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Canadian Assessment for Learning Network Newsletter, 
May, 2020

President's Greetings

Lori Jeschke, Director of Education, Prairie Spirit SD, Saskatchewan
 
Hi CAFLN members and/or newsletter subscribers!

We are within the time period of what was to be our annual CAFLN Conference partnered with the Alberta Assessment Consortium. I must admit I am feeling twinges of melancholy as I think about not getting to see and learn side-by-side with friends and colleagues from across Canada who are passionate about assessment for learning!

This unprecedented COVID-19 landscape in which we find ourselves offers us a chance to pause and re-examine what we are doing in the area of assessment for learning and how that is impacting learners. We look back at what we were doing pre-pandemic and we look forward to where we might be post-pandemic -- what might the bridge between those two moments in time need to look, sound, and feel like? What deliberate actions do we need to take in order for our students to feel a compelling purpose to engage as we build that bridge? 

Our school  division has chosen a theme for our time of learning right now - Learning is Everywhere! Maybe not a new concept but we are embracing it through new eyes! One of our vice principals called on a student who had disengaged from the learning that was being offered online and through packages. They talked about what she was doing and she described how she and her dad were going to move her bedroom to the basement. They were going to be putting in a window and creating a great space for her new room. As they talked, the vice principal invited her to think about all of the things she would be learning as they worked on the project. They came up with a plan that would allow her to journal about the move and the build. She would also include evidence of math skills she would acquire through skills like measuring and cutting, and also evidence of what is involved in working together to create something. 

He could have told her that she needed to do the assignments that might have been in her inbox, or that she had to be online during a lesson that would be shared around content. She may very well have said, "I won't have time for that right now" and both the student and teacher would have missed out on the opportunity to engage in authentic learning and that is all around us in our daily lives. 

I love that he didn't tell her he would give her a test on how the bedroom looked in the end but rather encouraged her to gather evidence throughout the process. I love, too, that he invited her parent to be part of the evidence gathering as well. Sandra Herbst reminded me recently, "evidence is evidence"; it's how we use it that matters.

What kinds of evidence are you gathering?  How is your instruction impacted by the evidence you gather? 
What impact is the act of gathering having on the learning of your students and for you?

Stay well CAFLN colleagues. Be encouraged as you read the narratives within this newsletter! Reach out and connect with other educators near and far--share the learning! 

CAfLN Position Statement

Important Considerations when Determining Student Assessment and Marking/Grading Policies and Guidelines during the Covid-19 Pandemic (for the Balance of the 2019-2020 Academic Year)

The Canadian Assessment for Learning Network (CAfLN) is a non-profit organization that supports K to 12 and post-secondary educators. Our mission is to help implement and sustain sound assessment and grading practices that promote student learning in schools across Canada. As part of our mission to maximize learning through advocacy, relationships, and research, we would like to address the current exceptional circumstances facing our schools, and the equally exceptional measures that will be required to address student needs in an equitable way. Ministries of education and school boards are facing tremendous challenges as the world navigates a pandemic, not only to address immediate needs of educators, students, and families, but to prepare for the future challenges presented by interrupted and/ or drastically altered educational processes.

Assessment serves multiple purposes within any learning context: first, it elicits evidence of  students'  current skills and understanding in relation to specific learning goals; it then communicates students' strengths and needs to teachers and students to provide them with the information required to respond to those needs in specific and meaningful ways; and it allows teachers to verify the degree to which students have achieved the desired skills and understanding over time so that this information may be shared with stakeholders.In other words, assessment identifies students' needs, celebrates their strengths, documents learning as it progresses, and verifies and communicates levels of proficiency at the end of an instructional cycle.These roles are essential, regardless of whether learning occurs in classrooms or remotely. 

In responding to the Covid-19 pandemic and a shifting educational landscape, CAfLN believes that the primary responsibilities must be to maintain equitable learning opportunities for all students and to communicate clearly with all stakeholders. Given the diversity of educational responses to the pandemic, it is important to be mindful of the foundational, research-based attributes of effective assessment, grading, and reporting. Ministries of Education across the country are currently developing guidelines and policies to address the challenge of determining end-of- year/end-of-course marks/grades in the event that students may be out of school for a considerable time and/or may not return to school before the end of June. While these directives are essential to guide teachers' practices in the immediate crisis, it is imperative that marking/grading and reporting decisions be made within the context of rich instruction, targeted and specific feedback, and opportunities for learners to continue to practice and grow for the remainder of the academic year. Without this context, it may be tempting to fall back on simplistic and expeditious numerical mark/grade determination and lose the power of assessment as a foundation for learning.  

