"Why do the media report the decline in our ranking rather than the decline in our results?"
- Dr. Rachel Wilson.
Assessment is a topic that is critically important, hot, and over done. Yet there was an attitude that came through from the abstract for Rachel's presentation that sounded positive and excited about assessment which is not an attitude that I have come across before.
Rachel made some cold points to start with. We have, she began, an assessment system which is essentially external to the classroom and which created a situation where her own daughters, currently in fourth grade, have already sat more exams than Rachel did during her entire schooling and which has created a competitive streak in them she had not expected. She made the point that research demonstrates that emotions and feelings are at the heart of learning and therefore that these things should be at the heart of our education system which is certainly not the case when the perception of school is that it prepares you for an exam which serves only one purpose; to determine what university and courses you are eligible for.
The media reported, quite vociferously, the recent release of the latest PISA results (for example here, here, here and here). The issue is that the stance taken is one of bemoaning our drop in ranking relative to other countries. Rachel questioned this attitude; "why does it matter if we are ranked below Kazakhstan in PISA?" Rachel continued by acknowledging that our testing results across reading, writing, mathematics and scientific literacy are certainly declining, despite the near zealous focus on standardised national testing
We were asked to consider how often a student has been unable to answer a question or complete a task in a test situation that they have demonstrated the ability to do ordinarily. It is quite often, and the rhetoric around oh, I'm not a test person is demonstrative of the fact that we are aware of the impact that testing can have on our emotions and feelings. Rachel invoked Hattie's research and exhorted us to know our impact and to consider the impact that our choices have on our students.
Assessment should, we were told, engage students. It should be something that they want to complete. Consider how eager the majority of students are to learn and to engage with learning tasks in their early years of schooling. What happens that we then see the fourth grade slump and students disengaging with learning? Assessment should engage students and allow for professional judgement. This is not, as far as I can see, reconcilable with the current system of mandatory reporting each semester in an A-E fashion how a student is going relative to their peers across a range of subject areas and the pressures put upon teachers and students to ensure growth, but that perhaps says more about the focus of our education and schooling systems.
Rachel then took the audience on a whirlwind history tour of assessment in Australia. We have traditionally utilised three main forms of assessment. Norm referenced demonstrated where students sat on a bell curve. Criterion referenced assessments were designed to measure student achievement against a clear set of criteria or learning standards that indicated what students should know and/or be able to demonstrate. Standards references assessment was designed to be a process of collecting and interpreting information about students learning and allows for teacher professional judgement. Much assessment that goes on at the moment is a hybrid of all three models, however, there is another option. Ipsative assessment.
Ipsative assessment was not a term that I had heard of previously, however, a read of the brief overview provided onscreen (captured in the above tweet) indicated that this is probably being used on a regular basis in many classrooms, though perhaps not in the structured and formal way that Rachel was indicating. She went on to talk about an online system that is used in New Zealand that allows teachers to log on and see data across a range of curriculum areas and quickly identify gaps in learning which can be used for planning purposes. It also allows assessment tasks to be completed on an as needed and appropriate basis rather than the current model here in Australia of a big day or week of assessment testing each year. Being able to input student results, have them mapped to curriculum areas and use that data for planning in a timely manner would be useful, especially given that the purpose of assessment of learning should be to inform the next steps in that area. It highlights the fact that the delay in results after NAPLAN testing makes the tests themselves completely redundant as a pedagogical tool, especially considering that neither the student or teacher is given access to their test paper to talk about what they have done and use it as a feedback tool.
Rachel's talk was very intriguing and seemed to be well received by the audience. I heard a few people sitting around me comment that they wanted to research ipsative assessment more and look at how they could adapt their current assessment processes to suit and the buzz as we moved out to lunch demonstrated that she had given many people food for thought.
If you have missed any of the articles in this series or Storifies of the Tweets from FutureSchools, you can find them here.
“10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer
Write even more.
Write even more than that.
Write when you don’t want to.
Write when you do.
Write when you have something to say.
Write when you don’t.
Write every day.
― Attributed to Brian Clark
Teaching students to write can be both incredibly painful and incredibly rewarding (and rather amusing!). The process of knowing where to next can be somewhat daunting, and determining how to manage each student's progress so that everyone is having their individual needs addressed, but that everyone is moving forwards can be quite challenging.
One method that works quite effectively is to use the writing sample that a student has created today as the basis for what you ask them to work on tomorrow. For example, if Jill is in Year Two, then when marking her sample at the end of the day, you would look for a pattern of things that need to be addressed and have her focus, in the next writing session, on rectifying the issue that is the most important. Professional judgement is required to determine whether it is letter formation, capital letters, full stops, spelling, grammatical issues or for older students, structural or thematic issues.
Across the class, however, there will be some clear groupings of issues. You would have students sit in groups during the next writing session, and let each group know what it is that they need to focus on. The issue will vary depending on the age and the context and a range of other factors, however, there will typically be four to five groupings around common writing areas.
