ECS 301: Assessment – Taming the Beast, a two article response

In reading two different articles on assessment, Chapter 6 of Our Words, Our Ways: Teaching First Nations, Métis and Inuit Learners from Alberta Education and Learning to Love Assessment by Carol Ann Tomlinson I’ve started to formulate my own ideas of assessment and the impact it has on students.

I’ve noticed between the two articles some similarities which I view as important things to consider while performing assessment.

1) Variety – it is important to utilize a variety of methods when assessing students.  I agree with this whole-heartedly. As a student with ADHD tests were the last thing I wanted to sit through.  Blessed with an academic gift I was able to fight through it, but this is not the case for all students.  We need to provide different avenues for our students to show that they’ve picked up on what we’ve put down. Tests may still have their place but I will be hard pressed to just test instead of providing different projects and activities for students to pursue in order to assess their learning.

2) Flexibility – being flexible on assessment is important, but how flexible I think is the greatest challenge as an educator.  Do you get rid of deadlines? How about late penalties? These are things that as a teacher I think I would like to be soft on, but as students transition into employees in the workforce being late with work is in most places not an option.  Jobs could be lost, not advancing as fast as you would like is also a problem when work is constantly not on time.  I think having deadlines is important, but I think being soft on deadlines is in my opinion the way to help students achieve deeper understanding.  Being soft on deadlines allows students to find the best time to work for them it also allows them to work on time management skills to help meet the deadline.  Do you go out on Wednesday night when the last day to hand in is a Thursday?  Or do you hand in your assignment on Tuesday knowing you want to go out on Wednesday.  Having a window for assessment provides students with an opportunity of choice.

3) Providing Choice and Opportunities – as previously discussed providing students with different options and opportunities enhances their learning experience.  The concept of differentiation persists in assessment as well.  As educators we need to not only be flexible on timelines, but be flexible in the ways we assess our students.  This point relates heavily to points 1 and 2 made above. The challenges I foresee in providing choice, however, is that how do you provide different methods of assessment for different students? How many choices do you provide? Can you cater to each student individually? I think these are all tough questions that practical experience will have a better answer to.

4) Feedback vs. Grades – growing up most teachers were subjected to grading.   Do grades truly show the performance of a student in a certain class?  To a point it might, if you’re flexible, providing variety, and providing choice 🙂  But I agree with both articles when they state that students are typically more successful when they are provided feedback over grades.  What is very interesting is that the working world for the longest time used feedback models of various types to help workers fill deficiencies in their performance.  It was feedback that helped workers find success.  Now education is turning towards feedback and the working world is turning towards grades.  No longer are you told “Great Job on that project!” you get a performance rating with some comments and you move along your way.

I feel those are four very important things to consider when performing assessment.

Some closing thoughts:

Don’t all cultures benefit from open and clear assessment with feedback, variety and opportunity, not just First Nations and Aboriginal students?

Rubrics – do they really work? Should they be provided to students? If so, do students even understand what is in front of them? Does it not create a “checklist” for students as they work?

*Credit to Emergency Kittens @EmrgencyKittens for the image.

ECS 301 – One Size Doesn’t Fit All: A look at differentiation in the classroom

In reading Chapter 1 of Gregory and Chapman’s One Size Doesn’t Fit All I find that differentiation is fast becoming a large concern for educators in all realms.  We know that each student learns in different ways and because of that educators are hard pressed to create new ways of delivering content to each individual student.  Four things that teachers can differentiate to better assist student learning are:

  1. Content
  2. Assessment tools
  3. Performance tasks
  4. Instructional strategies

Varying content is a great challenge for teachers as students gravitate towards the materials and concepts they relate closely to.  In order to vary differentiate content teachers must first ask students “What do you like?” and listen closely to how students respond.  By listening to our students teachers will have an easier time adjusting the content to meet individual needs of students.  An example of content adjustment is providing a more challenging math assignment to a student who excels at math and providing a more hands-on assignment to a student who requires a more practical approach.

