Summing Up

Outlined below are my answers to the four interview questions in preparation for my Demonstration of Learning Conversation.

  1. Describe your philosophy of assessment and evaluation.
  • Academic achievement data should only report on a student’s ability to meet curricular learning goals/outcomes; it should not be influenced by behavioural data (i.e. attendance, attitude, missed deadlines, etc.). The two should be monitored and reported on separately.
  • Assessment/evaluation shouldn’t follow a one-try-to-get-it-right mentality.
    • Students should be given multiple opportunities to practice and receive descriptive feedback on their learning before they are evaluated. In addition, if a student is not successful on an evaluation, they should be allowed to re-try until their learning reaches an acceptable standard.
  • Students should be involved in the assessment process.
    • Students should know how they are going to be assessed so they can gear their learning accordingly.
    • Students should have some freedom to decide how they want to demonstrate their learning based on how they learn best.
    • Students should be given opportunities to assess their own learning (self-assessments).
  • In order to get a true and accurate picture of student learning, students need to be assessed multiple times in multiple ways (triangulation).
  • Assessment should not be random; it should be planned and purposeful.
  • Assessment should be used to guide a teacher’s instruction.

 

  1. Describe how you used assessment and evaluation in your field experience.
  • I utilized a variety of assessment tools, both formative and summative, that appealed to a variety of learners:
    • My Favourite No (formative)
    • Popsicle sticks (formative)
    • Thumbs-up check (formative)
    • Class discussions (formative)
    • Lab reports (formative)
    • Exit slips (formative)
    • Web quests (formative)
    • Journal entries (formative/summative)
    • Assignments (summative)
    • Tests (summative)
  • I involved students in the assessment process by outlining exactly how they were going to be assessed/evaluated so that they could gear their learning accordingly

 

  1. How closely did you assessment and evaluation practices in the field align with your philosophy? If there were discrepancies between your philosophy and practice, describe the barriers that prevented you from realizing your vision.
  • For the most part, my assessment and evaluation practices in the field did align with my philosophy
    • I involved students in the assessment process such that they knew exactly how they were going to be assessed/evaluated
    • I used a wide variety of assessment tools
    • I used assessment results to guide my instruction
  • However, not all my assessment practices aligned with my philosophy
    • In one of the classes that I was teaching, I gave a new assignment for every new topic, and all the assignments were taken in for marks. Furthermore, once the assignments were handed in, we moved on to a new topic.  In this sense, my assessment practices very much so followed a one-try-to-get-it-right mentality.
    • Some of my assessment practices also weren’t planned and purposeful, for in another class that I was teaching, my co-op instructed me to assign a mark to almost everything the students did––including things like class discussions.
  • Main reason for the discrepancies was a difference in beliefs between myself and my co-operating teachers, and since I was in their classrooms, I didn’t want to disrupt their way of doing things.

 

  1. Based on ECS 410 and your field experience, what are the three key learnings that you will take away from this semester about assessment and evaluation?
  • Formative assessment is crucial, as it guides both teacher instruction and student learning.
    • Formative assessment provides students with opportunities to practice and receive descriptive feedback on their learning before they are evaluated. In addition, teachers can use formative assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching and to guide their future practices.
  • The importance of triangulation.
    • Not all students learn in the same way, so relying on one form of evidence (like a unit test) to tell you what students have learned in not a good approach. In order to truly and accurately gauge student learning, students need to be assessed multiple times in multiple ways (through observations, conversations, and products).
  • Students should be involved in the assessment process.
    • Students should know how they are going to be assessed so they can gear their learning accordingly.
    • Students should have some freedom to decide how they want to demonstrate their learning based on how they learn best.
    • Students should be given opportunities to assess their own learning through self-assessments.
Advertisements

The “Culture” of Assessment

Monday’s class raised a lot of interesting discussions.  What stood out to me, however, was the discussion about the “culture” of assessment in schools––that is, how teachers feel about assessment, how assessment is used, what assessment tools are used, etc.