When it is time to summarize assessment evidence and report results, we know that teachers want to communicate clear and accurate statements about student achievement, not only to reflect each learner’s current levels of skill and understanding, but to support future decisionmaking at the next grade level or in post-secondary settings. In order to support ministries of education and school boards as they draft guidelines and policies to address marking/grading and reporting “end-of-year/course achievement”, we would like to offer the following considerations:

Elementary and Middle Schools
No marks/grades, narrative reports only. This will serve to communicate important information to students, families and next year’s teachers while maintaining a focus on learning.

High Schools
Given the exceptional circumstances facing high school teachers and students, a temporary solution is necessary in the area of grading and reporting. 
The most efficient and equitable approach in secondary schools is for teachers to use existing information about each student to determine a mark/grade of Incomplete, Pass and Pass with Distinction based on evidence of achievement at the time classes were suspended.

All students who had provided insufficient evidence of achievement (therefore incomplete) at the time classes were suspended may be provided with the opportunity to provide sufficient evidence1. If they don’t provide the necessary evidence, the final mark/grade for this year is Incomplete. 

Students may be allowed to opt for pass/fail or the opportunity to earn “Pass with Distinction.” This might involve teachers having a conference with these students to determine the necessary additional evidence and the success criteria, and following up to determine whether students have provided evidence of sufficient quality2.
 
1 All evidence submitted should contain a statement like this signed by the student; “Academic Integrity means honesty and responsibility in scholarship. My signature below shows my commitment to and obligation that all of my academic work is from my own efforts unaided except where specified. ____________ (initial here)” (Source: Crofton House School, Vancouver)

2 We recognize when we provide the opportunity for “Pass with Distinction” it places equity of access and equity of learning in jeopardy. Some students will opt into deep and rich learning and some will opt out. Even worse, some won’t have the option because access (technology, time, resources, supports, self-determination, confidence) will prevent it. Therefore, it is essential that when schools reopen all students have the opportunity to provide sufficient evidence to receive a Pass with Distinction.

Single Point Bullseye

Shannon Schinkel, Humanities and Drama Teacher, Prince George Secondary
 
When I first looked at single point rubrics, I didn’t get them. At the time, I was big into learning progressions and proficiency scales.  My focus was on learning as a movement from one step on a proficiency scale to another step on the proficiency scale over time. I couldn’t wrap my head around how criteria could be compartmentalized into a single column. Then, someone on Twitter posted a single-point rubric with proficiency down the center and a lightbulb of inspiration lit up my assessment world. Single point rubrics are all I have used ever since. 
 
Prior to my single-point rubric epiphany, I spent months creating assignment and project specific learning scales, unpacking curricular competencies, making sure to describe what each level of proficiency looked like for that assignment or project. They were great if I wanted to get every student to show their learning in just one way. If I truly wanted my students to show me a variety of evidence to show me their learning, learning scales needed to be detailed and specific, but generated with voice, choice, and multiple ways to provide evidence in mind. My existing method wasn’t working.
 
I was also realizing that I needed to be careful with proficiency scales especially when communication learning with students. Learning scales make not just proficiency visible but all the levels visible. I’m not sure this is a positive motivator. I noticed that a student who saw themselves as “Emerging” had a hard time getting past that roadblock, especially since, historically, letter grades had served as ego boosters and deflaters. It didn’t take long for this student and others to figure out what each level translated to in terms of letter grades despite my best effort to downplay letter grades and not use them in my classroom. It was a problem.
 
Enter the single point rubric: proficiency (gently labelled as Target) down the center, glows evidence of going beyond target (Glows) to the right, and areas that need improvement (Grows) to the left.  I love the word, Target. It has been like telling students, “Here’s the bull’s eye…aim for it!” It’s also much simpler for students to comprehend one column instead of five. Every student aiming for the same goal felt more inclusive and supportive. Moreover, the columns give the teacher, student, and peers the opportunity to supply and respond to individualized descriptive feedback. I had learned from so many Edu gurus and my own experience with feedback, that students are more likely to apply feedback without an evaluative structure than if feedback was provided alongside an evaluative structure. The single point rubric worked well for giving the students opportunities to grow their skills.
 
