and looking at developing units of study and the matching assessments while talking about the learning skills necessary for students to experience success. In the review I’ve deliberately not used the label “21st Century” I note that we are well in the 21st century. I know that the learning skills essential for students today are certainly divergent and the teaching practices to support those skills also need to be different. How we use the data gathered from high-quality assessment is a key component to furthering and deepening the work.

We need to deepen the critical thinking skills of our students. To do this I would like to see more student “talk” time. With the advances in technology, it’s been suggested that students today communicate more. While that may be true, I think it’s equally true to claim they talk less. They can spend an hour with a peer the previous night on their devices, but hardly muster a morena at school when they pass each other in the hallway. Teachers will need to provide the time to have students explain not only their answers but also their thinking as they developed those answers. I am seeing in many classes students knowing answers but unable to explain how they got there. Asking students to explain their solutions (not just the why but also the how) is foreign to some. I love the why question. It creates deeper thinking and responses.

This will mean less teacher talk timeand more collaboration between students. This will require a shift from what I call the right/wrong dichotomy that many of us experienced in our school careers. There was one answer—the right answer- and everything else was, therefore, wrong.

Using the evidence gathered from assessments and using the assessments as formative will result in a shift in the dialogue occurring in classrooms today. It will mean more of the “beautiful noise” that is evidenced in classrooms where students are highly engaged and deeply involved in their learning, and their teachers are interested in hearing about that learning. It will mean a shift to what was once valued and haled as the most productive classroom. Teachers know the difference between disruptive and non-productive noise. Do you here that sound in your school?

Growing a Positive Mindset in Assessment

23 Aug

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This week I have been doing a great deal of planning around the 2019 academic year. Looking at student courses and special conditions. Confidence is the thing that will help students see possibility and hope It’s this intrinsic state of being that will ensure interventions lead to high achievement. It is important to establishing a positive mindset to develop confidence for students.

Framing intervention in terms of learning is vital. Verbally frame every intervention in terms of what students need to learn more about. Ensure learning targets and essential standards are written and posted on assessments. Convey to students in words and actions that the work they are doing is about learning, not just compliance or completing work. Every student should know what they are learning more about. Intervention should not be about just completing work; it needs to be about gaining skills.

The following has been a successful method for me to establish this.

1. Accurately interpret assessment evidence

Ensure that the assessment evidence that led to the intervention is thoroughly analyzed so that those facilitating or conducting the intervention with students understand the misconceptions leading to students needing this intervention. In the absence of interpreting the assessment evidence, students may get the wrong type of instructional intervention.

2.Teach and facilitate self-assessment

Ensure students are reflecting on their assessment evidence and are seeing that the intervention is helping them learn what they are strong in and also reveals what they get more time to work on. For students in the beginning stages of achieving this essential standard, they may need more support in making the connections between the assessment evidence and their learning. This must be built into the intervention process to ensure that students’ perceptions are framed around learning.

3.Use assessment evidence to check the intervention effect

Ensure that the assessment evidence used to determine the effectiveness of the intervention accurately gathers information on achievement (the essential standard) and student confidence (student perceptions). Check to see if students learned more during the intervention and also check to see if their confidence grew.

 

Talking About Your Practice

7 Jul

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The staff room is often the best PLD source you will get during the year. I see it every lunchtime. As teachers engage students in dialogue about their learning, the guiding principle must be looking at how student involvement in each teacher-created assessment reflects a bigger plan for involving students in their own assessment. The role of the classroom teacher is to help each student bridge the gap between where that student is and where that student needs to be. It is really important not to over assess. This requires specific assessment practices, such as differentiating instruction, re-teaching certain targets, or re-sorting students to allow for small-group work connected to teacher strengths.

For example, an analysis of the results of students on a common assessment may reveal that although some students struggled with certain concepts, Teacher A had great success with that concept with a class of students. Teacher A can then re-teach the key concept to the struggling students while the remaining teachers in the departmental or grade-level team moves forward with the other students.

It’s also clear that changes in teacher practice requires support from leadership. If Teacher A is going to be able to re-teach struggling students, for example, she requires a principal who supports flexibility in teacher and student timetables. School leaders can further support teachers’ effort to close the gap by providing common preparation time for teacher teams or subject-area specialists, ensuring that professional development is aligned with the goal of improving student success, and providing time at staff meetings for a focused look at results of recent assessments.

 

Observational Tools and Observation

24 Apr

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It was stimulating listening to those in ERO speak about how they approach a lesson observation. They emphasised the richness in conversations surrounding this. They emphasised the approach from the lens of students. They noted after a classroom observation, it is important to place the learning and reflection directly in the hands of the teacher. Therefore, strong questions can guide a conversation that empowers the teacher and supports the relationship between observer and the teacher being observed. These are some key ideas to consider:

  1. How do you engage in pre-learning, and what kinds of information do you find most useful to collect during this process? What do you do with the results?
  2. How did you engage in formative learning today? How will what you learned impact the instructional choices you make tomorrow?
  3. How were your learning processes and feedback connected today? Who gave the feedback? Did it provide the hoped-for results?
  4. How are you capturing and collecting evidence of learning? Are students part of this process? Why or why not?
  5. How did the learning experiences connect to standards? How did you explain this connection to your learners?
  6. How will you assess tomorrow?
  7. What did students do when they were done early today? To what degree were you ready for this possibility? Was your response purposeful?
  8. Which learners showed the most confidence today and why? Which were the least confident, and how do you address this?

Key Questions Around Assessment Review

22 Apr

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Involving students and teachers in an active assessment process where they can take information, interpret it, and move forward is the key to finding success in the classroom. When we think of assessment as the learning instead of as an endpoint, it creates a continuum rather than a sequence of starts and stops. Assessment is learning.

