Educators across the country are sharing how this school year was far more difficult than the previous two years during the pandemic. There have been many pivots (I know, I know . . . that is like a four-letter word), many shifts, and many concerns raised as students return to school and socialize with peers they have not seen for a long time. This was a year like no other. As it comes to an end, educators have an opportunity to take a breath and reflect on what worked well and areas in which to seek growth. There is also an opportunity to think about going back to the basics with assessment practices. The pace of the year had many teachers juggling way too many responsibilities; summer brings time to reflect and opportunities for collaboration. This time allows teams to dig into the skills and knowledge students struggled with the most and design formative and summative assessment practices that align with the standards. Read more
“Feedback is honesty. Don’t just tell me ‘good job’ when I didn’t.” —Middle years student
My colleagues and I work with systems across North America who are undergoing assessment reform. Educators and leaders alike are asking themselves how to shift their assessment practices, when to do it, and what it will entail. The questions generated in a single coaching session illuminate the complexity of this shift. Teachers are wondering how assessment should be designed, which symbol (if any) to attach to products and performances, and how to respond to assessment evidence in ways that will advance learning. This work is both significant and challenging, and no one is taking it lightly. However, in the quest to “get it right,” adults often forget a key source of wisdom and insight available to us every single day. Perhaps we see this source as a receptor of our refined assessment system, rather than as a collaborative partner in its design. Whatever the reason, maybe it is time we turned to this source—our students—and consulted them on decisions we are making.
Documenting Learning over Time: Portfolios and Data Notebooks
Portfolios and data notebooks have been around a long time. I remember bringing home scrapbooks in June, after another year of elementary school, filled with glued-in samples of worksheets and drawings—artifacts of a year spent learning. I recall, many years later, opening my portfolio during a final summative conference in a university studio art class, and pulling out samples of work that represented the skills and knowledge I had developed throughout the course. Even more years later, after I had taught for some time, I recollect asking my students to chart their skills in recalling French vocabulary on multiple bar graph templates I had handed out at the beginning of a unit. These graphs were then placed in a dossier for reference. Each of these examples speaks to the act of documenting learning by collecting artifacts and data in a single place where they can be easily accessed and serve their intended purpose.
What is interesting about each of the examples above is that the intended purpose varied in each context. My elementary scrapbook was simply a collection of artifacts representing skills we had been developing or things I had chosen to create. It served as a kind of curated (largely by my teacher) album that I could share with my parents and then place in a box in our basement. My art portfolio was a catalyst for reflection and evaluation at the end of my studio art class. The individual pieces contained within served as a way to make a case for my growth and development in critical artistic skills. Sadly, this portfolio has also been relegated to my basement, gathering dust. I still feel tremendous emotional attachment to the artwork within but it has served its purpose. The data sets I invited my students to create in French class served the purpose of documenting growth and supporting conversations about how my students might improve further. The data the learners collected and graphed was intended to be a temporary “current state,” with new data added each time they attempted new strategies and spent time practicing.
The years we spend in educational contexts represent a vast array of experiences. Children and youth spend a tremendous proportion of their days in classrooms and schools (face-to-face or virtual) and the learning they experience is certainly worthy of documentation. Their educational stories deserve representation. The great thing about data notebooks and portfolios is that we can document the learning journey and we can use the documentation as a catalyst for reflection, analysis, goal setting, and growth. We now know that these collections of artifacts and data can serve a purpose beyond becoming an album or a capstone collection that sits in a basement—they can begin new learning conversations. Read more
The story self-reflection within the context of my own career is a good news/bad news story. First, the good news. While there is much I’m not proud of when I reflect on the early part of my career – especially from an assessment and grading perspective (e.g. zeros, no reassessment) – the one thing I did do is have my students engage in some self-reflection.
The bad news? Well, I didn’t engage my students in self-reflection very often and when I did, it was awful; I didn’t know what I was doing, there was no structure to it, and it, more often than not, ended up being a waste of time.
Self-reflection is essential to the development of our students’ metacognitive awareness that allows them to plan, monitor, and assess their learning and themselves, as learners (Clark, 2012; Jones, 2007). Metacognition entails both the knowledge and regulation of one’s cognition (Pintrich, 2002). Through the processes of self-judgment and self-reaction (Zimmerman, 2011), self-reflection plays an essential role in the cyclical process of metacognitive awareness before, during, and after the learning. Read more
When I wrote my last blog post in January, and made self-assessment my personal learning resolution, I did not know that in a few months my brain would be incredibly tired from learning way too many things in a short amount of time.
I do not need to add any words to the uncertainty that we are all feeling. You know it, and you are all feeling it too. Read more
The vital position education holds in the future of a society is rarely debated. However, the nature of this position is a constant source of discourse.
Why is education important? How does it support the values and beliefs of a community? What goals guide it? Who decides these goals and what purpose do they hold for the learners and the communities in which they find themselves? Read more
Okay, I will admit it…the title of this blog post is a little misleading.
Assessment is something that deserves thoughtful and extended consideration. “Quick” has the potential to move teachers and students from valid and reliable assessment to assessment that is surface-level.
However, I also know that when educators decide to shift assessment paradigms and adjust daily practices, looking at the whole assessment topic can seem daunting, and knowing where to start can feel out of our reach. Read more
I plan to explore self-assessment with my blogs this year. One of my favorite things about writing for this blog is that it causes me to reflect and formalize my own thinking about assessment topics. Maybe it is all of the talk about resolutions, or the fact that my own resolutions have not quite taken hold (Sorry elliptical machine! I promise to visit you soon!), or this looming birthday of mine, but the pulls of both reflection and action are pretty strong right now. Read more