Week 3.2 Assessment Practices- The What, Why and How!

Christina, Janelle, Laurie and Ramona did a fantastic job in their presentation showing several assessment tools, discussing the positives and challenges of some of the platforms and tools utilized.  Their presentation and the discussions during it got me thinking about the choices I make to assess.  After reflecting on their presentation, the readings and blogs from my peers it further reiterates the need for intentionality.  To be clear on what is being assessed, why it is being assessed, and how of it being assessed.  Their presentation and readings offered a wonderful opportunity to reflect on best practice.

One thing I noticed the past few years was how online and formative/constructivist assessment greatly aided student learning while simultaneously supporting outcomes.  The groups slide that showcased the positives with constructivist assessment really struck me as that is my goal with lots of assessment in my spaces.

Source: Kampman, Patterson, Ellis, Wagner, Alexson 2021

With digitized feedback I was able to provide ongoing feedback during larger projects or high stakes assignments that helped students modify and adapt their work during the learning process.  This ongoing dialogue and collaboration with myself (after modelled by me with their classmates), helped show that education is not just about summative assessment, learning is an ongoing process.  This shift in focus in my classroom not only helped students’ final marks, it also modelled revisions and ongoing learning throughout the process.  As stated above, after I model the process, I then ask students to provide that type of feedback to each other.  This working relationship between students and our learning communities showed that we can support each other’s learning.  Furthermore, it gave space to show that it is OK to be critical of peer’s work and do so with respect and honesty.  Feedback is not about saying something constructive that enhances their work and evolves thinking.  I found students deeply engaged with the process which allowed them to actively think about what we are doing, how much more deeply we learn.  During the process we often discussed what “good feedback” looked and sounded like.  We discussed what was helpful, or what created roadblocks or insecurities.  We discussed what do we do when we get feedback and how do we ensure we receive it to enhance our learning and not take it personal.  We modelled courageous conversations and my hope is that this not only aids their assignments, but also conversations with future coworkers, bosses, partners and families.  Technology allowed for this type of feedback and back and forth communication which gave me more time to unpack how we go about giving and receiving feedback.

Source: http://www.brenebrown.com

The article Assessing using Learning Technology, Timmis, Broadfoot, Sutherland, and Oldfield (2016) encourage teachers to reflect on the “four C’s” when using technology to enhance a lesson.

  • Ask yourself, does the use of technology allow for increased collaboration or critical thinking opportunities?
  • Are students able to communicate their ideas uniquely and are students able to demonstrate creative thinking?   (Nu-man and Porter). 
  • The structure provided by Nu-man and Porter allows me to further consider my why, how and when to incorporate and also be mindful of who is benefiting from the assessment practice and thus the need to diversify assessment to make sure all learners thrive.

With all that being said, there is a cost for constant and ongoing assessment.  In the article  The importance of digitized feedback and assessment, Cohan cautioned teachers that although this provides meaningful feedback, it is important to be conscious of the give and take of using digitized assessment as it impacts teacher intensification and workload.  The administrative processes and time involved in marking, as well as manual feedback and assessment can significantly add to teacher workloads. It’s also not conducive to a deeper understanding of topics if students aren’t receiving timely feedback in a way which resonates with them, or without the further explanation or context that’s often needed” (Chohan, 2021).  I must be conscious of this consequence when making active decisions of when and how to implement this type of constructivist assessment. It is not meaningful or helpful to receive feedback a week later, nor does it help if my feedback is not meaningful as that detracts from the original reason for providing it.  Furthermore, I must be conscious of the students who are utilizing this process and who it benefits.  I have students who are “good students” and ultimately hear that if they hand something in, they get to keep modifying it until they receive a “good” mark.  Also, I have to be aware of who has access to technology and Wi-Fi at home when collaboration is expected.  If students are not utilizing the ongoing process, it is integral to have conversations as to why they are not.  What is the roadblock?   I have to be aware of who is benefiting from this and thus had to change the way in which I offered this opportunity without it being another mark.  The group did a phenomenal job of structing who is a “good” student and that those who do not fit that dominant discourse will need alternate and adapted assessment strategies that allows them to reap the benefits and the learning.

For a majority of my assessment practices I utilize LMS.  As I have discussed in the Learning Online Post, this allows me to share my content in a single location, embed all materials, videos as well as assessment as students and parents are able to access assignment expectations as well as marking schemes at all times. In terms of assessment practices, I have students working on FlipGrids to share their learning. Students complete Formative checks for understanding.  Engaging in dialogue with their peers through discussion forums to further understand and discuss content.  As shared in the article Assessing using Learning Technology, Timmis, Broadfoot, Sutherland, and Oldfield (2016) echo my love for LMS with the notion that “The LMS allows for transparency amongst all stakeholders in the learning process. Students can access resources and assignments while communicating with their peers and teacher. Parents may monitor student progress while also communicating with the teacher. Often what is communicated in class does not make it home to the parents. The LMS removes this hindrance in communication”.  I have found that to be the case in my experience.  All parties are aware of the expectations and I am able to easily communicate with students and their support systems (parents/guardians/Tutorial teachers and if needed the Student Support team having access to the content). I find this wrap around approach helps all students, but specifically those who need a little more encouragement and explanation through supports provided.