In differentiating assessment teachers are challenged with finding fresh new ways of assessing the knowledge of students without any undue frustration or fear.  Using different informal or formal methods of assessment dependent on student need will assist in determining how much students actually know. For example exams are scary to most students and provide great stress that could be avoided by successfully differentiating your assessment.  Examples of differentiating assessment is having different projects for different groups of learners and using auditory testing having the students verbally respond to questions.

Performance tasks are also very challenging to differentiate.  Each student enjoys different things so one activity that may suit one student may not be suited for another student.  Choosing activities that meet the needs of all students as individuals will be a great challenge that will be faced in the classroom.  This also reinforces that one size does not fit all as proposed by the article.  Some examples of differentiation of performance tasks include creating a sketch for a reading assignment rather than a short book review.

Lastly, differentiating instructional strategies is the key to engaging the students as an entire group rather than one or two individuals at a time.  Again, this is challenging as each student takes in knowledge differently.  Because of this it is very important to listen to your students and find out what method works best for them.  Ask questions to discover how students learn best such as “Are you a visual learner or do you like to listen?”.  An example of differentiation in instructional strategies is the concept of gamification.  Using games or game-like activities helps engage students as it is a method that they can relate closely to.

ECS 301 – Response to Noddings’ Learning from our Students

This article resonates with my feelings as an educator.  I find that too much time is spent on forcing learning on students rather than assisting them in finding their passions and working with them to develop their skills around these passions. I do, however, disagree that there should be minimal courses available.  Minimal courses would cause students to feel that they not as intelligent as those that are taking non-minimal material.  To combat this educators need to be extremely flexible in the classroom and do exactly as the article states “Learn from their students”.  Tailoring content for the individual would allow students to learn at a pace and in a way that is comfortable to them.  This is not feasible in the current system, but it is something that education should be striving for.

I find that this article supports my thoughts about education.  I think educators need to be more interactive using the tools that they are provided to facilitate learning rather than relying upon them to perform the task of teaching.  As TVs are not babysitters in the home, electronic tools should not be teachers in the classroom.  I greatly support technology in the classroom and when the time comes my goal will be to incorporate digital content in as many ways as possible, but not at the cost of the human element of learning.  I also greatly support collaboration in the classroom.  “Epic Win” moments usually come when one works as part of team and I hope to provide that opportunity whenever possible.

Lastly, I think educators of all types need to focus less on preparing students for the future and more on helping students understand who they are, how they learn, what they like so they can find their future on their own.

Competitive Nature and Gamficiation

It’s been WAY too long since my last post.  Here is another article I wrote on LinkedIn.  Enjoy!

In my last post I outlined that bringing games into the world of education will have some consequences that I don’t think are seeing enough light in the discussion of gamification. Competition is a driving force behind why we as humans play and enjoy games. That being said, is adding that element a good or a bad thing? If you weigh the pros and cons the outcome is different for each individual. Some thrive under pressure and the drive to compete forces them to excel. However, some are the opposite and cannot handle the pressure and fear overtakes the drive and they fall to the wayside.

Every human by nature has a will to compete. It has been said “we play games to have fun, not to win” but is that really the case? Take a look at your own gaming life. Do you just play for fun? Is there a game that is specifically constructed “just for fun”? Looking across all platforms from board games, sports, eSports, puzzles, you name it every article has one outcome, a winner. But with winners comes the counterpart, the loser. Because with every game there are winners and losers competition is born.

No one likes to lose. We try so hard as game designers, educators, parents, to help soften the blow of losing, but in the end it is still losing. However, because of this hatred of losing and because the fact that their can indeed be a winner spawns what we see as the competitive drive. Corporations harness this property every chance they get. In business this is referred to as competitive advantage. It’s what sets one company apart from another. It is also what sets one human apart from another.

Looking deeper into competition will help us unlock the potential of each individual. If gamification experts take the time to understand why we play, what we play, and how we play we can explore the infinite possibility that is the competitive drive. I plan to spend significant time exploring this concept and learning how we can all play to win in each aspect of our lives. I also plan to understand how we can lose but still win. It is in these concepts of competition that gamfication excels and because of that it is why games will lead the way in the future of learning and work.

#gamification #gamesfortomorrow