Saturday, February 28, 2015

Rethinking Assessment

As part our final M.Ed. Capstone course entitled, Collisions, Disruptions, and Diffusions, we were presented with the challenge to facilitate a seminar based on an area of personal interest in education. Over the past 3 years, themes of technology integration and teaching through inquiry have become central in my journey, as I have aimed to link theory and practice. Through this experience I have come to the realization that assessment needs to change along with teaching practices. This same wondering came to light for my Master Class co-facilitator, Jenny Loebsack. As we began preparing, we understood that this topic would lead to some collisions, disruptions, and diffusions in our discussions. Our goal was to elicit reflection and discussion on current assessment practices, how they might enable/interfere with learning, and how we might begin rethinking these practices in light of what we know and understand about learners. As stated during our seminar by a classmate, we need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable!

As a Minds-On activity we began by viewing this video entitled, Eyes Forward Assessment and discussing quotations taken from resources in our Padlet board. 
“As education evolves, we need to prevent this “currency” from being misused as the only worth of a student’s learning.” 
‘Grading Game’ (Watkins, 2015) 

“In our culture, we believe that every child is born with gifts. 
What will our schools do to uncover and develop the gifts of our children?” 
Pedagogical Documentation Revisited (2015)

“Students are residing in a 20th century classroom equipped for the 21st century. Students are taking 19th and 20th century exams in a classroom that has an interactive white board and 1:1 laptop ratio. This is where our problem begins.”
 Reinventing Assessment for the 21st Century (Marcinek, 2010)

“From Degrading to De-Grading” 
 (Kohn, 1999)

Some of the major themes that emerged included:

Product vs Process
-    What’s worth more? The attainment of grades or the development of skills for lifelong learning?
-    Evaluation of skills (eg. testing) vs documenting the learning journey (eg. portfolio)
-    How does grading affect students’ motivation and mindset?
-    Our interactions in the classroom effect student learning. Handing out grades sends a very different message than providing descriptive feedback to move student thinking forward.

IMG_3008.JPGHow and Why of Assessment
-     - The underlying goal of assessment is to know where are students are in order to identify how they can move forward. In order to do this, we must build relationships!
-     - Performance goals (ranking, grades) vs Mastery goals (experience of learning)
-     - Assessment can motivate or discourage, empower or enslave. How can we use assessment to “feed forward” learning? Student CHOICE and VOICE!

Global Perspectives and Authentic Experiences
-     - Need to consider the world we are preparing our students to enter into as global citizens
-     -  The ability to apply skills and think creatively to solve problems is essential in our changing, growing world

After identifying and discussing themes, we brainstormed potential challenges as well as solutions moving forward. Many of these challenges and solutions were further explored in personal reflections. It became clear that assessment is something that educators wrestle with and yearn to rethink. Challenging the status quo seems to be an almost impossible task. 

This experience has left me wondering how I might “feed forward” my own assessment practices and how this might model for others some small steps in the right direction.

My wonderings/next steps moving forward:

-   * Assessment Tic Tac Toe
Incorporate student voice and choice into assessments using tic tac toe board.
-   * Documenting the learning journey 
Explore the use of ePortfolio as a tool to support pedagogical documentation

-   *  How might ICT help provide personalize and holistic assessments?
I am excited about the possibility of moving from eAssessments that increase efficiency (eg. Google Forms) to more adaptive assessments using learning analytics.

For more information:

Rethinking Assessment Padlet Resource Board

Rethinking Assessment: Google Slides

“The practical difficulties of abolishing letter grades are real.  But the key question is whether those difficulties are seen as problems to be solved or as excuses for perpetuating the status quo.  The logical response to the arguments and data summarized here is to say:  “Good heavens!  If even half of this is true, then it’s imperative we do whatever we can, as soon as we can, to phase out traditional grading.”  Yet many people begin and end with the problems of implementation, responding to all this evidence by saying, in effect, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, but we’ll never get rid of grades because . . .” (Alfie Kohn, 1999)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Math Learning - "Just In Time"

What do a box of recycling and an excerpt from a Bailey School Kids chapter book have in common? They can both lead to "Just In Time" learning. 
Embracing the spontaneous learning moments that happen throughout the day is not always an easy task. Thoughts about 'what's next' and time pressures often get in the way of this. What I have come to find is that when we stop, think, act, and reflect on these moments we are not only facilitating meaningful learning for our students, but also modelling an inquiry stance. This is what it looks like and sounds like to be a critical thinker and learner in the world.   

In Literacy, we are learning to Stop and Jot about our thinking. This includes making predictions, asking questions, connecting with characters, and identifying themes. Think Alouds and guided reading sessions are helping students maintain meaning as they read and 'think about their thinking'. We are currently reading a Bailey School Kids chapter book called "Giants Don't Go Snowboarding". I love these moments together as a classroom community. We gather together at a special spot on our carpet, read, and exchange ideas and thinking about the material. So what does this have to do with math learning?

We read the following excerpt "For every step he took [the giant], the kids had to take 3.A student immediately stated, "Wow that seems big. I wonder how big his steps are?". I knew this was an opportunity to 'go there', to engage in 'just in time' learning based on this passage. This is how it all played out:

STOP - We paused our reading and students shared their ideas and wonderings about what this student said. How big might they be? What do we know about this giant?  

THINK - The Grade 2s worked in groups to think about a strategy to solve this wondering. 

ACT - They used a wide variety of tools to help them including carpet squares, counters, rulers, metre sticks. They were engaged and accountable. 

REFLECT - We gathered as a class to share our thinking using a gallery walk approach first then a math circle. Concepts of standard vs non-standard units, estimation, measuring techniques, proportionality, all came out of this learning. The tools they used were diverse, strategies and models varied, but all arrived at 'about' the same solution. "Ah ha"! 

A very similar process occurred when I placed a box full of recycling (discards from a boat-building project) in front of the students. We filled the box with questions and wonderings which lead to "Just In Time" learning about capacity. I was amazed at what they were able to do; where their wonderings led us as a community of learners. They estimated and compared amounts, some even converting L to mL in order to combine two containers together.  

My Thoughts on "Just In Time" Learning:
- Remain present: Only when we are 'tuned in' can we embrace unexpected moments for learning in the classroom
- Model an Inquiry Stance: Think aloud with students, ask questions, wonder, make mistakes, reflect. This will encourage them to do the same. 
- Make Time: It is time well spent!

How many of your own 'ah ha's have come out of "just in time" learning?