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Canadian Assessment for Learning Network Newsletter, 
December, 2020

Contents

  • President's Greeting
  • Assessment 20/20 Conference
  • Try This: Feedback for Your Teacher
  • Aligning Quality Assessment Practices with Competency Development through Professional Conversations
  • CAfLN Inquiry Networks
  • Why Is My Feedback Not Working?
  • Assessment 2020: What a Great Day with Two More to Come
  • Final Thoughts

President's Greetings

Lori Jeschke, Director of Education, Prairie Spirit SD, Saskatchewan

Imagine a Saturday near the end of November - report cards have just gone out, there is a chill in the air and snow on the ground. You are supporting learners in your classroom and outside of it, you are trying to find ways to engage learners like never before and there is a world-wide pandemic going on all around you! It is a Saturday - you could put up your feet, watch a Hallmark Christmas movie, read a book, go for a walk or even do the laundry...but no...you GET TO participate in the Assessment 20/20 joint conference with the Alberta Assessment Consortium and CAFLN!! Imagine that!

John Hattie, 2019, reminds us that "assessment capable learners know the sweet spot in learning and how to stay there!". I felt pretty 'assessment capable' that Saturday as I knew I was in a sweet spot and I knew enough to stay there 😊

Imagine Lorna Earl responding during the opening panel session to this prompt:

What is one practical thing systems division, districts, provincial can do to help support the shift from grades to learning? 

Lorna: Focus on learning – get serious about learning! What do we know about learning? If you haven’t been thinking about, learning about LEARNING in the past five years – learn about learning together – professionally. Start inquiry groups – become learning experts who know the theory and apply the theory over and over again in our practice. Become deeply engaged in the understanding of what we know and what we don’t know. Be people who investigate – generate more conversations, challenging ideas, rethinking, co-conspirators – it matters.  

So, I kind of just want to leave the mic drop right there!  

But there was so much more - we had a day jam-packed with amazing people from across Canada sharing their practice, their learning, their vulnerability and their journey as assessment capable learners and there are still 2 more days to come in the new year!! I can't even stand it! Thank you for living out the essence of the why, the what, the who, and where of CAFLN - Canadians (and their friends) connecting and networking together around the importance of learning and being able to be assessment capable! It's a beautiful thing!

Imagine the possibilities!
 

Try This!

It is almost winter break and it is the perfect time to collect some feedback from students about their learning experiences in this altered educational context, whether face-to-face, online, or a hybrid of the two. Below are just some sample questions you might ask students to "check the oil" and make adjustments after the break, if needed.

Feedback for Your Teacher
Name:
Date:
  1. Which aspects of the course (learning) are you finding the most interesting? Why?
  2. Which aspects of the course (learning) are you finding least interesting? Why?
  3. How is the pacing? Which aspects of our first units took more time than you thought? Which took less time than you thought?
  4. Which aspects of the course (learning) are you finding the most difficult?
  5. Are there aspects of the course (learning) you are finding too easy?
  6. Do you have feedback for me to improve my instruction and support your learning?
  7. Is there anything else I should know?

Aligning Quality Assessment Practices with Competency Development through Professional Conversations

Marna MacMillan and Michelle Ciolfitto, Curriculum Coordinators, Coquitlam SD, B.C.
 
British Columbia implemented a concept-based, competency-driven curriculum, K-12 in 2016. As a result, educators are still shifting from the historical focus on content acquisition to a current emphasis on the development, over time, of discipline-specific and cross-curricular competencies. For example, in our previous curriculum, we might have deeply explored a significant historical event, and assumed through the associated activities, that students learned to consider different perspectives. Within a competency-focused curriculum, we design instruction and assessment to explicitly build and provide feedback on students’ perspective-taking capacity, while still addressing the key concepts. To accomplish this, a teacher might examine the same historical event by intentionally emphasizing various perspectives and asking students to consider the missing voices. While every province will have similar content requirements, the explicit focus on competencies may differ; some examples of BC competencies follow:
  • Demonstrate inclusive, respectful, and safe interactions in diverse career-life environments (Career Education 10-12)
  • Access information and ideas for diverse purposes and from a variety of sources and evaluate their relevance, accuracy, and reliability (English Language Arts 6- 12)
  • Estimate Reasonably (Math K-12)
  • Take stakeholders’ perspectives on issues, developments, or events by making inferences about their beliefs, values, and motivations (perspective) (Social Studies K-12; progresses in complexity)
These significant changes in curricular focus demanded a review of our collective assessment practices. What were we doing well that could easily be adapted to the new context and what aspects of assessment would need more clarity so that educators could apply them to daily instruction-assessment cycles?