With that being said, although Moodle is available in the division I work for, not all teachers utilize this program.  In fact, in Mike Wolf’s post (he works for the same division I do) he spoke about Moodle being cumbersome.  He stated in a response to my post singing it’s praises: “I’ve always wanted to explore Moodle more in-depth, but the learning curve/time spent to do it well has always deterred me”.  Mike is an avid tech user who has tremendous ways of utilizing tech to teach and assess his students.  If he feels this way about this system, he is certainly not alone.  Thus, it is important for me to consider this and to expand my horizons as perhaps my students/other stakeholders feel the same.  As Katia alluded to in the presentation, all tech comes with its positives and its challenges. What I am learning it is integral to consider both and make conscious decisions to utilize tools that aid pedagogical practices.  

Assessment has been the forefront of my division’s priorities about student engagement and learning.  One thing that they do allow is teachers choice about what platforms best suit students.  Perhaps it is a good thing students are able to show their learning utilizing a variety of platforms and assessment strategies. But I can also see how this would pose a challenge as students are constantly needing to access a variety of platforms in order to access their work.  Are we helping prepare them for a future of change?  Or are we just adding more to an already full plate?  With assessment being a pillar to our divisions strategic plan it is important to have dialogue like this class is providing to consider the implications of assessment. I plan on utilizing the readings and the groups presentation with my Department in the fall to continue the conversation post COVID. After reviewing the positives, challenges, learning theories and epistemologies I am hoping we have an increased vocabulary to really reflect on our practice this past year and prior years without a global pandemic. I want us to consider:

  • What assessment practices worked in your classroom this past year?
  • What streamlined the process in order to meet the needs of the students and to help your workload?
  • What did you not miss with all the changes COVID required that you can let go? Are there assessments you did not use? Did you miss them?
  • What do you want to bring back that was from the “before” days? How can we adopt and let go for this upcoming school year?

In my opinion, one of the most important things we do as educators is assess.  Assessment not only lets students know where they stand in terms of a mark, at its best it also can spark curiosity, innovation, and motivation to become active and lifelong learners.  I like to think of assessment as ongoing dialogue.  It’s not about the end game, or “mark”, it’s about the learning process, the problem solving, the collaboration, the learning process that matters to me.  At its best, assessment gives space for conversation, collaboration, feedback, modification- all critical aspects to the learning process.

13 thoughts on “Week 3.2 Assessment Practices- The What, Why and How!

  1. Pingback: Week 3 Post 2 Assessment Technologies | EC&I 833

  2. I really enjoyed your thoughts on feedback Jacquie. I work hard to give my students feedback on their clinical assignments each week and make sure to return them prior to our upcoming clinical day. One area that I find challenging is to get them to review my feedback. We provide our feedback and comments in an application that allows me to see when the students have viewed my responses so it easy for me to monitor. I always clarify my expectations around this but I have never reflected on why they don’t read my feedback. I have assumed until now that its because they don’t care. But I am learning that it may be related to them not knowing how to process that feedback, especially the constructive feedback. I strive to be very detailed and give them lots so they can integrate it and improve the following week. I think I need to spend some additional time up front explaining this process and I really like how you get them to practice giving and receiving feedback to each other. I think it’s equally if not more difficult to give good feedback it takes a lot of practice.
    You always have great posts that get my brain thinking in a different way and I look forward to reading them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your comments. I think the work you are doing to train future nurses who are with people when they are at their most vulnerable, and perhaps scared (along with their families and loved ones who are also dealing with a sick/hurt loved one) is such important work! The care, compassion, attention that I received when I had my two children or was there with my grandfather at the end of his life showed me how necessary this work is. You walk with people through some very pivotal moments that have extreme emotions! The students who have the privildge of learning that from and growing from that constrcutive feedback will be that much more prepared to continue to handle it with grace, and also be prepared for the inevitable feedback they will receive from patients and families. Thank you for all that you do to walk with us when we most need help and care. Such an honorable and important profession- both teaching and nursing! You hit the double whammy of vocational calls!

      Like

  3. I really enjoyed reading your post Jacquie! You always have such an eloquent way of writing and sharing your understandings. I especially enjoyed the section on feedback and how you model and then expect students to provide feedback that supports each others’ learning. Your discussions around what was helpful or what created roadblocks or insecurities is powerful. I thought about how often I had students give each other feedback yet I never took the time to discuss how to handle that feedback. What meaningful experiences you are providing your students with in preparing them for the feedback they will receive in the workforce!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your kind words! I too am blown away by your posts and also your practice as a Vice Principal. I recall in Alec’s class thinking (Spring of 2020)- that’s how it’s done! Your care, your reflection, your leadership is inspiring. Add in doing that as a strong woman in a leadership role and I know I am not the only one inspire! It’s so interesting to see you in your work a year and a half later after an interesting year and a half! Thank you for all of your insights as they show me what growth looks like in action in positions of leadership in school and life.