For efficacy, I have tried to co-construct the language of the target column effectively, giving ownership to the students in some way. For one, they can co-construct criteria after seeing the target modeled by the teacher. In my English 11 New Media class, students examined what a proficient set of annotations look like.Their job was to dissect what made the annotations proficient. I knew what it was that made them proficient, so I had to carefully guide them into creating clear “We can” statements. This was a powerful, critical thinking activity and by the end, every student understood what their goals were; they owned the single-point rubric.
 
Another way I have given students ownership of the single-point rubric is by providing the simple language and having the students provide exemplars. In Drama 10, I split the students into groups and gave each group one criterion from the rubric to model for the class. After the activity, we discussed the interpretation of the language and if I should adjust the language for clarity. Engaging the students in the hands-on activity acknowledged students as part of the assessment process.
 
When my students are part of criteria generation, they seem more engaged in the skill. They are also more focused on reaching the target. When I have students self-assess using the single point rubric, they are cognizant of where they didn’t hit the target and take a more proactive stance, searching for ways to hit the target or talking to me about strategies to hit the target. In my English 11 New Media class, for example, as students were highlighting the annotations’ criteria, many stopped and took the time to search for ways to hit the target so they could highlight it. It wasn’t a test situation. I wasn’t giving them the opportunity to self assess in order to play “Gotchya! You didn’t actually hit the bull’s eye!” I wanted them to be aware of their learning. By the time work was handed in, I had little to do except validate their self-assessment. They had done all the leg work for me. For those students who still missed meeting target criteria, I am able to reflect on why they didn’t meet the goals and provide new strategies for them to meet those goals. Win-win.
 
Single point rubrics have changed my attitude toward assessment and evaluation. Yes, it takes time to generate the target criteria, exemplars for modelling proficiency, and patience in having students co-construct criteria with the teacher, but when I consider the 21st century skills my students are developing, their engagement in the process and the development of their skills, it’s worth it.
 

Making the Move to Online Learning: The Role of Formative Assessment in Web-Based Instruction

Katrina Carbone & Alexandra Minuk, Queen's University
 
According to Growing Success (2010), the primary purpose of assessment and evaluation is to improve student learning (Ontario Ministry of Education). As educators know, effective assessment can be a complex task (Mavrommatis, 1997). The task of quality assessment to improve learning is no less daunting as educators across the province must convert to web-based learning in response to COVID-19.

Online learning has been easing its way into our publicly funded K-12 system since 2006. In 2011, Christensen, Johnson, and Horn co-authored a book on the future of education; as knowledgeable experts in the fields of education (e.g. professor, teacher, educational consultant) and innovation, they projected that, by 2020, 50% of high school classes would be offered online. While there has been an increase in courses available online, in Ontario, e-learning remains a contentious topic. According to the Ontario Ministry of Education (2006), e-learning can provide additional options for credits, support literacy and numeracy initiatives, expand the range of resources available, serve remote communities and engage students and educators in the world of electronic learning. Despite the potential advantages of web-based instruction, it is not necessarily suitable to all students, some of whom are without the appropriate tools and equipment to access it (Thompson & Lynch, 2003). Additionally, while online environments can be conducive to supporting students with a range of special needs, individual differences will influence the extent to which these environments will be effective (Keller et al., 2007). Regardless of empirical evidence about web-based learning, logistical issues or concerns expressed through public perception, we have entered online web-based instruction in response to the pandemic. 

Though web-based learning is now a necessity, many educators previously reported feeling unprepared or uncomfortable teaching online (He, 2014; Marra, 2004; Sprague, Kopfman, & Dorsey, 1998). There is no doubt many reasons for these feelings; one of which is attributable to a lack of experience within the online learning environment (Anderson, Standerford & Imdieke, 2010). Furthermore, educators feel more confident in their instruction when they are able to collaborate (Bandura, 1977; Vygotsky, 1978). Many educators may perceive that sustaining collaboration is difficult in an online learning environment.

Educators are experiencing unprecedented times; web-based education is no longer an option or a distant consideration, but rather, a necessity. While educators sift through myriad platforms or applications, mindful of provincial and system directives, the learner needs remain ever present. For some educators, it may be easy to become preoccupied with questions about how we will teach and what we will teach. Yet, educators must also ask, how will we know what students are learning and how will we help to move their learning forward? While summative assessment may not be a property, formative assessment, assessment for and as learning, remain powerful tools to support student learning (Earl, 2013).

