Friday, 27 September 2013

Out of the Mouths of Babes - Assessment for Learning

Assessment for learning (what used to be called Formative Assessment) seems to be growing in popularity as a teaching intervention that helps to greatly improve student understanding and achievement.

This post looks at some of the digital tools that your learners can use to share with you their growing mastery of what they are learning and what you are trying to teach (not always are these the same thing!).

At its heart, formative assessment, is about asking students what they know, what they can do and what their understanding of an idea is. We teachers are so wrapped up in what we do as teachers, we often forget to do the most simple of things - just ask the students.

The trick to effective assessment for learning is to ask questions or set tasks that will reliably provide you with evidence of how the student's learning is developing and to then provide feedback and guidance on how the student can improve. This information should also impact upon the teaching you did and plan to do on the topic in question.

Self and peer assessment also have an important part in the formative process and you will need to spend some time making sure that students have the skills to self or peer assess.

Successful formative assessment includes:
  • The student and teacher share a common understanding of what constitutes quality work.
  • Students have, or are developing, the skills for self and peer assessment and see that they have ownership of their learning.
  • Teacher provides questions and tasks that encourage students to show their understanding.
  • The assessor (teacher, peer or self) provide feedback on what was done well and what needs improvement.
  • The teacher provides guidance on how to make improvements and what needs to be learned next. 

Hallmarks of strong formative assessments are:
  • High quality feedback that assesses the work, not the student.
  • Regular and descriptive feedback to students on how to improve.
  • It involves extensive self and peer assessment.
  • Teachers adjust their teaching based on the information gleaned from the assessment.
  • This type of assessment should not play much, if any role in determining the students final grade, because it is about the process of learning, not an assessment of learning.
  • Students should be assessed in a variety of ways: oral, written, and through performance assessments.

Although aimed at younger learners, Kathy Dyer has written a number of useful posts:
Digital Technology Tools for Implementing Formative Assessment – Post One, Post Two, Post Three.

To help with the techniques of Formative Assessment, the 54 ideas by David Wees is a good start (it also includes some suggestions on technologies too) - see the Google Doc.

Stacy Stevens has provided a neat summary of the types of technology that adopts a balanced approach (Web 2 sites and mobile apps) for different formative assessment tasks. It is important also to provide students with a variety of techniques that allow for differentiation in their response.
See the Google doc in PDF format.

With all this focus on mobile devices and apps, don't forget the platform that many of us have - MOODLE.
The MOODLE Tool Guide for teachers, based on Bloom's cognitive domain, is also very good for suggesting tasks we can provide to uncover a snapshot of the student's learning as it develops.
I'm sure there will be much more to come on effective assessment for learning - stay tuned. But for now


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