Paul's Place of Musings and Insights

the reflections of a techno-meddling teacher


Real time formative assessment

One of the things that I am always tinkering away at is how to monitor student progress in class. I am but one in a sea of young learners and regrettably, I am not always able to pick up misconceptions or uncertainty from students during class. They are of course detected during checking and marking of work, but I am eager to refine this process.

Courtesy of Alice Keeler I tried using Google Slides during lessons. My students have access to laptop trolleys, and during this lesson, we were lucky enough to be in a 1:1 environment. My class were researching biomes, and I wanted to be sure that all were finding sources that were accessible to them. So many resources online are geared towards older students, and it is vital for me that I know my Year 5s are able to understand what they are finding.

I created a Google Slide doc with a single slide stating a question. I then altered the Master Slides and custom built a slide for the students to fill out. There was space for their name, as well as for an answer to the question on the cover slide – ‘What is one interesting thing you have learned during this session’.

I shared the document through Edmodo, and within two minutes all students had submitted a response and I had been able to review them. I immediately turned my attention to the students that either took a while to respond, or whose responses were a little ‘vague’.

The students then carried on with their task, seemingly renewed in their purpose by what was in their eyes a very minor distraction, and if truth be told, probably a useful little brain break for them.

This will now become a regular feature of my teaching practice.


Marking Blues and Assessment Musings

Marking gives me the blues. It gets me down. Assigning a number to a student is not an instinctive action for me. I realise the need and all the buzzwords – monitoring, feedback, reporting, stakeholders, progress etc. It is something I find hard to do though. I see the bright kids cruise through and get a good mark. I see others struggle to even ‘pass.’ For me, its an unfortunate side of the teaching profession.

I need to make a disclaimer here. My current school has a great attitude towards assessment. It’s all about the process as well as the product. Assessment needs to inform our teaching as well as provide feedback to students and parents. I’ve previously needed to give exams to Year 5’s so all is well on the attitude to assessment front, but it remains something that in a perfect world I would avoid.

This ranting is not for naught – my point here is that when it comes to assessment design, it is important to ensure there is a fair balance between formal curriculum outcomes that you need to report on as well as the more specific objectives that frame a task and give it context. For example, we have recently conducted an investigation into measurement, using the iconic Vitruvian Man illustration as a model. Being an IB school, we have defined rubrics that apply to all assessments. These relate to skills, processes as well as knowledge and reflection: What are the fractions? How can you convert these to ratios? What is the relationship between body parts? Do your answers make sense in the context of the problem? and so on.

On top of these, we apply ACARA outcomes. After all these formal requirements, its hard to fit in things like curiosity, attitude, perseverance, commitment etc into an already packed assessment. It is these things that I value in my students, but I find it difficult at times to measure their success in these terms when there is such a focus on the formal outcomes.

This is where anecdotal records come in. Constant observations, feedback and adjustments are all part of the regular teaching cycle. I’m certainly not on a soapbox here – formal assessment is necessary, but I find it important to keep sight of personal development over the formal meeting of prescribed benchmarks.

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