I would describe the “culture” of assessment in the school where I did my pre-internship as being very traditional.  In the two classrooms that I taught in, there was very little variety in the assessment strategies/tools that were used––assignments/tests were used as the main form of assessment. When I taught, I tried to incorporate a variety of assessment strategies into my teaching such as My Favourite No, popsicle sticks, exit slips, journal entries, etc; however, I still ended up giving a lot of assignments and tests because that is what my co-operating teachers wanted.  In addition, I also noticed that students were rarely afforded opportunities to practice their learning before being evaluated.  For example, in one of the classrooms that I was in, the teacher would give an assignment after every new topic, and all assignments were submitted for marks.  Furthermore, once the assignments were handed in, the teacher would move on to a new topic––the assignments were never revisited.  In this sense, many of the teachers followed a one-try-to-get-it-right mentality.

Many of my classmates seemed to have similar experiences during pre-internship, as they also described the “culture” of assessment at their schools as being traditional.  Other phrases that were used to describe the “culture” of assessment were: “test-based”, or “teachers do what is easiest for them”.

To be honest, our class discussion about the “culture” of assessment in schools disturbed me.  I didn’t know a whole lot about assessment before ECS 410, but I have come to learn that, ultimately, assessment presents a valuable learning opportunity for both students and teachers.  Based on our discussion, however, it seems that practicing teachers do not view assessment as a learning opportunity; rather, they seem to view it simply as another task they are required to do and thus put little effort into it.

Ultimately, despite all this research about authentic assessment practices by assessment gurus such as Davies, Cooper, etc., it seems that we are stuck in the old way of doing things. So, what can we do, as new teachers, to change this?

Assessment as Guide

For this week’s class we were to watch The Classroom Experiment.  The Classroom Experiment is a two-part video series (see Part 1 and Part 2 here) in which education expert Dylan Wiliam takes over a grade 8 classroom to test different assessment strategies with the overall goal of improving student engagement and academic achievement.  For example, one of the first strategies that Wiliam implemented was a “no hands up” rule––that is, rather than asking students to raise their hands to answer a question, the teacher chose students randomly by using labelled popsicle sticks.  In the video, Wiliam stated that “hands up” is one of the most damaging teaching strategies that  can be used in a classroom because only a small chunk of students consistently raise their hands to answer a question.  The majority of students, however, do not raise their hands and participate in class, thus foregoing the option to learn and become smarter.  By implementing the “no hands up” rule, Wiliam aimed to improve student participation.  I like Wiliam’s “no hands up” rule for two reasons.  First, the strategy ensures that every student is afforded the chance to participate in class.  I like this because I think it is important for students to hear a diversity of opinions and not just the opinions of the same few students every time.  Second, I like the “no hands up” rule because it guides and supports student learning by forcing students to become active participants in their own education.

Despite how much I like the “no hands up” rule, I think Wiliam made a mistake by implementing the rule without prepping the students first.  I think one of the main reasons why students do not participate in class is because they are scared of getting the answer wrong and being teased by their peers.  In fact, one child from the video, Sid, attested to this when he said that he only raises his hand in class if he is one-hundred percent confident that he knows the right answer.   Otherwise, he doesn’t raise his hand in fear of being made fun of.  In this sense, I think the “no hands up” rule can be intimidating for students because it makes participation mandatory instead of voluntary.  That being said, before I ever implemented the “no hands up” rule in my classroom, I would have a discussion with my students about respecting other peoples’ opinions.  However, this was not done in the video, so students were made fun of for their answers.

