The Information Age and Why Classroom Assessment Needs to Change by Hayley Clearihan June 27th, 2017
With 90% of Australian teens accessing the internet more than once daily, it’s safe to say, the Information Age is well and truly upon us. 64% of this access occurs in educational facilities with a huge emphasis on technology in learning.
Digital Technology in education is not only allowing students to be more creative with their schoolwork (some say we’ve already moved into the creative era), but they are accessing information at great speeds – ever seen someone working on three devices? I have. It’s beautiful.
So, how are we, as teachers, keeping up … when information and creativity are driving the economy, industry, and the young people we work with?
For Example: What’s the point of writing a report nowadays? (Unless you’re assessing the efficiency of writing a report).
It used to be that writing a report on a topic meant you “knew about the topic.” You would pull your brick of an Encyclopedia off a shelf, find the quarter of a page on the topic you’re looking for, and you would study it. You would ask your parents about it, take notes in class, maybe find a few books from the local library, then you would regurgitate your learning into a nice little report fitted out with pictures, graphs, and all sorts of delightful stuff.
Now, students can pull a report on pretty much any topic in history (or the future if you’re into time travel), off the internet, and voila! In fact, they could probably find several. Now, once they’ve read over the report, grabbed a few more, merged them together, and shuffled some words and pictures around, what have they learned?
Great bloody question!
Unless a report is given to us in the form of a short written response without the use of the internet (which makes it NO LONGER A REPORT) then we have to ask ourselves what we’re really testing.
2. Ask the student how they want to be assessed
“Evidence gathered over decades from around the world reveals strong achievement gains and reduced achievement score gaps when teachers implement student-involved classroom assessment practices in support of student learning in their classrooms.” Rick Stiggins & Jan Chappuis – Using Student-Involved Classroom Assessment to Close Achievement Gaps.
When students are able to help drive their own assessment, they not only become more accountable, but they take ownership of their assignments. Student-involved classroom assessment has more meaning to them. And there’s no way they can misunderstand the task. Asking the students how they want to be assessed opens up creative avenues that we may not have thought of ourselves. The last thing we want to do as educators is limit our students’ creativity.
Students also have a tendency to “know how much they know” – even better than we do … even better than our tests score say. A major difficulty teachers face is REALLY knowing what our students’ starting points are when we first meet them. Student-involved assessment is an efficient indicator of where students are at, purely based on the rigour and content of their ideas.
3. Expect them to push their own limits
When someone is in our corner, we thrive. It’s human nature to rise up to challenges when someone expects us to do it, especially when it feels like it’s just within our reach. As educators, we have to behave like coaches sometimes. We have to have high expectations, and we have to develop equity within those expectations.
When we know our students particularly well, it’s perfectly okay for us to have different expectations for different students.
A good teacher knows when a student has given them a half-assed assessment piece, or when a student who has been pushing themselves all year has finally had a break-through and produced something almost at level. Assessment should not be equal.
When progress becomes more important than anything else, students have always got somewhere to go, and failure is less scary. Personal progress should be the most heavily weighted element of assessment.
Expect them to push their own limits, not someone elses’
At the end of the school day, we have to keep asking ourselves what our students are engaging with. Right now it’s the world wide web.
Since our students have access to more information than an entire school of teachers could retain in ten lifetimes, right at their fingertips, it makes sense that teachers, mentors, and educators begin to let our informative, creative young people drive their assessment, and even their education, more often.
As I sat down to write report cards for my grace seven class a few weeks back, I got a little emotional. I write my parents a bit of an 'open letter' on Facebook. Needless to say, they got me.
Dear Parents and Guardians of School-Aged Children,
As I sit here writing report cards for my class, I’m overwhelmed with emotion. I need for you to understand something that I can’t quite put into words.
Your children mean so much more to me than this piece of paper and the comments I’ve tried so carefully to write. It’s impossible for me to articulate to you the wonder of your child. I can tell you how well they are going in algebra, their reading level, whether they are ...friendly, polite, engaged, a distraction! But these things are only a tiny part of who your child is.
If I could, I’d write about the joy and exhilaration on their faces when they learn something new in my classroom, or how we all cheered for them when they overcame something terrifying, like speaking in front of a room full of people, because public speaking makes them stay up late into the night worrying about it.
I’d write about how they were an everyday hero and remembered to take the Prep’s lunch down to save our hardworking tuckshop lady the trip. I’d write about how they’ve had to single handily bring together friendships that were falling apart, reminded another (who they didn’t want to get into trouble) to get back on task, or how they finally, finally wrote an epic sentence with all commas in the correct place, because they’d been trying all year. All. Damn. Year.
If I could, I’d express to you how much I love my job, and it’s only because of the people I get to work with – your people. Your funny, sometimes infuriating, but utterly amazing, bright, young people.
So, please, take your child’s report cards with a grain of salt. You already know how wonderful they are.
Love Miss Hayley