How is the word assessment perceived in the eyes of students? Is it viewed as a tool such as a test, paper, or project, or a process to gather information? Furthermore, how is it perceived in the eyes of teachers? It is critical to get everyone on the same page about the perception and purpose of assessment.

When assessment is learning, it is an active process. It moves beyond the tools used to gather information about student learning to a place where students and teachers can take information and feedback to grow. Assessment becomes a conversation between students and teachers, as well as among classmates. It reveals where students are to progress with their learning. As a student myself, the word assessment was associated with the type of activity we were going to engage in instead of being a spark to light the fire of learning.

What can be done to realize the idea of assessment as learning in our classrooms?

Involve students in the assessment process.

Tamariki need to feel part of the assessment process. Assessment becomes a much less fearful process when it is done with students, not to them. Students may not make these important connections on their own; they can be made plain through classroom dialogue and discovery. Students engage in assessment and learning when relevant associations are made among all happenings in the classroom. They should easily be able to answer the question “Why am I doing this?” Student investment is also built through seeking feedback from students.” Feedback is not a one way street. When students are part of the feedback loop, the teacher and the student share a more robust picture of achievement and a more precise path forward.

Infuse assessment into daily classroom happenings.

The learning process feels very disjointed when everything stops for assessment. Assessment practices should be infused in the process of teaching and learning so neither the student nor the teacher stops to give pause when it is happening. The pause comes when it is time to make decisions about next steps. Note that this is a pause, not a stop. It is a quick moment to make an informed decision and then move on. Assessment should be a familiar part of what happens when we learn. The less students feel like it is ‘time to be assessed’, the less high-stakes assessment becomes. The practice of finding out where students are with their learning, knowing where they need to go, and making choices based on those two pieces of information is a natural routine in the classroom, but the impact on learning is monumental.

Show students how to interpret feedback and assessment results.

Students will not automatically know what to do with the feedback provided to them.

Continuously learn more about assessment practices to support student learning.

Assessment practices are constantly evolving, and different ideas for classroom application abound. There are times when I feel in a rut with my assessment practices. The challenge is not about finding the new ideas, but rather, determining the method that is the best fit.

Work together with students to find success.

Learning is a collective and collaborative process. I cannot describe how much I learn from students each year I work with them. The focus of this collaborative process is success.

 

 

 

Assessment

19 Apr

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This term we are looking at curriculum change. This week I attend a workshop run by NZAI. This got me thinking. More on this later. In in developing curricular units of study and the corresponding assessments while talking about the learning skills necessary for students to experience success. I’ve deliberately not used the label “21st Century” in front of “learning skills” as I think we all understand in 2018 that we are in the 21st century. I noted this week our teaching practices to support those skills also need to be different. How we use the evidence gathered from high-quality assessment is a key component to furthering and deepening the work.

Collaboration is an important skill. Collaboration skills may be the “black sheep” of the skills assessment world – until recently there has been very little attention paid to this competency, with very few assessments worth noting. With the rise in importance of collaborative work skills, especially for the productive development of creative work products by work teams, there has been an accompanying rise in attention paid to assessing levels of productive and creative collaboration.

It’s fair to say that we need to deepen the critical thinking skills of our students. It’s also important that we shift to conceptual understanding and away from understanding by an algorithm or rule. Both shifts will require more student agency, collaboration and conversations.

As an offshoot of the advances in technology, it’s been suggested that tamariki today communicate more. While that may be true, I think it’s equally true to claim they talk less. Teachers will need to provide the time to have students explain not only their answers but also their thinking as they developed those answers. Quiet time in class is important, as important for teachers having reflective practice.

Ultimately this will mean less teacher talk time (think of five minutes as your maximum before turning it over to your students) and more collaboration between students. This will require a shift.

Using the evidence gathered from assessments and using the assessments as formative, will result in a shift in the dialogue occurring in classrooms today. It will mean more of the “ working noise” that is evidenced in classrooms where students are highly engaged and deeply involved in their learning, and their teachers are interested in hearing about that learning. It will mean a shift to what was once valued and haled as the most productive classroom—the one where silence was golden and reigned supreme.

Formative Assessment and Achievement

12 Apr

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Formative assessments flow seamlessly in the learning process because they are a part of the learning process. Most situations involving formative assessing are not and shouldn’t be for a grade. Students in my environment find this hard. So do teachers. How do we motivate them? We need to build a culture that it is not all about the mark.

Formative assessing is about goal-setting and the ownership of the learning process for students via feedback and input both from the teacher and from the students themselves.

Lastly, formative assessing DOES NOT need to be a traditional type of assessment. It can be something as simple as a brainstorm or Kahoot. Be creative.

Assessment for Learning

11 Jan

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I have been reading over summer about the idea of Assessment FOR Learning which  is different from tests designed to give students a grade. Assessment in a Culture of Learning is ongoing. It may appear in the form of a Post-It note, role play, survey, presentation. Note these are all creative examples that primarily do not involve technology.

This quote stood out. “Formative assessment, done well, represents one of the most powerful instructional tools available to a teacher or a school for promoting student achievement. Teachers and schools can use formative assessment to identify student understanding, clarify what comes next in their learning, trigger and become part of an effective system of intervention for struggling students, inform and improve the instructional practice of individual teachers or teams, help students track their own progress toward attainment of standards, motivate students by building confidence in themselves as learners, fuel continuous improvement process across faculties, and, thus, drive a school’s transformation” (Stiggins & DuFour, 2009, p. 640).

Have you thought about how you will approach assessment in 2016?

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