Another assessment strategy from the video that I like is the traffic-light cups.  Basically, each student was given three paper cups to have at their desk––one green, one yellow, and one red––and they were to use the cups to signal how they were getting on during a lesson/assignment.  For instance, if a student displayed the green cup on his/her desk, it meant that they completely understood the lesson/assignment.  However, if a student displayed the red cup, it signaled that he/she needed immediate teacher assistance.  I like the traffic-light cups because they are an on-the-spot formative assessment tool that teachers can use to guide their instruction.  For example, if the majority of students are displaying yellow cups, it indicates to the teacher that he/she needs to slow down the lesson or go back and explain something in more detail.  Overall, this is a formative assessment strategy that I can definitely see myself using in the future.

While I like most of the assessment strategies that Wiliam implemented, there is one strategy that I do not agree with––Secret Student.  Now, the Secret Student strategy was successful in the video such that students became more engaged in their learning and displayed less behavioural issues; however, overall, I think Secret Student is a poor assessment tool.  First, I think Secret Student instills a sense of fear in students.  In my opinion, the students in the video were not intrinsically motivated to become more engaged in their learning; rather, I believe they were motivated by the fear of possibly letting their peers down.  Another reason why I think Secret Student is a poor assessment tool is because students are assessed simply on the behaviours they display in class; the underlying causes of the behaviours are not considered.  This means that if a student displays negative behaviours or is disengaged in class then they do not receive a point, no matter what is causing the behaviour.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Classroom Experiment–the majority of the assessment tools that were discussed in the video I can see myself using in my future classroom.  However, I think the key learning that I took away from The Classroom Experiment is that assessment, when done correctly, can be used as a tool to guide both teacher instruction and student learning.

 

 

 

 

Putting the Student Back in Assessment

“If you don’t know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere”

– Henry Kissinger

 

A common thread connecting this week’s readings and lecture, I think, is the importance of involving students in the entire assessment process.

This seems almost contradictory.  Doesn’t assessment, by nature, involve students?  After all, the whole point of the assessment process is to gauge students’ learning.  But that is when assessment is done right.  In reality, aside from participating in the summative evaluation component of assessment, arguably the least important part, students are rarely involved in the assessment process.

Contrary to what some may think, the assessment process does not begin when the teacher hands out the test.  Rather, the assessment process begins with curricular outcomes and knowing exactly what students are expected to learn. However, it is all too often that the only person who knows what needs to be learned is the teacher.  This is what Canady and Hotchkiss (1989) call “gotcha teaching”––a practice in which teachers conceal curricular learning outcomes like a secret rather than communicating them with students.  According to Canady and Hotchkiss, “gotcha teaching” is one of the 12 grading practices that inhibit student learning.  If students do not know what they are expected to learn, then grades become a way “of finding out how well students [can] read the teacher’s mind” (1989, p. 70) rather than an assessment of student learning.  This doesn’t make sense to me.  Students are the ones doing the learning; therefore, students need to know what it is they are expected to learn in order to prepare.  Davies (2011) offers an analogy to support this point: “When golfers swing their golf clubs, they know where to aim––toward the flag marking the next hole” (p. 25).  As teachers, we need to provide students with an end goal, or a “learning destination” (Davies, 2011, p. 28), so they can gear their learning accordingly, much like how a golfer aims their club.

So how do we involve students in the assessment process? Well, we can start by openly sharing curricular outcomes with students.  However, that is not enough.  Sometimes curricular outcomes are tricky for teachers to decipher, let alone students.  Therefore, I believe part of involving students in the assessment process is translating and summarizing confusing, jargon-filled curricular outcomes into simple, student-friendly language.  Doing this provides students with a clear picture of where they need to take their learning.

Once students understand what it is they are expected to learn, they need to understand how to show their learning.  This can be difficult because curricular outcomes “often define what students need to learn and be able to do without showing what it looks like when they do” (Davies, 2011, p. 33).  Therefore, another part of involving students in the assessment process is demonstrating to students what their learning should look like according to the curricular outcomes.  Davies (2011) mentions that one effective way to do this is by using samples or exemplars, either from past students or ones that have been created by the teacher.  As a student, I always appreciated it when my teachers provided samples of work because it gave me a starting point to work from and illustrated the learning expectations.  Essentially, exemplars helped guide my learning because they showed me the end-point that I needed to reach.

