Entry #1: Assessment philosophy.
What is assessment? I love this question because when asking me this as a student the answer is to make my life stressful and miserable! However, as a teacher, assessment is vital for the progress and further development of students. Assessment is exactly that: examines where a student is at; it is a form of judgement on what and how much knowledge the student gained. Assessments also help evaluate the teacher- it is a marker on how well s/he is doing in their job and where s/he can improve in their work as a teacher. Assessment is frequent/ ongoing feedback to the students regarding their abilities and the development of those abilities with help from the teacher. Assessments do not need to always be formal tests/ exams given at the end of a unit. In fact, I believe, an end of unit exam is too late for a fair assessment of students work without ongoing feedback throughout the unit on how the student was progressing and understanding.
What is the aim of assessment? Assessment has many aims and goals, one being the ability to guide the students’ improvement. Students need quality feedback on how they are doing in order for them to improve because they cannot perform perfectly. This allows them to acknowledge their weak areas of understanding in order to improve.
Assessment also offers students the ability to compare. Comparisons are not necessarily always healthy but when students compare their assessed work, they can judge how they are doing. This helps them see themselves beyond the classroom. This may motivate them to try again/ harder although it could possibly be discouraging.
Finally, assessment aides students to achieve goals such as admittance to universities or scholarships, etc. because assessments provide the required information required to achieve above a certain level of understanding.
What is the relationship between assessment, classroom environment, and instructional practices? I like the word “relationship” because there is definitely a relationship between the students and the teacher; the culture of the classroom will certainly play into assessment practices. The students should be given some latitude on the type of projects/ assignments (therefore assessment) they complete; however, this is an earned privilege not a given right. Both students and teacher need to work together to establish classroom practices of respect that create a positive learning environment. This all affects assessment; when the teacher and the student have good working relationships, assessment can occur naturally, quickly, fairly, and thoughtfully.
What is important to keep in mind when designing assessments for your classroom? When designing assessments, we always need to keep in mind what the Saskatchewan Curriculum guide states and remember we are legally obligated to teach the outcomes and indicators. That said, I appreciate that teachers are given flexibility and creativity to accomplish this task and that no two teachers go about this in the exact same way. This is important because no two classrooms are the same. Assessments should be developed based on the needs, strengths, and weaknesses of the students in the classroom, remembering that students have different skill sets. It is important to use a variety of assessment tools to best help the student’s growth. I think creativity and variety are key ingredients for assessments in my classroom.
How do we know someone has learned something? I find this question rather discouraging when related to assessment. I think we all learn every day simply by getting out of bed, however that is not the direct question. The verbs learning and learned have different meanings to me. I would rather see the question phrased as “How do we know someone is learning something”? Does anyone every really “learn” something? Is there not area of constant growth, development, and understanding to aspire to? For example: I have “learned” how to read but this seems to imply I know everything about reading, which is not true. My learning regarding reading is in constant growth (for example: I use a dictionary almost every day, and for the days I don’t, I should!).
So backing up, and if I take the liberty to re phrase the question: “How do we know someone is learning something”?, as a teacher I want to see and hear dozens of questions. There can be no better bench mark for me than to hear how students are trying to make sense of their world. I cannot give enough assessments and assessment feedback to make up for their curiosity.
I have had some time to reflect on what assessment means to me and I recognize my understanding is limited at this point. I am excited to see how my philosophy changes and develops!
Entry #2: History with assessment.
Think back to your experiences with assessment in school (going as far back as you can remember, to recently), as a learner. What do your favourite assessments (or types of assessments) tell you about your preferences as a learner? I seem to prefer projects (alone or group) as opposed to examinations, tests, and standardized testing. I like the creativity that accompanies projects. I feel I am able to give more information, learn more content, and have that content deeply implemented than simply spewing memorized content back out on to paper. I retain more information and enjoy the work of projects. I prefer the research components and mini assignments compared to exams and tests and I like that I get to have some control of my own outcome. Exams and tests seem to be assessment’s way of dictating what and how a student has to learn and understand; I am most accustomed to this method. As a learner, assessment practices tell me that I definitely prefer to learn at a slower pace than what a traditional classroom requires. I would prefer to have ongoing dialogue with my teacher regarding my growth and development rather than me being required to get it all out at once, on the teachers timetable. A few times I have felt exams and tests were a “cop out” on the teacher’s part rather than creating a different form of assessment that would suite my learning needs, style, and add variety.