Formative assessment is a broad category that relates to assessment practices used to examine the extent to which “evidence about student achievement is elicited, interpreted, and used by teachers, learners, or their peers, to make decisions about the next steps in instruction” (Black & Wiliam, 2006, p. 9). Assessment for learning, is one assessment practice related to formative assessment which consists of specific activities intended to improve and accelerate student learning (Black & Wiliam, 1998; Sadler, 1998; Stecker, Lembke & Foegen, 2008). Examples of formative assessment include peer feedback, exit tickets, concept maps, hand signals to indicate one’s understanding of a concept, and strategic questioning. Assessment for learning is an integral component to classroom assessment (Black & Wiliam, 2010) and often utilizes diagnostic assessments that reveal where learners are in their thinking (Searle et. al, 2017). This explicit awareness of progress allows educators to identify learners’ next steps including appropriate instructional strategies and feedback (Broadfoot et al., 2002; Black & Wiliam, 2006). Another formative assessment practice is known as assessment as learning. Assessment as learning consists of assessment practices undertaken by the student to determine what they need to do next. Practices may include asking questions, using an instrument such as a checklist or rubric to consider their learning skills to make decisions about their future learning. The intention of assessment as learning is to foster learners who are reflective and capable of self-monitoring (Growing Success, 2010).

Formative assessment includes both assessment for learning and assessment as learning, which are integrative ways to embed assessment into learning for the purpose of improving learning. Effective use of web-based instruction can provide a way to offer educational opportunities that intertwine learning and assessment (Vonderwell & Boboc, 2013). As OCT educators who are also current graduate students at Queen’s University, we share our top four resources that can be optimized for increasing formative assessment practices as part of the K-12 online learning environment.


Our list is intentionally not exhaustive, yet these suggested resources provide K-12 educators with free opportunities to intertwine formative assessment into K-12 online teaching activities. The suggestions for optimizing assessment are designed to create opportunities for learners to be explicit about their thinking, communicative about their strategies and contribute to their confidence. Given the current circumstances, it is understandable that focus on assessment may have been minimized, formative assessment remains an important contributor to understanding and improving student learning. Engaging students in formative assessment may help to sustain their motivation for engaging in formal learning activities during this time. The resources shared represent an accessible and inclusive approach to promoting formative assessment in online learning.
 
Author Bios
Katrina Carbone, OCT
Katrina is a Master of Education student at Queen’s University, Faculty of Education. She currently works as an occasional teacher with a local school board, and teaching and research assistant with Queen’s University. She is passionate about assessment and evaluation in all educational contents; her thesis research will focus on how assessment and evaluation can be effectively implemented to support student learning and improve teacher instruction.
 
Alexandra Minuk, OCT
Alexandra is a Master of Education student at Queen’s University, Faculty of Education. Since graduating from the Bachelor of Education program, she has worked as a special education teacher, educational consultant, project administrator and, most recently, teaching and research assistant. Throughout these experiences, Alexandra’s aim has been to improve educational outcomes for students with exceptionalities.

References
Anderson, D. L., Standerford, N. S., & Imdieke, S. (2010). A self-study on building community in
the online classroom. Networks: An Online Journal for Teacher Research, 12(2), 261-261.

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191-215. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.84.2.191

Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 80(2), 139-148. 

Black, P. & Wiliam, D. (2006) Developing a theory of formative assessment, in: J. Gardner (Ed.) Assessment and learning (London, Sage).

Black, P. & Wiliam, D. (2009). Developing the theory of formative assessment. Educational  Assessment, Evaluation, and Accountability, 21(5), 5-31. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11092-008-9068-5.

Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (2010). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 92(1), 81-90.

Broadfoot, P. M., Daugherty, R., Gardner, J., Harlen, W., James, M., & Stobart, G. (2002). Assessment for learning: 10 principles. Cambridge, UK: University of Cambridge School of Education.

Christensen, C. M., Horn, M. B., & Johnson, C. W. (2011). Disrupting class: How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns (Updated and expanded new ed.) New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Earl, L. (2013). Assessment as Learning : Using Classroom Assessment to Maximize Student Learning (Second edition.). Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin, A SAGE Company.

