How to create a 21st century assessment and reporting system
Empowering students to lead their own learning … online
The days of traditional assessment and reporting are numbered. Hour upon teacher hour of assessment and report writing, at nights and in weekends, making decisions in isolation from the students … why not create a system that deeply involves the students in the process, and harnesses the benefits for their learning?
Research shows that encouraging students to self-assess and reflect on their learning, and recording these learning conversations online, is an incredibly powerful learning tool. Much better to place emphasis on the process of learning, rather than the products of learning.
My name is Janet McCarroll, and I’ve recently joined the team at Evaluation Associates. My previous role was as Deputy Principal at St Mary’s in Tauranga, where I was fortunate to be involved in implementing an innovative system for assessment and reporting. The students were taught how to monitor their own learning and to have powerful learning conversations about it. Then, we recorded and posted these conversations and related evidence online in digital learning portfolios and shared them with parents.
“You can share your learning with your parents and your parents can interact with what you’re doing in class.” - Student
The online environment provides new and unique opportunities for collecting rich data that paper technologies cannot. Students’ recorded conversations form a narrative of student learning and provide the parents and teacher with powerful information about where a learner is at.
Teachers who used this student-centred approach to assessment and reporting, using the online environment, saw definite benefits for students. They noted particularly how students started taking ownership of their own learning.
Students indicated a strong preference to use the digital environment over paper reporting. They found the online learning stories were a convenient, easier, faster and more efficient way for parents to form an understanding of their progress and achievement. Parents recognised the benefit of having access to a wealth of information beyond the capacity of a paper report.
“I think that voice…that was a real shift for me. When you’re online and reading something, that’s fine. But when you listen to that little voice.” - Parent
How do you begin to implement a student-centred, online assessment and reporting system? Here are my key tips for getting started:
Tip 1: Make the students’ ownership of their learning your number one priority.
Nothing has more power. No standardised test is as powerful as a student telling you where they’re at in their learning. Students should be able to provide the teacher with feedback too!
Tip 2: Allow time initially for teachers to learn how to embed formative assessment processes in their day-to-day teaching.
This includes the fundamental processes of formative assessment: having shared clarity about the learning, self and peer assessment and reflection, and effective formative feedback. Teacher and students should share the language of learning.
Tip 3: Make sure you teach students to self-assess – and how to give and seek feedback to, and from, other students and their teachers.
When students know what success looks like and are clear about what they’re learning, they’ll be much better able to talk about their learning. If you don’t get this building block in place the students will likely flounder. Students should be able to analyse a piece of work and identify where they have met the criteria and where there is room for development.
Tip 4: Use what you’re already doing
Harness the power of what you’re already doing, rather than set up new systems for gathering data. Whether you’re using JAM or GLOSS or PATs or e-asTTle assessments, running records, or conferencing with students about their writing or science work – start with your current system and record the conversation between the teacher and student. Re-listening to this exchange will bring incredible insights.
Tip 5: Find web tools that are simple and functional
Make sure that you find web tools that are easy to use for both teacher and students. Work with them so that they become part of everyday practice. Also, don’t overly control the process. I found students would voluntarily record themselves solving a problem and explaining their strategies, on their own or with a peer or group. They’d then let their teacher know they had done this – pure gold for the teacher!
Sound formative assessment practices are the foundation for powerful learning conversations that capture student reflections. Digital learning portfolios are the medium, supported by functional web tools.
And the rewards?
- Connected and engaged students who are able to articulate where they are at with their learning, and where they have to go to next
- Assessment and reporting processes that innately involve both teachers and students
- Connected and engaged parents and whānau
To learn more about online reporting and assessment, go to Janet’s page in the Pond, where she has put her MPhil thesis and a power point on the topic.