A recent examination experience I had was this past August I had a practical piano exam. I had been preparing for this exam for 14 months and I could play the many required scales flawlessly but, of course, on exam day I made a mistake which cost me points/ marks. I do not feel this is an accurate assessment of my abilities; I can do it and do it well. I do agree that we need to learn to perform under pressure but then I question: what are we assessing? The ability to play or the ability to handle pressure? Or was it a memorization exercise? This brings me to my next point.
I am not a big believer in using memorization as methods of learning (although it can have its place such as memorizing the times table). More than this, I resist and despise exams that require me to understand general concepts and then apply the concepts because I seem to have a disconnect between the learning and the applying. For example, I had to take a university science class a few years ago and those exams required I understand the concepts and then apply the knowledge. The problem was I did not understand the concepts; I did not naturally think that way in that subject area and neither did I enjoy it. What about the memorization/ rote method then? That too, I would have completely forgotten long afterward the course material. As wonderful and exciting as our world is, I can tell you next to nothing about it having taken that class. A project would have possibly been much better for my learning and understanding. Had I been able to complete a project, I would have been able to “transfer….. what was learned to solve new problems, answer new questions, or facilitate learning new subject matter” (Mayer, pg. 1).
How might your own history impact your decisions around assessment as an education? My own history certainly impacts my assessment decisions because I am very empathetic toward students that learn at a slower rate, who need “out of the box” ways of learning therefore “out of the box” assessments. I want to be THAT teacher I wish I had had, the one that recognizes standard ways of assessment need to be altered and viewed differently. I really appreciate that the Saskatchewan curriculum gives so much freedom and flexibility to their teachers to allow creative assessment practices to flow. I remember when I was in grade 9, completing a project about time. My partner and I made a “tv” from a box and at the top and bottom we had wooden dowels in which this tv screen could scroll. I was passionate about the project, I “bought in” to the teacher’s assignment therefore meaningful learning occurred. This is my goal as the teacher: to have my students buy in because it benefits the learner best. It requires some creativity and flexibility from the teacher but I believe the students are willing to cooperate with the teacher.
Entry #3: Assessment in the K-12 Classroom.
Choose two topics you are interested in learning a bit more about, and are curious about how teachers do this work in the classroom. I watched several videos from the elementary strand. I am very interested in learning more about projects as well as learning more about how teachers make their lessons cross curricular.
I was curious about how Travis Goodman (Judge Bryant School) used the toothpick bridge project in his classroom. I was interested because I like projects, how they engage learners, and he made this project cross curricular which is also of interest to me because it intimidates me!
Identify a few key takeaways from the video around this assessment topic. Key take aways for me was that Travis Goodman enjoyed the toothpick project for himself, as well as the students. Even though it was a lot of preparation work he found it an “effective way to go about things”. He assesses as he goes along because he finds this keeps the students on task better. Johnathon Schneider also enjoys project-based learning and he tries to incorporate “tangible assignments” (example: ukulele, Dungeons & Dragons). Rene Bilsma states that students get excited about creative projects and assignments (so do I!).
Another takeaway was the hands-on approach that Christopher Jen took with his class baking pies, cookies, breakfasts, etc. He finds this a favourable way for cross curricular connections to occur and I am interested (and nervous!) with this. I worry that when I attempt to make cross curricular connections, they will not flow naturally and turn out to be a mess for me! I am confident his students enjoyed this unit as well as the teacher himself. I think this is important: I want to enjoy the classroom learning also! This really struck me as important.