Teachers and administrators needed support to frame the collaboration and calibration dialogues required of a new concept-based, competency-driven curriculum. In this article, we will share some of the frameworks that we used to support this ongoing professional reflection.

Collaborative Conversation Frame #1 – Before-During-After

The collection of students’ products at the end of a learning cycle remains the assessment default for many educators. The following organizers support a two-part-discussion sequence to enhance thinking about how to implement formative assessment throughout the learning cycle.

Part 2 - We provided educators with a list of some commonly used formative assessment strategies. We challenged them to break old habits and consider how they might use each of these familiar strategies at different points in the learning cycle (before, during after) and in different formats (conversation, observation, product). Our facilitation process included the following:
  • put each strategy on its own index card or sticky note
  • have participants physically place the card in the appropriate place on the organizer above (this seemed to promote more creative thinking than simply listing and describing a “new” way to use an old tool)
  • have participants describe the specific “new way” to use the tool
    • For example, “While I usually ask students to complete a 3-2-1 at the end of a lesson, I instead will pause during the lesson to have them describe 3 things they have learned, 2 questions they have and one thing that resonates so I can adjust my teaching pace and focus in real time”
  
Conversation Frame #2 -Observable Criteria or Task?

To help our educators explore some Learning Standards (Competencies + Content combinations for a particular grade and subject), we asked teachers and administrators to describe observable (looks like/ sounds like) criteria for given curriculum components. We noticed that the observable criteria they suggested were either vague, or, were lists of activities students might do in that unit. We used the organizer below, to reflect their initial ideas back to the group in order to support the shift in thinking from “task completion” to “criteria met”.

In the sample below, the left-hand column lists specific BC Learning Standards; the middle column reflects notions or activities that participants confused for observable assessment criteria. After reviewing what is meant by criteria through our work with Katie White’s and her frame of “This means that…”, we offered the prompts in the third column for participants to consider in order to revise their original ideas:
 
Learning Standard (proposed, but not actually) Observable Criteria Choose one of the non-examples under Observable Criteria to improve.
 
 
 
Guide Questions for Discussion:
  • What are the indicators of success?
  • What will you observe as indicators of:
    • Competency development?
    • Content understanding/application?
  • What will you see? What will you hear?
  • Can the criteria help you give specific feedback that supports student development of that competency?
  • Could these criteria be generalized to other tasks?
  • Would it be obvious to ALL students what you are seeking/ trying to observe?
Plan appropriate investigations to answer their questions… within properties of simple machines and their force effects
 
*Effectively working in a group
*Application of knowledge to real life situations
*Present how the model works
*Take students outside to demonstrate
 
Develop and use multiple strategies, including visualization to engage in problem solving within financial literacy
 
*Shows awareness of financial implications of ideas
*Use specific skill to demonstrate application of key language
*Use estimation effectively in simulated buy/sell situations
*Understand value
 
Cause and Consequence as it pertains to the rise and fall of different aspects of trade in various civilizations *Create a game
*Thoughtful written piece
*Group presentation
*Mind map of modern trade route
 
 Conversation Frame #3- Considerations for Assessment in a Competency-based Curriculum

This conversation frame describes quality assessment “givens”, then, gently asks users to reflect upon how they engage in these assessment principles. Truthfully, we shared this conversation frame at the start of our new curriculum implementation facilitation series, and participants felt deeply confident that they were already doing powerful formative assessment and that these criteria for quality assessment were “old news”. However, when we were able to reflect their own thinking about assessment criteria back to them via conversation frame #2, people realized we had some work to do!

