Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Smarter Assessment - Summary of the topic

What are the goals of smarter assessment? The goals are: knowing if the student understands the content, and knowing where the student is regarding the learning goals. The smarter assessment videos show different strategies that will help teachers achieve the goals of assessment. These practices will lead to a more meaningful and effective assessment that focuses on motivation and achievement and help teachers to be more consistent and clear. This will help students achieve control of their own learning process, with the guidance of the teacher.
How does grading look like on smarter assessment? One big part of assessment is grading, which involves knowing to what extent students meet the learning outcomes. In the video is clearly stated that assessment should be focused just on its goals, not other things; for example, it shouldn’t focus on behavior. One way for students to be successful is if they own their learning, which implies taking responsibility (students) of their learning: arriving on time, doing the homework assigned, and others, this is referred as “work ethics”. To be able to follow these assessment objectives they suggest a change in the way we grade; teacher should make grades reliable, precise, and meaningful. To achieve this they say we should grade by categories in a scale of 1 to 6, the following are the categories: 1-2 Novice, students need guidance to get to the next step; 3-4 Apprentice, students are getting the concepts but they are missing other things; and 5-6 Expert, the students are consistently getting it. Another part of this is that students are not graded in terms of percentages, with these questions: How many answers they had right? How many mistakes? Instead, they should be graded by the type of mistakes, with reference to what they show about the students’ understanding. Also the use of images to represent each category will help students with their involvement in the grading process.
What is the involvement of students in smarter assessment? A very important part of smarter assessment is students involvement in their own process, this can be achieved through self-reflection. For example self-reports are one of the strategies used, they can see their progress, they will also find their strengths and things they need to improve on, and they can assess their own effort. In self-reports behaviors are very important, and we should take into account the guidance of the teacher is necessary; for example this can be achieved through forms, where teachers will have their own assessment that compares to the one made by the student. This strategy can also lead to a positive relation between student and teacher that in turn means an open line of communication among them. It also helps the teacher think about the why regarding students performance; for example when they hand-in late the assignments or don’t hand them in at all, a late assignment form strategy can help students see their own progress. We have to also take into account that the above works if teachers are available to help students when they need it and worry about their success; if students and teachers fulfill their responsibilities, success is assured.
What is the purpose of homework, and how to achieve it? With reference to homework, in the videos they raise several problems of standard homework, among them that completion doesn’t mean understanding and doesn’t mean they did it, and that it leads to grade inflation or deflation; also that students end up thinking everything should be graded as incentive. The new way to see homework could be as extra practice, or positive home practice, which isn’t graded and if they don’t do it will lead to a learning conversation. There are other strategies that show students that grades are a guide, not the final goal; for example in class, quizzes for them to check their own work, application questions, and the strategy flip your classroom, where the time in class is for activities, and instead of lectures students will see outside of class a video with the information they need for the class.
What are unit plans and how to use them? Unit plans are clear roadmaps that help students know what to expect from the class and teacher and what is expected of them, this means a “no surprises” policy. It helps the teacher know we are all in the same page, and it has a list of objectives for the unit, which are clear and in student-friendly language. The objectives are separated by their nature and divided between the following sections: 1. Knowledge – What do I need to know? For example terms and learning outcomes, to be defined and explained. 2. Reasoning – What can I do with what I know? This means information processing. 3. Skills – What can I demonstrate? The latter in terms of learning targets, by demonstrating or showing. 4. Product – What can I make to show my learning? This refers to the project. In all this process self-reflection is very important, for example through checklists, where they show their plan of study and if they need teacher support or not.
What is retesting, and what part does it takes in smarter assessment? Traditional tests have the problem of being a “snapshot in time”, which means they depend on the time and space and are affected by variables; to achieve better the goals of testing we should, according to the videos, stretch out tests over time. Another problem of traditional tests is that they are one-dimensional, which means they don’t offer multiple ways for students to demonstrate their learning and they don’t take into account multiple skills. Also they negatively impact the student-teacher relationship. For all of these reasons they suggest a strategy that involves testing for each learning outcome and allowing students to retest on those outcomes so they can improve if they choose to; also if they win the chance to retest. With this strategy it will be easier for teachers to be themselves through testing and it will allow the students to see the first test as a formative assessment and the second as summative; also it will help students to reflect on how to face the second test based on the first result. A similar strategy is the practice test, which is in the conditions of a normal test, e.g. in silence, and is marked in the 1 to 6 scale. Teacher is available for students during the tests.