I pulled another take away from Teralyn Batabonker’s experience where she was teaching her class about Leprechauns and world conflicts (Bring the Boy Home). I can draw from because within one assignment she hit may indicators. Sometimes I become narrow minded and only use one indicator (and at this rate, it is going to take more than 10 months to complete the grade outcomes!). The students are learning in many different areas and they are able to “buy in” to the project which allows them to reflect and think about what they could do differently. These tangible projects also build the students portfolio.
And then discuss what surprised you or was unexpected about what educators were saying about assessment in the classroom, and their own experiences. I was very surprised when one of the teacher’s (Jillian Anderchuck) said she does not know what all the answers will be! It is a very vulnerable position to be in, as a teacher, to not know! I really appreciated her comment because I know I won’t know it all and that is ok! I am not required to.
Another surprise was the idea of using bubble circles in which a bubble slowly fills in as a student grasps a concept. I had not heard of bubble circles before and I really like the idea because it is confidential, it is a system that only the teacher truly understands so if a student accidently stumbles upon it they will not immediately understand it.
A few things that I did not expect the educators to say about feedback is that it is non stop! The teacher is almost always in feedback mode. That said, feedback does not need to be complicated. Several of the teachers made charts (usually digital, but paper charts work too). And lastly, to my surprise, feedback is the most difficult part of a teacher’s job, as Christopher Jen points out.
Teralyn Batabonker offered some excellent unexpected ideas regarding formative assessment. She utilizes many forms of formative assessment which include entrance/ exit slips, thumb up/ down, notes/ charts, Google forms, calendarizing time with students, writing half way through classes, and sometimes she even takes photographs of a few students every day. I was not expecting so many great and creative ideas and she has been able to successfully implement these into her practice.
In viewing all of the videos, look for commonalities and differences between approaches. While assessment is in many ways subject-specific, you will likely note some philosophies, positions, approaches, and concerns that teachers take up/identify regardless of the subject area they teach. I noticed many commonalities regarding providing feedback. Every single teacher stressed the importance of completing this right away, continuously, ongoing, in the moment, and immediately. That said, each went about it slightly differently, which could only somewhat be attributed to the different grades they taught. One teacher likes to use Google docs, another prefers to provide feedback while he sits down with the student (face to face feedback), another teacher wonders why she has a desk because she is constantly circulating within her classroom. Yet another teacher’s approach to feedback consists of engaging in conversations and discussions. Sasha Rempel always tries to model an assignment and provides a rubric for parents via Seesaw whereas another teacher prefers verbal feedback for her students and often a student will not even know their mark unless they check PowerSchool. She does not like placing a graded number on the students work because that is all the student will notice/ concentrate on.
The ten elementary school teacher’s offered valuable information, gave excellent direction and advice, were creative, and had passion! I am excited to explore different types of projects that include indicators from a few subject areas and these teachers have been able to implement this practice into their daily teaching. Although teachers are all given the same outcomes and indicators it is surprising and exciting to me to see how they can go about this in their own way and that best meets the needs of the students in their classroom.
Entry #4: Assessment in the pre-internship experience.
Talk about the forms of assessment you witnessed in your pre-internship experience. You might select an example or two here and talk about them in detail, or decide to provide more of an overview of what you saw. Include a discussion of both the assignments and assessment tools, thinking about their effectiveness in providing information about student learning. What assumptions about learning were being made in constructing these assessments? Do these assessments align with your own developing and constantly evolving assessment philosophy? (Complete week eight, April 5-9)
My cooperating teacher at Campbell Collegiate in our drama class believed in being actively engaged at all times in formative assessment and she encouraged me to be also. I would float around the room when students were completing either individual or group assignments where I would ask them questions to gauge their level of understanding. I provided guidance and verbal feedback on how they could improve and provided positive reinforcement that they were on the right track.
The students were required to create three successive frozen tableau’s with the theme “fairy tale” and the teacher provided a rubric (attached below) so the students knew beforehand what the expectations were. What I found interesting about this rubric was that the criteria was not pulled directly from the grade 9 curriculum. I found this contradictory to what I have been learning in my ECS 401 class. That said, I think the rubric was valuable to the students so they could understand and implement what was expected of them. I am left wondering if things may work slightly different within the fine arts? I am also aware the teachers are teaching through a pandemic and my cooperating teacher had been instructed that the mental well being of the students came before pushing through all the curriculum outcomes.
