Assessment done with students, not to students

This year I have tried to approach assessment differently. I wanted my students to feel that assessment is something I do with them… not to them.

I have made many shifts in my assessment practices to try and accomplish this goal:

Discussions about assessment

As a class we discussed the difficulty of trying to measure a human’s learning and I shared that there are many different approaches to trying to figure out what a student has learned in school. We discussed a handful of approaches for measuring learning and then we tried each of them out within the context of our unit.

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-7-29-35-am

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-7-29-42-am

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-7-29-58-am

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-7-29-49-am

Co-constructed success criteria

Instead of teachers sitting behind closed doors, deciding what ought to be learned by the end of a unit, I made those decisions collaborative with my students. I used the structure of growing definition where first students brainstorm on their own, then they combine ideas with a partner, then they merge thinking with another set of partners, then a foursome with a foursome and so on until the whole class builds a list together. Once their student list was created, I consulted our school curriculum documented and added any knowledge or concepts they might have left out. This list then became our success criteria that we used throughout the unit.

Student chosen summatives

Teachers and teaching teams spend hours, upon hours, discussing and trying to figure out how students can best show their learning at the end of a unit. This year, instead of choosing that choice for them, I handed that decision over to my students. When we approached the end of the unit, I would ask “How best can you share your learning from this unit?” Some students who felt most comfortable expressing themselves orally would submit a vlog or request a one-on-one conference, other students who felt they best expressed themselves in writing would submit a written text, and others who felt they could best express themselves visually would produce a mind map, or concept map or cartoon – some sort of visual to convey their new thinking and new knowledge.

Triangulation of perspectives

Oftentimes as teachers we are the only – and ultimate – voice of assessment. Sometimes we tokenistically invite self and peer assessment, but rarely are those assessments equally valued. So this year I wanted to take a flatter, more democratic approach to assessment. Whether it was diagnostic, formative or summative, we always followed the same three steps: first the student would assess themselves, next they would find a peer to offer their perspective, then purposefully last, I as the teacher would share my perspective. What they end up with, is three different perspectives… all equally valued.

  

Interchangeability of diagnostic, formatives and summatives

Instead of approaching diagnostic, formative and summative assessments as assessments that you do at the beginning, middle and end of a unit – I took a much more fluid approach. If a student did a diagnostic and demonstrated all the knowledge and skills that were expected they could decide to use that as their summative and then either choose to extend themselves in this area of continue with a personal inquiry of their choice – thus the diagnostic becomes the summative. If partway through the unit a student demonstrates the required knowledge and skills, then that formative can then become their summative and they would have the same choice of extending or free learning. And finally, on the “last day” of the unit if a student completed a summative and had not yet demonstrated the necessary knowledge and skills they could choose to continue to learn, and therefore turn that summative into a formative and re-take the summative at a later time when they felt ready.

Decision making conferences

When it came time to enter “final marks” into the report card, I would sit with each student individually and have a conversation about where they thought they were in their learning. They would look back at the assessment data and tools and share where they thought they were and then I would do the same. Together we would agree on a mark that we both felt comfortable putting on the report card.

Taking it to the next level…

All in all, it was a great change in practice! I think my students felt empowered to have a voice in their learning and in the measurement of their learning. I think students felt their perspectives were respected and valued. And on a personal level, it felt much more humane and much more like a partnership in supporting their learning journey!

Upon reflections from this year and visions for next year, here are a few ways that I would like to take the approach of ‘doing assessment with students’ even further:

Individualized success criteria 

I enjoyed the process of co-constructing success criteria with my students, but to take that further I would love to personalize that process even more and have students design their own individual success criteria. Flipping the question “What should we learn but the end of the unit?” more towards “What should I (or do I want to) learn by the end of the unit?” This would open up some great conversations with students about choosing how they might know they have been successful at learning something or acquiring new skills. Here is a blog post with an example of how one teacher approached this.

Beyond triangulation of perspectives

This year I think I did a pretty good job shifting the assessment power away from myself as a teacher, and equally distributing it between myself, the student and a peer. However, I would like to push that model further and perhaps figure out a way to include the perspective of parents, industry experts or community members. I don’t think it would have to be all 6 sources every time. I think there could be a lot of authentic learning in having students decide which assessment perspective is most helpful in a specific situation.