He, Y. (2014). Universal Design for Learning in an Online Teacher Education Course: Enhancing Learners’ Confidence to Teach Online. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10(2), n/a. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1614680173/

Keeler, C. G., Richter, J., Anderson-Inman, L., Horney, M., & Ditson, M. (2007). Exceptional Learners: Differentiated Instruction Online; In Cavanaugh, C., & Blomeyer, R. (2010).What Works in K-12 Online Learning. (International Society for Technology in Education).

Marra, R.M. (2004). An online course to help teachers “use technology to enhance learning”: Successes and limitations. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 12(3), 411-429. 

Mavrommatis, Y. (1997). Understanding Assessment in the Classroom: Phases of the assessment process - the assessment episode. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 4(3), 381–400. https://doi.org/10.1080/0969594970040305

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2006). Ontario’s e-learning strategy. Retrieved from https://collections.ola.org/mon/17000/268184.pdf 

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2010). Growing success: Assessment, evaluation, and reporting in Ontario schools (2010).  Retrieved from https://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/growSuccess.pdf

Sadler, D.R. (1998). Formative assessment: Revisiting the territory. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 5(1), 77-84.

Searle, M., Elrofaie, A., Kirkpatrick, L. C., Sauder, A., & Brown, H. M. (2017). Investigating the Use of a One-to-One Technology Programme on Formative Assessment Practices in Grades 7 to 9 Classroom Learning Environments. Assessment Matters, 11, 145-170.

Sprague, D., Kopfman, K., & Dorsey, S. (1998). Faculty development in the integration of technology in teacher education courses. Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, 2(14), 24-28.

Stecker, P.M., Lembke, E.S., & Foegen, A. (2008). Using progress-monitoring data to improve instructional decision making. Preventing school failure: Alternative education for children and youth, 52(2), 48-58.

Thompson, L. F., & Lynch, B. J. (2003). Web-based instruction: Who is inclined to resist it and why? Journal of Educational Computing Research, 29(3), 375-385. https://doi.org/10.2190/3VQ2-XTRH-08QV-CAEL

Vonderwell, S.K. & Boboc, M. (2013). Promoting formative assessment in online teaching and learning. Techtrends Tech Trends, 57, 22–27. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-013-0673-x

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
 

Assessment in the Early Years: A Holistic Approach

Kara Fidelack, North East School Division, Saskatchewan

The format of Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K) programs is quite different from that of other grades in a multitude of ways. Learning is primarily play-based, home visits and family days are integrated into the calendar, and, rather than subjects, assessment is centred around the areas of child development (intellectual, language and literacy, social emotional, physical, and spiritual). These differences often make Pre-K a mysterious world to those who may be unfamiliar with its inner workings. This piece seeks to demystify assessment practices in the early years and discuss what they look like in a classroom context.
 
In the early years, children are gaining new knowledge and skills each time they engage in play. Play dough invites fine motor development. Reading a story with a peer promotes oral language and emergent literacy skills. Building a tower of blocks involves intellectual skills such as problem solving, measuring, planning, and counting. Early childhood educators, through keen observation of these play experiences, can learn much about a child’s thinking, personal preferences, and abilities. At the same time, careful observation also highlights areas that the teacher can help further develop in the child.
 
This formative assessment happens naturally and continually in an early childhood classroom. After observing and recognizing areas of strength and those requiring further development, the teacher will plan specific, targeted learning opportunities to address these areas. A teacher noticing several children experimenting with mark making and print might create a post office dramatic play area, where children can write and send notes. Books on a topic of interest for the children might be read with the whole group or displayed around the room. Beads, lacing cards, eye droppers, or clay might be offered to develop fine motor skills. This is a cyclical process of observing, noting opportunities for further development, thoughtfully adding new materials, and observing how these materials are engaged with. In this way, children’s interests and preferences are the driving force to spur on future learning.
 
The knowledge that the adults in the room have of children is broad and holistic; it does not merely focus on academic skills, but the child as a whole. Teachers and Educational Assistants know which children play well with others, can count to 10, have mastered holding scissors or a pencil, enjoy playing outside, and have a hard time separating from their family members (to name a few). The unique set up of early childhood programs, which focuses on holistic assessment, allows the child to be seen as more than just a student, but as a child in their own right.
 