The biggest surprise I experienced in my pre-internship experience regarding assessment was the drama students final project. They were required to write and then perform a 3 minute script and the classroom teacher provided a rubric. The teacher was very generous and allowed me to mark this final and we reviewed it together afterwards. She agreed with me on all my marks except for our most challenging and defiant student that I will call Sally. I graded Sally fairly high based on the rubric but the problem lay in her attitude. Most of the quint (which was only 6 classes so I had this group of students their whole drama experience) Sally had a bad attitude, barely participated, and refused to cooperate in the final project (we had to adapt it for her). Therefore, my cooperating teacher chose to reduce her mark on the final project based on the entire semester’s work effort (which was indeed sloppy). I understand this but I am left wondering what the correct thing to do was? Should have effort and attitude been on the final project rubric so the students would be graded accordingly? Can a teacher just choose to give a lower mark based upon attitude even though it is not on the rubric? During my pre-internship experience, a Campbell Collegiate student died and Sally knew him therefore she spent most of our time together crying. The classroom teacher did phone home but was not able to connect with the parents. How much of a student’s personal life should play into the grading?! I have far more questions than answers.
Assumptions about learning being made in constructing these assessments was that the students knew and understood they were required to participate and engage with a positive and willing attitude. I think this sounds like common sense but I remind myself that we were working with young teenagers that are developing and trying to understand and navigate the world around them. They need frequent and kind reminders of expectations.
My own developing and constantly evolving assessment philosophy wants to extend compassion for the Sally type students but I am not convinced this does them any favours. Life is full of difficult circumstances and even at the tender age of 14 students need to, and can, learn to cope in positive, healthy, and helpful ways to life’s curve balls. I think if attitude, cooperation, and participation is to play a role in the grade book then that needs to be made a clear expectation at the beginning of the semester/ quint and reinforced throughout. It should even be included on the rubrics, however, I hesitate because the grade 9 drama curriculum does not indicate these are criteria. This gives me a lot to consider and think about.
Entry #5: Reflection on Learning: How my assessment philosophy changed over the course of the semester?
Your response should reference a few (three) course readings that have shaped your thinking about/working through conceptions of the assessment over the course of the semester. What underlying assumptions might educators hold that inform our decisions about assessment and evaluation in classrooms. How can we work to disrupt these assumptions? How will you ensure that you are decolonizing your assessment practices? (Note: the focus here should be on the course, rather than your pre-internship experience.) (Complete week nine, April 12-15)
An underlying assumption that educators hold to inform our decisions about assessment and evaluation in classrooms is they are subject-specific, individual (and therefore competitive), and the results are quantifiable. Although these methods do promote cognitive growth, it promotes the western worldview and neglects the Aboriginal worldview that “everything is one” (Claypool and Preston: Redefining learning and assessment practices impacting Aboriginal students: Considering Aboriginal priorities via Aboriginal and Western worldviews, pg. 2). Claypool and Preston remind us “[W]estern assessment techniques neglect to address the physical, emotional, and spiritual domains of students” (pg. 3). I had never considered the physical, emotional, or spiritual aspects of learning within the classroom before. I think more consideration and emphasis should be placed on these aspects because students need to “know him or herself, possess positive self-esteem, and have a constructive attitude toward learning” (Claypool and Preston: Redefining learning and assessment practices impacting Aboriginal students: Considering Aboriginal priorities via Aboriginal and Western worldviews, pg. 4) in order for a student to be “truly engaged in learning”. In order to know and love oneself they should be knowledgeable of their cultural traditions and customs. I love this! I think I would have been a more studious student if these ideas had been extended to me. I believe it is harmful to include only one worldview in our classrooms because so much gets neglected that would contribute to a students well being. All students need to “possess a sense of belonging in family, school, and community” (Claypool and Preston: Redefining learning and assessment practices impacting Aboriginal students: Considering Aboriginal priorities via Aboriginal and Western worldviews, pg. 6). In order to disrupt the assumption that the physical, emotional, and spiritual domains are not integral for student success we need to seek out and implement other worldviews rather than assume that the western worldview is either the correct or only worldview. This is important to me and I will work to implement other worldviews into my assessment practices. I can do this by promoting learning styles that “targets student development of emotional and spiritual domains” (Claypool and Preston: Redefining learning and assessment practices impacting Aboriginal students: Considering Aboriginal priorities via Aboriginal and Western worldviews, pg. 9) and encouraging students to heed any emotional reactions they encounter in learning situations. This can only be accomplished in a classroom where respect, relationships, and reciprocity “stimulate positive learning and assessment experiences” (Claypool and Preston: Redefining learning and assessment practices impacting Aboriginal students: Considering Aboriginal priorities via Aboriginal and Western worldviews, pg. 9). I can certainly do that! We all can start by creating classrooms of respect, relationships, and reciprocity.
