Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Personalized assessment

First, I want to make clear what my assumptions are about assessment.

  • Each student learns at a different pace
  • There should be no punitive action taken against a student who learns slower.
  • Students are allowed as many times as they want to demonstrate learning.
Also, you must know of my story around abolishing grading in my calculus class.

Currently we are three quarters through the course and running out of outcomes to assess and master.  This week I have tried something different.  Personalized assessment!

Each student is given a test but it is drastically different than anything I ever given before.  On the front page, there are questions which assess their knowledge of an outcome we have been working on for a week.  On the next pages, each student's exam is different.

On some, the pages are blank.  These are for the students whom have already demonstrated understanding of all the outcomes up to this point.  The cool part is that these students can be enriched with an activity, as they will most likely finish the test first.  For the rest, their pages are filled with questions on the outcomes they have yet to demonstrate understanding of. (Up to a maximum of 2)

Example:  Susie hasn't demonstrated understanding of outcome 5 and 7 and therefore on her pages, there are questions around outcomes 5 and 7.  Jason, on the other hand, has demonstrated these two outcomes but has missed outcomes 1 and 6.  Consequently, on his test there are questions around outcomes 1 and 6.

Next, I will assess this test under the following scenarios.

  1. It will be summative if the student correctly demonstrates all parts of the test. 
  2. It will be part summative and part formative for those who can only demonstrate learning of certain outcomes. 
  3. It will be entirely formative if a student can't demonstrate any understanding of any outcomes.

If I followed the philosophy that all assessment should be common, then all students would be writing a test around outcomes 1-10, which would take longer than a period, and be a complete waste of time for those who have already demonstrated learning.

Is this a lot of work?

Yes! However, it is worth it when I can say that this test is more about the needs of my students than it is to generate another "mark" in my gradebook.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

We all decide the weighting of our standardized exams.

In Alberta, our Grade 12 diplomas are weighted at 50% and the teacher awarded mark is weighted at 50% mark...on a child's transcript.  Now I will make a case that, even though the government has decided this, it is truly up to each stakeholder in education who determines how much this weighting truly is.

First off, the teachers:

It is up to the individual teacher how much the diploma is weighted in your teaching, your assessment, and your daily dealings with the students.  I have seen anywhere from 0%-100%.

What does 100% look like?

Well, very simple.  This classroom teacher puts emphasis on the same outcomes, which are emphasized on the diploma.  This teacher will give only multiple choice exams, as this is the style the diploma is.  The questions used on these assessments are mainly previously used diploma questions, identical to released items from the government, and only questions that will assist the child write the diploma.  This classroom is designed around the "competitive" nature of education.

What does 0% look like?

Again, very simple.  This teacher puts emphasis on the outcomes which will assist them in the next level of the course, or in life.  (Of course, both teachers could have overlap on some outcomes).  The assessments are mainly performance based or written.  The questions asked are created in a way that students can be creative in the solving of the problem, and the answer does not need to be a specific number to be correct.  This classroom is designed around the "collaborative" approach to education.

Lastly, you could have a a hybrid of these approaches in the classroom.

Next, Post Secondaries:

What does 100% look like?

Well these simply ignore the assessment of the classroom teacher and simply use the diplomas as their entrance requirement.

What does 0% look like?

We look to, University of Saskatchewan, which ONLY looks at the teacher assessment if a students mark on the diploma is less than the teacher awarded mark.  (Good Job U of S!)

Third, we have Parents and outside School:

What does 100% look like? 

We have things like the Fraser Institute which ranks schools districts based on standardized tests.  The Fraser Institute ignores the make up of the classes, the teacher's assessment, and only judges the quality of education based on how well the students do on a standardized exam.

There are also people in the public, who hold teachers accountable by the marks the students get on a standardized exam.

What does 0% look like?

We look to Finland, who has exchanged the "accountability" with "responsibility".  There are parents who ignore the mark their children get on a diploma, and are more concerned with "How much does my child enjoy going to school?"

As you can see, it is up to the individual person to determine how much the diploma is worth.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Not every child can learn

Lets face the truth now.  It is about time we stop talking about that "every child can learn".

After 8 years of teaching, I have realized that it is true that not every child can learn....by Friday.

Not every child can learn....by me standing at the front talking.

Not every child can learn....by working alone.

Not every child can learn....by reading the textbook.

Not every child can learn....by worksheets.

Not every child can learn....by passively taking notes.

So if we aren't going to talk about "every child can learn", we can then start talking about "what do we do when they don't".