Student written report cards

The only part of the assessment process my students were kept out of this year was reporting. Moving forward I would love to see students take a more equal role in writing their own report cards. Here is a great blog post with some suggestions I hope to be able to follow in the future.

How do you ensure assessment is something done “with students” not “to students” in your classroom or school?

Advertisements

What is the PYP? From the perspective of new-to-PYP Teachers

We have 25 wonderful new PYP staff. They have been working SO hard to make sense of a completely new education framework. They have spent 9 weeks after school reading IB documents, browsing blogs, teaching one another and sharing ideas. Now comes the time for consolidation and sharing… aka a “summative”.

To provoke their thinking about summatives, we first gave them a 4 page “PYP Test” as a provocation to experience what it is like to be on the receiving end of a test and to hopefully challenge the thinking that summative means tests. Their reactions and reflections about being “tested” were fascinating:

  • I was instantly fearful
  • I went blank
  • I knew everything, but I just couldn’t explain it in words
  • I remember learning it but I didn’t have it all memorized
  • I was worried about failing

This lead into a great conversation about shifting the notion of “summatives” away from tests and more towards authentic opportunities to share one’s learning with others. We used the RAFT format to structure our real PYP summative.image

So here they are! 25 PYP summatives where our new-to-PYP staff share their current understanding of the PYP with all of you! We’ve got songs, videos, raps, drawings, models, Prezis, journals, blog posts and more! Enjoy…

Blog post: IB in Kindergarten? Yes, IB in Kindergarten.

Prezi: Examining the PYP

image

 

 

imageimageimage image image

image

imageimageimageimage image image

imageimage  image image image image image image image

image image

image

image

image image image

image image

How creative, confident, reflective and knowledgable are our new-to-PYP teachers!?!? We feel very thankful to have 25 teachers who are truly living the IB learner profile.

After they finished their summative task, they assessed their own understanding of each line of inquiry and the central idea. Our hope is that at the end of the year we can pull the new staff back together and have them self-assess their understanding of the PYP again and see evidence of the growth and progress they have made over the year.

Do you know one of the most interesting discoveries throughout this process? I, as the ‘teacher’, couldn’t pull myself away from reading, watching and exploring their summatives! So often teachers dread marking. Maybe that is a clue that a summative is not actually an authentic sharing of learning, because apparently when it is… you actually look forward to exploring their summative and providing feedback!

Please help us continue to learn and grow! 

Leave us a comment and let us know what you think.

Educating the whole child

One of my favourite things about the PYP is the balance of the 5 elements.

Knowledge: What we want our students to know.

Concepts: What we want our students to understand.

Skills: What we want our students to use.

Attitudes: What we want our students to show.

Action: What we want our students to do.

I loved the 5 elements because I felt they equally valued all the things needed to make good humans.

But then I took a close look at the rubrics we use to assess our Units of Inquiry.

I noticed that our rubrics heavily valued the knowledge gained in a unit, and sometimes the understanding of the concepts but there was no acknowledgement of the skills that were developed, the attitudes that were shown or the actions that were taken. This really got me thinking. If our rubrics are only focused on the knowledge and the understanding, isn’t that a reflection of what we as teachers were valuing as well?

The answer was yes.

As we started to reflect on this with our teachers it became very clear that we were taking the time to select the skills and attitudes that we wanted to work on throughout the unit and  identify them in our PYP planners– but then not doing anything with them.

So in our latest planning meetings we decided to step back, and design a rubric that acknowledges all 5 elements of the PYP. Our hope is that by having all the elements explicitly on our unit rubric we as teachers will be more mindful of balancing the 5 elements within our day to day learning experiences. We’re also hoping that this style of rubric will inspire us to create a summative activity that gives students to chance to show the knowledge they have gained, the concepts they have understood, the skills they have acquired, the attitudes they have developed and the actions they have taken.

Here is a sample of our “balanced” rubric.

UOI Rubric Template

UOI Rubric Template

A few teachers from each grade level are going to try this rubric as a pilot and then we will reflect on the benefits and challenges of using this type of rubric and whether this rubric helped us as teachers to do a better job using the 5 elements of the PYP to help make good humans.

As this is something new we are trying, I would love to hear  your questions, concerns and insights surrounding this pilot rubric and the bigger issue of properly acknowledging, balancing and valuing all 5 elements of the PYP in efforts to do a better job educating the whole child.