Often, in response to observed events, documentation in a variety of forms (such as photographs, video recordings, samples of student work, accompanying text describing the experience, etc.) is created by the teacher and/or child to be shared. For example, the teacher may take a picture of a child acting out an imagined narrative with loose parts or puppets. This can then be used in a variety of ways to drive learning forward and share child development with others. The child may be prompted to reflect on the photo and recall or explain what they were doing. This could be shared with other peers as well, to invite them to engage in a similar kind of play. Documentation can also be shared with caregivers to give them a sense of how their child is learning through play and highlight where they are at in their development. The teacher might reflect on documentation as well to jog their memory and make decisions about what direction to take learning in next. The use of documentation offers another avenue in which assessment takes place. 
 
That being said, sometimes summative assessments on specific skills or topics are required. Asking a child to count the objects on a table, retell the events of a story, cut out a shape, write their name, or skip ten paces are all intentional assessment methods that seek to discover how a child is developing in a specific area. These targeted assessments, mixed with the informal observations and documentation, create the foundation of assessment in the early years.
 
In summary, assessment practices in the early years are rooted in observation and documentation of children’s play and exploration. From this observation and documentation, thoughtful decision are made by the teacher regarding moving student learning forward. Assessment becomes a cyclical process, whereby learning experiences are observed, reflected upon, extended, and observed again for change.
 
While looking through the pictures in this article, reflect on what each captured experience might tell an educator about a child’s learning. What areas of development are highlighted? What can the child do already, and what areas might be improved upon? What steps might the educator take to further the child’s learning?

 

Great Links

Here are some links to a few amazing and interesting supports for assessment for learning:

Visible Learning Effects Sizes When Schools are Closed: What Matters and What Does Not by John Hattie:

https://corwin-connect.com/2020/04/visible-learning-effect-sizes-when-schools-are-closed-what-matters-and-what-does-not/

Growth Mindset 2: Creating a Learning Plan by SD43 Learning, Coquitlam

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgESv7QazTU&app=desktop
 

Assessment in a Learning (at Home) Context

As teachers try to navigate a learning context that feels like it changes daily, there are a few key assessment foundations that hold true, no matter the learning context:

1) Ensure there is a shared understanding (teacher, student, family) of the goals being explored. When students are clear about the learning destination, they can work with teachers to organize tearning time to best serve these goals.

2) Co-construct success criteria.This means helping students understand the quality of skill and product development. Successful learning means working toward goals and understanding how to recognize when these goals have actually been met.

3) Leverage two-way feedback. Help students understand which aspects of learning will need additional practice and how they might re-engage in learning to build proficiency. Then, make time to check with students about how learning is going for them. Are they spending too much time on some things? Too little? Which aspects of learning are too challenging and which aspects offer no challenge at all? How might instruction be enhanced to better meet their needs?

4) Keep digital tools to a manageable (and predictable) number. Select tools that serve multiple learning approaches and use them often to build confidence and shift the focus from the tool to the learning.

5) Keep in mind that the foundations of assessment have to guide the selection of any assessment approach, no matter the context. These foundations include:
  • Whatever purpose our assessment will serve (the majority of time, a formative purpose that powers learning and the decision-making that serves this end)
  • The ability to design a strong assessment process that gathers excellent information about student thinking in relation to goals
  • The ability to make strong interpretations of student thinking and then communicate strengths and next steps with students and families
  • The ability to respond in agile ways, adjusting instruction in a timely and targeted fashion.
  • The ability to nurture student investment in things that matter to them and in processes that are engaging and instill confidence and efficacy.
(Adapted from Erkens, Schimmer and Vagle, 2017)

Any assessment approach that allows teachers to do these things is a good choice. It is also important to remember that assessment processes communicate to students what is most important in their learning. So, we have to be careful that we are emphasizing the right things. If reasoning matters, for example, then selected response has to be accompanied with an open response justification. If we are assessing complex thinking and design, then photos and videos will be critical. That is why we have to start with our learning goals and the purpose of the assessment before curating which approaches we will use.

6)  Keep relationships at the forefront. In these challenging times, the teacher/student relationship is paramount. In many cases, this current learning (from home) context is different from online courses, where sites are created for students to navigate independently, with teachers being a support. In the current reality, the teacher will facilitate learning and any tools utilized are simply supports.