Through the organizer below, we challenged groups to articulate what specific evidence of the instruction-assessment cycle would be visible to students, other teachers, administrators and/or parents? The final column asks participants to also consider next steps from the perspective of their role. Some sample prompts follow:
  • As an administrator, how might I support this teacher to surface evidence of strong practice?
  • As a classroom teacher, how might I make this more obvious to my learners?
  • As support staff, how can I tap into the explicit goals to enhance learning for all students?
 Conversation Frame #4- Sample Marks Book Format

As we progressed through the curriculum implementation series, we noticed that people were willing to engage in the concept-based, competency-driven curriculum. However, they quickly realized that their traditional marks books, designed to collect scores on activities and tests, did not work in this context. How do we collect evidence of competency-based learning in ways that promote accurate interpretation and feedback? One way to support the shift to a focus on competencies is to replace marks book “bins” (tests; projects; labs, etc.) with the Learning Standards or Competencies the teacher is prioritizing. This could be organized for the whole class on one spreadsheet or for individual students depending on purpose.

Sample Mark book template for whole class
Student Name Learning Standard 1 Learning Standard 2 Learning Standard 3 Learning Standard 4 Learning Standard 5 Learning Standard 6
                                     
                                     
 
Sample set of class observations/ marks
Student Name Make reasoned ethical judgments on various discriminatory policies Compare, contrast continuity & change in Cdn identity since 1919 Assess significance of certain Canadians in particular international conflicts Assess the significance of certain events in forming Cdn identity Learning Standard 5 Learning Standard 6
Allen.. 3 3 2 4 4 4 2 3 4                  
Baker… 2 2 2 3 2 2 3 3 4                  
Cox… 4 4 4 4 3 4 4 4 4                  
Dhal… 3   2 2 3 3 3 3 2                  
Evans… 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 3 2                  
Fong… 4 4 4 4 4 4 3 3 4                  
Gurm… 2 2 2 3 3 3 3 3 3                  
 
 Sample Evidence Collection template for individual students
Learning Standards Opportunity 1 Opportunity 2 Opportunity 3 Opportunity 4
1        
2        
3        
4        
 
 As you explore the samples above, discuss the following:
  • Assuming each mark represents performance on a different task related to a particular Learning Standard, what can you say about the learning and achievement on that Learning Standard for each student?
  • The sample scale is out of 4. What might be the danger of converting these symbols of learning to percentages?
  • What other symbols might educators use to represent “real time” learning and development of competencies?
  • How might you ensure triangulation of evidence?
  • How might you format the template to capture learning over time?
  • How might recording marks in this way challenge the habit of averaging scores?
We believe that BC has created an innovative curriculum that fosters rich learning. This complex shift in pedagogical approach requires multiple opportunities for conversation, collaboration, application and revision in order to align quality assessment practices with a concept based, competency-driven curriculum. In our work with teachers and administrators, we continue, collectively, to grapple with questions like these:
  • How might evidence of learning be collected to enhance quality, reliability and accuracy of assessment?
  • How do we intentionally create opportunities for students to be our assessment partners?
  • How do we systemically invest in collaboration among educators in order to foster confidence and capacity in quality assessment practices within a concept-based, competency driven curriculum?

Get on Board with CAfLN Inquiry Networks

Lorna M. Earl and Justin Green

From the beginning, CAfLN has been dedicated to nurturing and sustaining Assessment for Learning in educational institutions in Canada. Our mission statement includes these statements:
  • Maximize professional learning by advocacy and implementation
  • Build relationships by collaboration and professional learning
  • Strengthen connections by networking and monitoring
  • Support and training by providing access to expertise
  • Share experiences by research and publishing
Covid19 has hastened some of the initiatives we have been planning and developing, including the upcoming virtual conference.  CAfLN Inquiry Groups, with grants to support them, is one of the most exciting initiatives we have launched.  You will have read about the SSHRC grant that has been submitted by Chris De Luca, with CAfLN and NOIIE (Network of Inquiry and Indigenous Education) in BC.  In anticipation of this work, CAfLN and NOIIE are working together to establish the first CAfLN Inquiry Groups, as a vehicle for Canadian educators to work together virtually to investigate assessment practices and theories, using the Spirals of Inquiry methodology developed by NOIIE. 