      Like

  4. Like Daniel, I also appreciated the comment about workload intensification. It’s interesting that technology often brings ease – for me, the tools you I am using allow me to give feedback faster and more efficiently. However, I find that rather than finishing feedback faster, I just end up giving more feedback. That’s great for the kids but not ideal for me, in terms of time management. Still, for me nothing beats one on one in-person teacher student conferencing. In the past year we still conferenced via Zoom but this certainly privileged those who had technology, and those who were engaged enough to attend a synchronous meeting. The comment about “good students” and feedback resonated with me as well. So often I will give more extensive feedback if, for example, a student hands an assignment to me before the due date. I do this to manage my time, but in effect I suppose I am privileging those students who know how to do school. Thanks for that food for thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feeeeeel your comment. I found a similar trend that those who handed stuff in “early” also received more extensive feedback. I hadn’t thought about that, but when I receive 3-5 versus 25-32 assignments my ability to give the same amount of feedback will vary. That is also great food for thought to consider who is benefiting and thus how I can be more consistent in my assessment feedback for all students. Thanks for reminding me to always reflect on the whole process and not just those who benefit!

      Like

  5. Awesome blog post! Great thoughts throughout and I really like how you acknowledge the workload intensity that digital assessment brings – or at least the feedback piece. Your conclusion about assessment at its best being for “conversation, collaboration, feedback, modification- all critical aspects to the learning process” resonates with me as I consider the impact of digital assessment, I think if we just remember that assessment should feed the learning process then we can critically reflect on which piece is offering the most nutrients then everything will work out.

    In reference to the questions you posted, I’d like to focus on the question: what do you want to bring back that was from the “before” days?

    Collaboration across grades. Traditionally, I partner with the younger grade classrooms in my building as we offer feedback to them centered on their writing and focused on main ideas/themes in their writing. My students learn about offering kind and constructive feedback, while the younger students learn that the Middle Years kids do see them and are not terrifying – also gives their writing a bit of an ego boost. We tried via zoom, but it was an absolute failure – the internet quit multiple times and there were far too many technical problems. I am excited to be returning to this practice in the Fall.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment Daniel! I LOVE the collaboration across grades! The ability to mentor, do in time leadership building skills, work on providing and receiving constructive feedback not only aids learners, it also aids life skills with future career, families, partners and the world! What a wonderful way to model that in your spaces and foster that skill set.

      Like

  6. Great questions! One assessment that is not required that I really missed was the reading assessment test–the F&P (Fountas and Pinnell). I don’t use it for grading purposes, but it really helps guide my small groups (which I miss too), and whole group instruction. It also gives me good insight into what reading levels the students are around and what they need help on. I know that there is a lot of early intervention in reading from K-3, however, by Grade 6/7 this often gets forgotten. I really missed doing small group, and one-on-one instruction, as well as individual assessments where students could show their learning in person. I do like though how I incorporated more online assessment tools such as Padlet and Flipgrid, as I was able to get a good understanding of what the students knew, but I could do it in faster time and it could be on my time (at home, on prep, etc.). I found assessment during COVID was tricky in general though. Besides the online assessments, student attendance was an issue, and working in small groups wasn’t a thing. I do miss the group work and in person collaboration. Hopefully, things will look a bit different in the fall (as long as it makes sense safety-wise).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing Kelly, I agree with your thoughts around Fountas and Pinnell as a formative assessment tool. In most of the schools that I have worked in, we used this tool for all students, Grades 2-8, even though the division only collects data for Grades 2 and 3. We continued with this practice this last year, even though it was not required by the division. Although we could not run traditional reading groups during our literacy blocks, teachers continued with a similar format within cohorts.
      During the first round of remote learning, I was at a different school than I am at now. When it came to assessment I found it very challenging. I had students who struggled to put together complete sentences when we were in person, submitting polished paragraphs for their rough drafts. Similar to you, I am looking forward to being able to mix cohorts!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I love how assessment can provide data to tell teachers/schools/divisions about where we are and thus where we hope to go. Have you ever implemented the use of data walls? Lynn Sharratt has some tremendous resources and articles about the use of them in schools and how they help use data to inform educators and divisions about best practice. Here’s a link if you’re interested in checking it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZo2UHMYnao

        Liked by 1 person

    • I too look forward to small groups and individual instruction. I love how you found a way to make it work this past year and will continue to offer those opportunities through tech, but are also reflective about bringing back group work and in person collaboration. Your deep reflection and pedagogical choices are really quite something!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s