Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Proof that DA works

As my last post with "Problems with Common Assessment" there is another side of the coin; "Differentiated Assessment"

Some are skeptical that there is a benefit in having DA in your classroom, but Bayview Glen School from Ontario shows there truly is.

Bayview Glen school is a K – 12 school that wanted to answer the question “How, as leaders, can we facilitate a successful shift towards differentiated assessment throughout all grade levels?”  The focus was to encourage teachers with the knowledge to expand their assessment policies beyond traditional tasks such as tests and quizzes. 

This school completed an action research plan by providing the entire staff, in June 2009, with an assessment workshop.  During this workshop, each teacher was educated on various Differentiated Assessment Tasks (DAT) which they would implement in the 2009 – 2010 academic year.  Then given a simple task:

create one differentiated summative assessment for their course and present this task to the staff, reporting on the assessment and providing insight into how it impacted student learning.

Immediately, the staff demonstrated a strong commitment and their assessments which were presented were creative, engaging, challenging and incorporated reflective elements of a constructivist approach to teaching and learning. 

After each teacher implemented their assessment in their own classes, they were to report their experiences with the rest of the staff.  What was noticed?

“The results of these assessments lead to greater student learning experiences allowing for meaningful connections to the real world.  We also realized that is wasn’t just about the culminating differentiated assessment task, rather we needed to emphasize the importance of formative assessment, digging deeper into our curriculum while placing students at the center of their learning.”

Some teachers reported:

“I am definitely trying to move away from the traditional way of instructing and assessing.  By being introduced to DAT, and by taking the first two terms to incorporate the ideas into my classroom, I have realized the possibilities and I am excited to continue to develop the use in my daily teaching practices”

One student even reported.

“The assignment for Glass Menagerie helped me to realize the relevance of this books’ message and how the themes applied to my own life, allowing me to provide a better analysis, while demonstrating my inquiry skills.”

In the school there was a shift towards student-centered learning, with an emphasis on making real world connections.  Inquiry-based learning activities allowed for a sense of wonder and curiosity amongst learners.

Before completing this action research all teachers completed a survey (named Survey 1) and after they completed the same survey (named Survey 2).  Here is how this one task changed their ideologies:

You can notice that teachers were changing the “bulk of their summative” assessment strategies after a single DAT.

Similar data is becoming more and more prevalent and should not be ignored.  Peter W. Cookson Jr stated:

“We are at a threshold of a worldwide revolution in learning.  Just as the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the wall of conventional schooling is collapsing before our eyes.”

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