Two CAfLN Inquiry Networks are already forming (and looking for participants). 
  • Assessment for Learning In Mathematics: This is a participant-led inquiry into aspects of assessment in your mathematics classrooms. Working collaboratively, using the spiral of inquiry framework, you will have the opportunity to further develop your classroom practice in ways that matter to you. Facilitators Jimmy Pai and Martha Koch will prompt conversations, invite questions and provide resources. Jimmy is a secondary mathematics teacher who is actively engaged in transforming his classroom practice in order to better notice, interpret, and respond to all student thinking. Martha is a university-based educator and researcher who focuses on the ways that assessment can contribute to more effective mathematics teaching and learning. They are excited to learning alongside you as we all take another step toward ensuring that assessment supports every mathematics learner.
  • Imaginative Assessment Strategies in the Middle and Early Secondary Years: This is an experiential in situ practice-based inquiry on assessment. This group would like to challenge your thinking about “What is assessment?”. This is an invitation to engage in collaborative and co-constructive explorations of imaginative assessment in the Middle and Early Secondary classrooms. How do we adapt our teaching and assessment approaches to better reflect our learners? Facilitators, Christine Ho Younghusband, Mark Miller, and Denine Laberge, will guide conversations on the participants’ collective curiosity, wonderment, and imagination about learning and AfL. This inquiry group is about discovering and exploring imaginative assessment strategies. Christine is a teacher educator and researcher focused on Indigenous pedagogies and assessment; Mark is a facilitator and teacher-leader specializing in instruction, assessment, and technology; and Denine’s passion for assessment spans both the Middle and Senior Years within her experience teaching the humanities and mathematics.
If you are interested in joining one of these CAfLN Inquiry Groups, email Justin Green at GrantProposals@cafln.ca

But that’s not all! CAfLN is excited to announce that, this year, we will be providing up to 6 grant opportunities (up to $1000 per grant) to CAfLN Inquiry Networks from across Canada to engage in purposeful inquiry about Formative Assessment / Assessment for Learning.   

The grants are intended to support educators using or planning to use the Spiral of Inquiry in the area of Formative Assessment / Assessment for Learning. Learning from inquiry processes must be shared with other educators and presented at a future CAfLN event.
To apply for a CAfLN Inquiry Grant, contact Justin Green at GrantProposals@cafln.ca to receive the application form.

Why is my feedback not working?!

Natalie Vardabasso,  Instructional Designer, Calgary Academy

You have read books, attended free webinars, and even scrounged up the money to attend a fancy, international conference. It's safe to say you consider yourself somewhat of an expert on the topic. In fact, when asked you can easily list off the attributes of quality feedback; timely, specific, actionable, personalized. And yet, after spending an entire Sunday wielding your new pack of flair pens to write high-quality feedback, your students keep making the same mistakes.
 
You start to wonder, do these kids even care about learning? Am I wasting my precious weekend for nothing?
 
We have been inundated with catchy infographics and animations that aim to break down this complex instructional strategy into easily digestible pieces. However, presenting feedback in such a catchy, simplified way neglects the more tricky, human side of the strategy. To make feedback work, we need to take a closer look at the potential land mines of human motivation.
 
Underestimating the addictive power of grades
 
Though you've likely heard it before, it bears reiterating that descriptive feedback delivered alongside a grade has no more impact than if the student were to receive a grade alone. Why? Grades provide unintended feedback about where each student stands in relation to their peers.
 
We've all experienced that moment when we hand work back and students immediately turn to their neighbour for comparison. Depending on where they fall along the 100-point scale, they receive either a hit of dopamine or cortisol, and are likely to ride a wave of emotion long before it even occurs to them to check the helpful feedback some poor teacher just spent their Sunday writing.
 