Another underlying assumption that educators hold to inform our decisions about assessment and evaluation in classrooms is that a grade must be awarded through the use of a rubric. Alfie Kohn refutes this stating, [T]he ultimate goal of authentic assessment must be the elimination of grades” (The Trouble with Rubrics, pg. 12). This became so freeing for me but then I wondered, ok, how will the student, their parent, administration, and the teacher know the student is making progress? Kohn gives direction in this regard by encouraging teachers to use “rubrics to standardize the way they think about student assignments” (pg. 13) and that teachers use “several sources” to think about criteria. He encourages teachers to not use rubrics to drive instruction because it may compromise learning and discourage students from taking risks. To disrupt the assumption teachers must assign a grade through the use of a rubric, I need to remind myself what the goal is for the students. I want them to be learning, not just achieving. Students have learned to tailor their assignments to match the rubric therefore I need to learn how to “offer feedback that will help them become more adept at, and excited about, what they’re doing” (The Trouble with Rubrics, pg. 124).
The last assumption I would like to discuss is that educators need a “broad repertoire of methods and tools” (Volante, Louis. “Principles for Effective Classroom Assessment.” Brock Education Journal, vol. 15, no. 2, 2006, doi:10.26522/brocked.v15i2.74., pg. 135) in order to have an effective assessment approach. I believed this; exams, tests, projects, assignments, essays, oral questioning, classroom observations, etc is what is both required and needed. Volante quotes Stiggins (2002) calling this “assessment illiteracy” and has become a broad approach to assessment; he calls it “professional suicide” (pg. 135). Volante states that students are actually the ones responsible for their learning therefore it only makes sense that they also be active partners in their assessment. This empowers students and will help keep them engaged learners. To disrupt this assumption, teachers can “provide opportunities for students to assess their own learning” (Volante, pg. 136) which will help students “buy in” to their learning and academic progression. Teachers help with this by having “clear learning targets” (Volante, pg. 137) and transparent expectations. To help ensure that I am decolonizing my assessment practices I will be “especially sensitive to issues related to race, class, and gender” (Volante, pg. 139).
In conclusion, I have been given resources to help me along my career path even though “pre-service students have often reported poor preparation in this area” (Campbell & Evans, 2000). I have a solid foundation to draw upon. I believe in making our classrooms student-centered with clear learning targets. Assessment is an important part of a teachers job and I am committed to “assessment practices that enhance both self-development and self-determination for marginalized groups” (Kelly, Deirdre M., and Gabriella Minnes Brandes. “Equitable Classroom Assessment: Promoting Self-Development and Self-Determination.” Interchange, vol. 39, no. 1, 2008, pp. 49–76., doi:10.1007/s10780-008-9041-8, pg. 69). I am further committed to learning opportunities that include “concepts of reciprocity, self-discovery, empathy, and respect for each learner” (Claypool and Preston: Redefining learning and assessment practices impacting Aboriginal students: Considering Aboriginal priorities via Aboriginal and Western worldviews, pg. 9).