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.
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.
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.