Though many can agree with this idea in theory, it becomes more challenging to put into practice. Not because it's hard to implement (just remove the score), but because the students will be the most resistant to this change. After all, they've been conditioned by many years of dopamine hits. Just like social media doses out likes, each time they receive their work back they wonder if this will be the time they beat out their peers for the top spot. They start concocting illogical theories based off of their last win, like a gambler begins to assert that red is "hot" tonight. She said she liked my exclamation point, so what if I just use them at the end of every sentence? That should win me a few more points. It's an addicting game and taking it away is bound to lead to frustration. Dare I say, withdrawal? However, the only thing more addicting than the potential for an occasional win, is the belief that success is inevitable every time. Descriptive feedback offers the pathway to this success.
 
However, to use this pathway students need to both receive and understand our feedback.
 
Our brains are triggered by our relationships
 
No matter our age, receiving critical feedback can be extremely socially threatening. We tend to view our own actions in a positive light and when someone points out a deficit hiding in our blind spot, it can be devastating. In their book, Thanks for the Feedback (2015) Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen describe three main triggers that stimulate our biological threat response and cause us to reject even the most well-intentioned feedback.
 
The first, is the relationship trigger. If our relationship with someone has proven challenging, we are not likely to trust the feedback they offer us. Perhaps, we also question their credibility which leads us to believe they don't have the right to be offering us feedback in the first place. In John Hattie's meta-analysis research (2007), teacher credibility comes in at a significant effect size of 0.90 and impacts many other instructional strategies, including feedback. With this in mind, we must embrace some uncomfortable reflection questions. Do my students respect me? Do I always practice what I preach? Is the reason my students aren't using my feedback, me?
 
While we can engage in personal reflection to avoid this first trigger, the other two require us to understand our students better.
 
Feedback demands dialogue
 
During a webinar I attended last month, John Hattie shared findings from his recent research (2020) that revisited the topic of feedback. His findings suggest that our students only understand a meagre percentage of the timely, specific, and actionable feedback that we provide them. Therefore, the problem isn’t that students aren't getting enough feedback, but that they are getting too much they simply can't use.
 
This is where we turn to the other two social threats that cause us to reject feedback: truth and identity triggers. Truth triggers, as the name implies, are when we receive information that stands in direct contradiction to what we believe to be true. For instance, if a student puts exceptional effort into choosing more interesting words for their essay and they are met with feedback that says they need to work harder on their vocabulary, they will be struck with the injustice of the statement. In contrast, identity triggers are accepted as truth but in a self-destructive manner. For example, the recipient will equate their mistakes to their shortcomings as a person, thus flooding them with shame and decimating motivation.
 
When we seek first to understand before being understood, we can see these triggers clearly and avoid them. In short, effective feedback demands dialogue.
 
A powerful first question to start a feedback conference with is, "What do you want me to notice that you are most proud of?" This ensures that we can start the conversation without jumping to our own conclusions. From there, we can continue to move from a place of understanding by asking questions and guiding students towards opportunities for improvement. By delivering feedback through dialogue we can also be attentive to the telltale signs of shame; slumped shoulders, downcast eyes, or even blatant statements of self-hate. If this happens, we need to shift gears and support our students to emotionally regulate and get their prefrontal cortex back online so that our feedback has a chance of being heard. 
 
Put down the marking pens
 
For many of us, feedback was often experienced as a one-way communication for the purpose of justifying a grade. However, when we re-purpose feedback as an opportunity for mutual learning, we can realize its full potential. By embracing dialogue as the medium for feedback we can deepen our relationships with students, support them to take the next steps in their learning, and put down those marking pens to finally reclaim what is rightfully ours. The weekend.
 
References:
 
Butler, R. (1988). Enhancing and Undermining Intrinsic Motivation: The Effects of Task-Involving and Ego-Involving Evaluation on Interest and Performance. 58(1), 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8279.1988.tb00874.x
 
Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81–112. https://doi.org/10.3102/003465430298487
 
Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2015). Thanks for the feedback. Portfolio Penguin.
 