Although it was not discussed in this week’s readings or lecture, I believe another (crucial) way to involve students in the assessment process is by allowing them to show their learning in multiple of ways.  Not all students learn in the same way, so relying on one form of assessment (like a unit test) to tell you what students have learned is not a good approach. Rather, in order to truly and accurately gauge student learning, I strongly believe that students need to be assessed multiple times in multiple ways.  Furthermore, I believe students should have some freedom to decide how they want to demonstrate their learning based on how they learn best. For some this may be a oral presentation; for others, a musical composition.

This week we had a guest speaker come talk to our class: Tim Caleval from the Ministry of Education.  In his lecture, Tim discussed the importance of involving students in the assessment process from the Ministry’s point of view.  It is no secret that there is an education gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students in terms of academic performance and graduation rates.  Tim addressed the education gap in his lecture, noting that the on-time graduation rate for Aboriginal students is only 40% compared to the 75% for non-Aboriginal students.  As a way to combat the education gap in Saskatchewan, the Ministry implemented the “Following Their Voices” initiative.  Essentially, the program was a diagnostic assessment in which Aboriginal students across the province were asked what they needed (i.e. resources, supports, etc.) in order to be successful in school.  Tim explained that it was important for the “Following Their Voices” initiative to be student-centered because the Ministry wanted input directly from Aboriginal students as how to improve their education experience.  From what I know about “Following Their Voices”, I think it is a step in the right direction towards closing the education gap, but I also think it is long overdue.  In my opinion, policies and practices informing Aboriginal education should not be the responsibility of non-Aboriginal people.  To me, it only makes sense that the voices of Aboriginal students guide policy-making.

Ultimately, when students are involved in the assessment process it is beneficial to both students and teachers.  When involved in the assessment process and provided with a learning destination, students are able to guide their learning from where they are to where they need to be.  When excluded from the assessment process however, assessment becomes more of a guessing game rather than a true indication of student learning. As for teachers, when students are involved in the assessment process, it helps inform and guide their practice because it provides a clear, accurate picture of student learning.  Seems like something I can get behind.


 

Canady, R. L., & Hotchkiss, P. R. (1989). It’s a good score! Just a bad grade. Phi Delta Kappan, 71(1), 68.

Davies, A. (2011). Making Classroom Assessment Work (3rd ed.). Courtenay, BC: Duncan Holdings Inc.

 

 

 

Reassessing Assessment

Frankly, assessment intimidates me.

As a student, even at the university level, assessment has been the cause of much of my stress and anxiety.  Being the over-achieving perfectionist that I am, I take my grades very seriously, so I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well in school.  In addition, the majority of the assessment that I have experienced as a student has been summative assessment.  Summative assessment, or assessment of learning, judges whether or not students have met curricular goals/outcomes.  Furthermore, summative assessment is typically assigned a grade to denote student achievement.  In fact, most of the university-level science and math classes that I have taken have focused solely on summative assessment, for many of the final exams that I have written have been worth 45-60% of my final grade.  In other words, based on my experiences, assessment has typically supported a “one try to get it right” mentality which only adds to the pressure that I put on myself.

Based on the conversations had in class, it seems that a lot of students have had negative experiences with assessment, or think of assessment in a negative way like myself.  I find this interesting because the whole point of assessment is to guide and support student learning, as well as inform and guide the teacher in his/her teaching.  Overall, assessment is meant to be beneficial to both the students and the teacher.  So how do we, as future educators, debunk and reclaim the idea of assessment?

While my experiences with assessment have been negative, I am coming into ECS 410 with an open mind––I want to learn how to make my future students’ assessment experiences more positive.  In addition, since summative assessment (typically exams) is all I have experienced, I hope to learn different assessment techniques that I can use in my future classroom.