What information is needed in a tracking sheet? A tracking sheet will help students set goals and prepare for the retest; students will choose which objectives they will retest. This form will give teachers and students information on the test preparation and goal setting. It is also a graphic representation of their strengths and weaknesses, for example with the “I did” and “I did not” statements. They also show information on the student-teacher conversations regarding study habits, and show areas where students need to focus on. The tracking sheet will help teachers decide if students can take a retest, taking into account if students got in time to class, did homework, paid attention, among others. If students can retest and choose to do it, the grade of the goal is replaced by the new one, the one of the retest.
What is the role of differentiation in smarter assessment? It’s important that students are able to prove their understanding in different ways, for example open the possibility for oral tests. Also to give choices to students, let them have more voice in assessment and in their education process.
Does creativity has a place in smarter assessment? Creativity is very important because it is required to solve current problems, but also to solve those problems yet unseen. Teaching for creativity involves: original thinking, problem solving, innovation, and inquiry based learning. Creativity and engagement are very important for good performance. It seems creativity leads to chaos, but a controlled chaos is where the most learning goes on according to the videos. Creativity involves also movement and exploration, and is part of the project based learning, all of this necessary to force students to take risks.
Creativity should be assessed or graded? No. Creativity helps students to practice, learn, collaborate, communicate, analyze, and work together with other students to achieve learning goals. All of this helps in the understanding of the unit and the engagement in the topics. However, it shouldn’t be graded because it depends many times in the available resources students have, for example music or art classes. Also, assessment should be done in a controlled setting, examples of this are: quizzes, personal reflection paragraphs, drawings, diagrams, interviews, or unit tests, among others.
What is the major project planning sheet? Is a way for students to be focused in the learning targets while they are working on creative projects. It is a form that helps them show how or where in the project are addressed the learning outcomes; students have to write details showing the connection of the project with the goal. These projects and the sheet help recognizing diversity in the classroom, students’ different abilities, strengths, and needs; they also help in the motivation of students. For academic students creativity helps them go beyond where they might be limited by particular options; while for struggling learners it gives them opportunities to engage with the material more deeply. All students perform better due to this in standardized tests. Also it helps the teacher reach the students that need more support, and it gives a lot of opportunities of connection between teacher and students.
What is the Administrator’s take on all this? First in the videos they talk about the importance of staying relevant in education, which means change; how I as teacher can be more effective, it also gives the teacher the role of lead learner. To all this, the Administrator talks about the importance of relationships, which are the foundation of leadership. This work in building relationships should involve the development of a team in the school, with support meetings, conversation, and others. To achieve all this the Administrator should support teachers, because parents and students aren’t expecting those changes we mention before. Communication is also very important, where the Administrator should be aware of those changes made by teachers, and they, as a team, can find the evidence to support those changes before parents, students, and others. Also communicatio where Administrators give the teachers clues on situations where they need to be more flexible with some particular students. Other comments of the videos on this point are on the importance of breaking down instruction according to learning targets and separating grades and behavior.
What are some final comments of some experienced teachers? A mission of a teacher should be to help students become life-long learners, so they are able to transfer what they learn to the real world. A comment done is that it is a challenge to get at risk learners to be willing to resubmit work, but it all has to do with opportunities in class. Also it has to do with students reporting on their behavior, which can help engaging parents in the education process. In turn, this could lead to parents, teachers, and students focusing more on working habits and the process, not in grades; working habits are the ones that measure success more accurately.
Another teacher refers to the importance of hands-on learning, and of asking for the opinion of students; it helps them in the process of valuing their own opinions, and is a contribution to the class. Finally, that it is important for students to not just find the right answer, but to go deeper into the question; also that is important to have the courage to try new things, and learn from what doesn’t work.

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