This week's Friday Freebie is a template that I have been using this year for this purpose. In the topic/focus column, you record what the topic and focus for the writing samples you are marking was. Then, in the other columns, you create groups based upon trends you see in a student's writing. In the partially completed example I have included below, you can see that I identified five common issues. These are based upon your professional judgement as to what the most important area that needs development was. For some students it was using capital letters and full stops. For others, it was purely about length, that they need to write more in order to allow a judgement to be made on what they need to work on.
You do not have to have five groups, however, you need to allocate each student to a group based upon what you identify in their writing as being important. The next day, when you send students to do their writing task, you have group one sit together and tell them that they need to focus on capital letters and full stops and you have an explicit teaching moment. Then you move to group two and give them their explicit teaching moment and so on until you have spoken with each group. At the end of the day, you go through the process again, and your groupings, both the students in the groups and the area that group needs to focus on might be the same or it might be different.
The table on the second part of the page allows you to record, from the writing sample, a word that they need to practice spelling. This could be anything from a sight word to a theme word and it will vary depending on the age and needs of the student.
I have uploaded the blank template as a PDF to my Public Resources folder on Google Drive for you to download and edit. Alternatively, you can download it below.
“Assessment in a flipped classroom must inform what you then do in the class.”
The Primary Discussion Panel which I wrote about in the previous article was followed by a morning tea break, after which, the breakout sessions were scheduled to begin. In the first session, I attended a workshop with Aimee Shattock (@MSShattock) entitled How Do I Know If They Got It? Embedding Fun, Fast and Effective Formative Assessment Into Your Flipped Program. I originally made me breakout session choices when I booked my attendance in June and I perhaps should have reviewed my session choices closer to the event. Aimee opened her session by having delegates take part in a Kahoot quiz, something which is always fun. She spent some time explaining how to create and use Kahoots in the classroom. Although I am quite familiar with the Kahoot platform, it was still useful as I had not used them for some time and was not realised the Kahoot creation interface had changed.
Following the Kahoot discussion, Aimee introduced the delegates to Socrative, an app that I was aware of but had never used. It seems quite straightforward to use and serves slightly different purposes to Kahoot. It is a free app that is compatible with any PC or device, however, it requires an internet connection and Aimee indicated that the iPad app can be quite glitchy at times. The most useful function of Socrative, in my opinion, is its exit ticket component. It defaults to three questions.
This quick and easy way of getting immediate feedback on the session learning that you can digest at a later time as part of your assessment of learning and assessment for learning reflection process is useful as you are able to process the students’ understandings at a time and pace more conducive to critical reflection that will inform future practice and what comes next.
I realise that I have not written much for Aimee’s session and I do feel bad as she is an excellent presenter with some excellent ideas who engaged the delegates well. If I had not been as familiar with Kahoot and as comfortable using it as I am, Aimee’s session would have been an excellent place to learn about it.I did enjoy learning about Socrative and I do plan to explore using it in my class at some point as I think it can serve a very useful purpose.
I discovered after Aimee’s session concluded that I had not registered for anything in the next session and decided to sit in on Peter Whiting’s (@Mr_van_W) session, which I did write extensively for and will do so in the next article, which I hope to have ready to be published tomorrow afternoon.
“As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.”
-Attributed to Amy Poehler
No single teacher, on their own, causes great things in the classroom or motivates students. That may sound odd, given that most classrooms are operated by a single teacher, but we do not cause great things to happen in isolation. The great moment in a lesson occurs because we have brainstormed how to deliver a particular lesson/skill/concept with a colleague, we have asked our partner or children for their feedback, we have sought feedback from our own students on how we can be better teachers for them and put that into practice, we have been to a professional development session of some description that has lit a fire under our tail and ignited a passion we were heretofore unaware of, the office staff have printed and distributed notes for any number of reasons.
In other words, we have collaborated in a variety of ways and with a variety of people. We do nothing in isolation. Ultimately, if we do not collaborate with our students, it will be irrelevant how amazing and inspiring our lesson plan is. Without their collaboration and buy-in, nothing is achieved.
I had a conversation this morning with a colleague who delivered my program to some classes on Friday, and her feedback was very useful. She pointed out that attempting to have students save a filed onto a communal USB was very time-intensive, and recommended simply using a class list as a tick and flick sheet, with a particular competency noted at the top of each column, and a tick if the competency was achieved. That was the initial idea, and somehow in the transition to using the class laptops as opposed to small groups, the method was cast aside. I used that method this morning, and it was much easier, and much simpler to put into practice in the classroom, and also when entering the data on the spreadsheet that my records are being kept on.
Collaboration with colleagues, especially around sharing what works is vital to a teachers success. How do you collaborate?
As always, thank you for reading, and I look forward to hearing from people about the collaboration that is going on.