EdCampDelta Response

Ed Camp Delta Session: How do we align assessment with the new curriculum?

A packed library full of Educators interested in and wanting to find the answers to this question?? YES! I was excited, thrilled even, to be in this room and to hear varying view points on the practical ‘how to’s’ of this endeavour. Unfortunately (depending on how you look at it – it could have been fortunately!) the conversation centred around giving grades versus not giving grades and the trials and tribulations of doing either. I was hoping this session would have practical advice on HOW to assess with this new curriculum that is emerging.

In my thinking, regardless of the end point you reach (a single letter or a comment box) you still have to asses the new curriculum in a way to get to those final marks on a report card.  I was hoping to really get help in strategies or new ways of assessment to clearly understand my future student’s growth and progress. While listening to others speak on the topic it did bring thoughts of my own about the pros of project based learning in assessing the new curriculum but the conversation didn’t seem to allow for a change of focus. What fellow edcampers were more interested in is the meaning after the assessment is made – how the students feel when they see a letter or a comment evaluating their sense of self worth or the problematic nature of ditching the ‘standardized’ approach in upper level education when Universities and Scholarships are still looking for it. These are great questions and I want answers to these too but I’m hoping that through this blog post I may get some helpful go to hints on answering the initial edcamp question on what happens before that mark or comment gets put on the report card.

While I didn’t get answers to my initial purposes, I did gain some insight and gems of the conversation. Here are some tidbits that I found particularly inspired followed by my own stream of thoughts as the session went on:

– learning > earning

– Formative Assessment as soccer practice and the Summative Assessment as the visible victory of the soccer game.

– This new curriculum centres around student ability to be a ‘Risk Taker’

– We need to remove the mystery in assessment and involve the child

– Grades are a technicality

– We keep asking HOW do we ‘measure’ but should we measure?

– Some classrooms you set up dividers where others you do some ‘weird stuff’ (implies that the students may not understand whats going on – involve them on the importance of said weird stuff!)

– one letter grade or the whole story?

photo-3

My Sketchnotes of the Ed Camp Session

My own thoughts as I was listening to various speeches defending the ‘dog wagging the tail’ or the ‘tail wagging the dog’ had me focused on the initial image Aaran Akune (facilitator of the session) put up. The three aspects we are attempting to assess now: Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, and Communication. How do we assess these things?

I looked at them all and couldn’t help but see the main issue: You can’t have one without the other and nor should you try. You cannot be a creative thinker if you are not a good communicator and you can’t be a good communicator if you’re not able to crtically think – thus intertwining all aspects of this ‘new curriculum’ to be a synthesis of understanding and ability. You can’t have a student get an A in creative thinking if they get a C in communicating because, in my mind, they are inexorably linked.

Possible Assessment Method: Use Project Based Learning & Involve Students in Assessment 

What do students need to do in order to show these three articles of assessment? They need to be able to synthesize and show all three – not something you can do with a single test but something that can be more easily shown through project based learning. Instead of filling in answers on a test, students will create a final product that showcases their ability to do all three things and create something meaningful; showcasing their multilayered approach to learning! Gone is the notion of fact recall. Students need to synthesize to meet the new curriculum.. so it is obvious that we need to synthesize all aspects of our individual student’s learning in order to meet the emerging needs of assessment.

I’m still left with the HOW of it all. If the answer to this is using some form of project based learning in your classroom – what does that look like? Is it a form of ‘Genius Hour’ or ‘Learning in Depth?’ But those two are centred around student choice (GH) or a given topic (LID). Both seem to exist a bit separate from the main curriculum but augment a students ability to achieve in other areas because of the skills that are developed as time goes on. As well, they alleviate pressures of assessment by not being formally assessed at all. How will it work in other subjects that require assessment?

I find it hard to imagine it working fluidly in subjects like Socials or Science without direct involvement of the student in the process of assessment – before, during and after the project is complete. The student needs to know what exactly they need to prove, showcase or articulate and they need to understand what it means to be creative, critical and communicative all at the same time. Proper modelling is key in this.

I’m really curious as to how these projects are assessed and how students go about being involved in the assessment. My own experience of Project Based Learning in Universtiy during my practicum (where I created a video essay: https://teachermonika.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/my-digital-portfolio-of-learning-experience/ ) had me wanting to explain every detail that may go unnoticed just so they would understand it in the way I intended it. I wanted to make a list of ‘things you might not notice’ but in the end, all those things you may not have noticed are what made it work. It didn’t need to be explained away and inundated with words but left alone as a final product. But what if the person assessing my project – doesn’t understand the many different rationals and thinking behind all of it? Do these sorts of project assessments end up becoming rationalized by a ‘I’ll know it when I see it’ mentality?  

They don’t have to be – especially if the student is fully aware and able to articulate the ‘what’ and ‘how they proved it’ of assessment. This means that the earlier we introduce our students into assessing themselves against criteria, the better off they will be in the future when explaining their thinking. Otherwise the student will be left with the hope that their teacher could understand or ‘get’ their project the way they intended it – and lets face it, that’s hard for a teacher who has a large group of students each having their own individual learning journey to get to the point of their final product! With class sizes being as large as they are, it’d be a dream if any teacher could do that but the reality is the sheer number of students alone makes this difficult. To counter this – involve the students! The more we involve our students in assessment, the better they will be at a) creating in a way that reaches assessment targets and b) the better our own assessment will be of their personal, individual work. 

Students need to show us something that uses all aspects of this emerging curriculum into a whole and we need to be equipped to look at their whole story and not just compartmentalize it all into different factions and assign those a letter grade. It’s easy to say that PBL will have students learning in a way that hits the new curriculum targets – but how do we assess that they’ve actually done it? How do we fill report cards with meaningful feedback that shows our understanding of what our individual student has learned?

It seems like an answer to this is direct involvement of the student in assessment through the entire process of their PBL journey, not just at the end of it. What other strategies or methods are out there that help us assess the new curriculum? Are there other answers to this other than PBL that would be better suited to this?

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