Wisniewski, B., Zierer, K., & Hattie, J. (2020). The Power of Feedback Revisited: A Meta-Analysis of Educational Feedback Research. Frontiers in psychology10, 3087. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03087

Assessment 2020: What a Great Day with Two More to Come

Ken O'Connor, Educational Consultant and Founding Member of CAfLN

Not being in the classroom, I realize I lack some credibility when I say I know how hard it has been for teachers in the spring and in the fall to adapt to the dizzying mix of virtual, hybrid, and in-person learning, especially if you had children at home learning virtually. I do try to grasp the difficulties and how exhausting it is and I fully understand if teachers want to spend all of their Saturdays relaxing and/or spending time with their families.

For this reason, it was exciting when over two hundred Canadian educators participated in “Assessment 2020,” the virtual conference co-sponsored by the Alberta Assessment Consortium (AAC) and the Canadian Assessment for Learning Network (CAfLN) on Saturday, November 21st. As a founding member of CAfLN, I was nervous about how the day would go but I shouldn’t have been, as it went off without a hitch thanks to the key organizers, Michele Jones (AAC), Jen McIsaac (AAC) and Justin Green (CAfLN).
 
The day consisted of a keynote panel discussion and four breakout sessions, each with four options, and a closing session that mainly involved Justin spinning the digital wheel for the selection of prize winners among those who tweeted frequently during the day.
 

It was a pleasure to be involved in the panel with Lorna Earl and Damian Cooper, the other two founding members of CAfLN,  and two Alberta educators, Caitlin Fox and Trish Roffey. Stimulating discussions took place on each of these topics:

  1. Shifting our focus from grades to learning
  2. Magnifying critical and creative thinking at the system, classroom, and school community levels
  3. Visualizing and implementing authentic assessments in an online world
The focus of my work for the last 25 years has been how we make assessment, and especially grading, accurate, consistent, meaningful, and supportive of learning. I believe strongly that grades aren't essential for learning and that schools must  develop a culture of learning, not a culture of grading. However, because of community expectations, teachers' own schooling experiences, the lack of emphasis on assessment and grading in teacher training programs and most school and district professional development, and finally provincial policies, grading is inescapable in almost all Canadian schools.  This means that to achieve the focus on learning that is essential, while continuing to have report card grades [1], we have to challenge many traditional practices and at times, we have to "play with the gray" and/or compensate for the compulsory.

Over the last few years, I have been interested (and pleased) to see the increase in the number of teachers who “play with the gray” by “going gradeless.” These teachers are, by my use of terminology, actually going “markless” because generally they provide descriptive feedback without marks on all assessments but are still required to put subject grades on report cards. Given my interest in grading, it was exciting to see that three of the conference sessions were about going gradeless, so I chose to attend those sessions.

Shannon Schinkel from Prince George presented in the first breakout. Her session description stated that “Teachers who remove pesky letter grades and numbers from assignments, tests, and projects have the clear intention of creating a growth mindset in their students. So instead of those pesky letter grades and numbers they move to learning scales or proficiency scales to assess learning.” The strongest advocates of going gradeless wouldn’t see this as going gradeless because they believe gradeless means descriptive feedback not tied to a scale but I believe it is a good compromise as students need descriptors of levels of learning so they can see themselves getting better (explained by Daniel Pink in Drive (2009) as a key to intrinsic motivation). Shannon acknowledged that just having a proficiency scale isn’t the answer so she presented a very comprehensive coverage of the pros and cons of using proficiency scales. Among the pros she identified were that the scales use strength-based language and provide better information than letters and numbers. As cons, she said that using proficiency scales in place of feedback doesn’t move learning forward and when scores are attached to proficiency scales; it defeats their purpose. As “how good is good enough” as the base of assessment and grading, Shannon’s analysis of proficiency scales as performance standards was very helpful, gradeless or not.