Erkens, C, Schimmer, T., & Vagle, N. (2017). Essential Assessment: Six tenets for bringing hope, efficacy, and achievement to the classroom. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
 

Student Thoughts: Assessment in Post-Secondary 

Olivia White, Second Year University Student, Commerce

Here are some of my thoughts about assessment practices that are helpful for learners in university (and other) contexts:

Ensure clear criteria for assessments
  • Including: what the grading scheme is; what aspects will be graded; what is satisfactory for each aspect (like what constitutes a “good” paper); what not to include or discuss
  • I appreciate professors who provide a rubric or scoresheet for assignments. The more detailed the better, but anything is useful honestly.
Include more formative assessment
  • Difficult in large classes, but I appreciate little check ins during lectures. This includes things like TopHat questions, or questions on slides to consider.
  • I appreciate profs who are willing to look over your work and give feedback prior to hand-in. I only had a few profs who were easily approachable for this.
Enrich opportunities to showcase knowledge
  • Often on exams I am surprised by what questions are asked. I often study the wrong concepts, or consider some concepts more important and so focus too heavily on them. This happens when profs don’t give any kind of study outline before exams. I like when professors review material before exams to highlight what they want you to know.
Invite assessments that focus on big picture
  • I prefer exams that require you to tie ideas together. My anthropology exam was good in this way, because when I was studying, I had to take a step back to look at the course material
  • Multiple choice exams make it difficult to do this
  • This is difficult for some courses, especially with large class size
  • However, big picture exams avoid the issue of studying the wrong thing, because they usually involve questions where you can demonstrate anything you have learned in the course.

CAfLN Member Profile

Rose Pillay, Educational Consultant, K-12 Catholic Schools, Vancouver Archdiocese
Who are you?
 
My name is Rose Pillay and I am an educational consultant. In September 2020, I will embark on my 25th year as educator. You can learn more about my edventures by following me on twitter @rosepillay1, subscribing to my blog Fail Better https://teachafl.wordpress.com/ or listening to a bit of my story here: https://teachersonfire.net/tag/fail-better/ If my business card had a tagline, it would be: I am spending “time creating – good words, good feelings, good relationships, good memories” (page 145 Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations by the late Richard Wagamese)
 
 How do you spend your days in relation to education?
 
I fill my days with serving, supporting, and celebrating the K-12 Catholic independent schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese.  With the unofficial title of “Resources: Research and Procurement”, my portfolio is focussed on the implementation of curriculum through the lens of assessment.  As an educational consultant, I see myself as a divining rod for resources. Whereas divining rods are drawn to water, I am led to the wonderous and wonderful as well as the wacky and weird; to whatever will inform and inspire! I am a wonderer and a wanderer, sourcing stories and seeking storytellers to support teachers in seeing assessment as a story (not a symbol, scale or spreadsheet) and as a narrative (not a number or numeric ranking).  I spend my days hoping to encourage others by showcasing the courage of teachers.
 
Why assessment for learning?
 
If I were distill my beliefs about the philosophy and practices of assessment for learning into one word, it would be Grace. Assessment for Learning is how teachers and students encounter grace – the exercise of love, kindness, compassion, mercy, and favour. Teachers manifest grace--the disposition to benefit or serve students--through Assessment for Learning. Grace is how teachers actualize the belief that all students can improve. Without grace, how could teachers help students know where they are, where they are g(r)o(w)ing and how to get there?
  
Why the Canadian Assessment for Learning Network?
 
On August 20, 2018, I re-activated my membership in the Canadian Assessment for Learning Network. It was one of the best decisions I have made for both my personal and professional growth. It has become more than a subscription to a newsletter (even though I did contribute to the February 2019 issue) or access to articles and advice (though much appreciated).
 
The day after I re-joined CAfLN, Katie White tweeted to me: “So glad you are with us. It is a powerful network filled with friendly faces.”  Her words of welcome hit home nine months later when I attended (and presented at) my first CAfLN Conference. This blog post is my ode to both Assessment for Learning and the warmth and welcome of the community called CAfLN: The Yokes On Us! https://teachafl.wordpress.com/2019/05/05/the-yokes-on-us/
 
Why CAfLN?  It is one of my circles of exchange. “Innovation arises from ongoing circles of exchange, where information is not just accumulated or stored, but created. Knowledge is generated anew from connections that weren’t there before.” (Margaret Wheatley)
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