In the second breakout, Kevin Cumming from the Prairie Spirit School Division in Saskatchewan told about his journey toward being gradeless in his high school mathematics classroom. He said that he was a first-time presenter but he did a masterful job of explaining why he moved to gradeless and how he got there and he provided many resources showing what he did in his classroom. I found his reasons for questioning his previously, very traditional approach were powerful. They included the following:
  • The perception that secondary teachers are just gatekeepers for post-secondary education;
  • The amount of time preparing exams and preparing students to take exams;
  • The lack of retention of the learning shown on tests and exams; and
  • Concern about what students are learning when he was doing all the work.
Major influences on his making the move to gradeless were the “My Prairie Spirit Classroomdocument, Peter Liljedahl’s Thinking Classroom framework, and his attendance at the CAfLN conference in Delta in May, 2018 where his main takeaway was a new understanding of the role that professional judgment should have in assessment and grading. These influences led him to look at assessment differently as he now wanted assessment that would provide him with an authentic indication of what his students really knew, could do, and understood. The result was a move to an outcomes base for all his assessments, and he provides multiple opportunities for students to show mastery of the outcomes. He provides students with “Outcome Reports” and the students self-assess and determine the subject grade that they think they should receive. The students then have to justify their subject grade in discussion with him. He noted that report cards went out the day before the conference and he had no disagreement with the judgement of his 60+ students. In conclusion, he said he worried that he had just moved the hoops and that the students were just playing a new game. I think he has done this in a very positive way because his students are now playing the right game – a learning game, not a grading game. What do you think?

In the fourth and final breakout session (always the toughest time to present), Terry Whitmell from Ontario presented on “Teacher’s Experiences while Navigating Going Gradeless in Ontario.” She said her research with teachers who were mandated to go gradeless and those who have chosen to go gradeless shows that teachers can remove marks from their practice while complying with provincial assessment policy. She acknowledged that going gradeless is a complex journey that requires persistence and professional collaboration but it has been shown to have many benefits for students as follows:
  • improved pathways to success;
  • less stress, improved mental health;
  • every day is a learning day/worthwhile;
  • improved equity;
  • clarity of learning goals; and
  • more time for multi-modal feedback.
The three sessions on going gradeless were all excellent and each provided varying perspectives on the why and the how and added to my understanding of its advantages and pitfalls.

Other attendees have told me that they had basically the same positive and reflective reactions to the sessions they attended at this first day of three days of the conference, so please join us for Day 2 on January 23rd and May 8th for Day 3. Even if you haven’t already registered, when you register now, you will be able to access recordings of all the day one sessions and participate in days 2 and 3. To register go to cafln.ca.
 
Happy Holidays to all. I hope all educators keep safe and healthy and have time to relax before heading back for whatever 2021 brings. The good news is that it will be better than 2020.

[1] I use the term “grades” for the summary symbols on report cards (numbers or letters) and the term “marks” for the symbols we use on individual pieces of assessment evidence.

Final Thoughts

Katie White, Editor, CAfLN Newsletter

It has been quite the year! I honestly believe we have yet to even touch the surface of exploring the impacts of the pandemic on teachers, parents, students, and the education system as a whole. In the CAfLN newsletter, we have attempted to process just some of the implications of decisions being made within Canadian educational landscapes. We know more are to come and we will travel with you as we all work hard to make sure education reflects the kind of experiences we know our students need in this changing world. 

With that in  mind, we are always grateful for members of our network who are searching, wondering, and experimenting and who are willing to share some of that journey with our readers. We welcome contributions, reflections, and ideas from all of you! It is the variety of articles we receive that give this newsletter the richness it is known for. Please consider contributing. We know it is vulnerable work but we also know what you are doing matters! Send any and all ideas to me (k.white@sasktel.net) and we will find a  place for your voice.

Our CAfLN executive wishes all of you a winter break that is equal parts exciting and replenishing. We hope you all stay healthy and experience the very things you need to ready you to enter 2021 with a refreshed spirit. Be well everyone! 

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