Amplify the magic of assessment for learning using digital technology

By Janet McCarroll on October 3, 2017 in Assessment for learning

There’s excitement in the air as teachers in large cities and small rural schools realise how to enact the New Zealand Curriculum in its full glorious intent by developing a student-centred approach to teaching, learning and assessment. This lies at the very heart of the New Zealand Curriculum.

From the OECD’s Centre for Educational Research and Innovation to remote New Zealand schools, educators universally acknowledge and agree that assessment for learning capabilities which place the learner at the centre and build young people’s capacity to engage in their own assessment and reporting processes are a key objective for better learning. When teachers experience in their own classrooms the benefit of sharing the responsibility for learning with students a kind of magic happens.

“I remember when I started (Assessment for Learning), thinking this wasn’t going to work with and for new entrants. Not even being clear about what ‘this’ meant. Well, I know now that it is all about clarity in learning, for me as much as for the students. And that it works!!

Setting up the class as a learning space first, so students knew they were there for learning first and foremost, followed by using clear learning intentions and self-assessment has accelerated learning in my classroom, that I had not witnessed before.”   New entrant teacher, rural primary school

And now we can work smarter in schools to further develop accelerated learning capabilities using the capacity of technology for assessment and reporting. Digital tools allow the student, teacher and parents to share the learning process as each participant can contribute in real time to enhance current learning while also promoting further learning. A digital ‘kete’ or portfolio will enhance: partnerships in learning, learning conversations, self-regulation, feedback, engagement, and assessment as learning. Using a digital kete or platform to track learning journeys supports formative assessment to improve future learning outcomes, is personalised with the students’ own voice and meets reporting requirements. Some examples are: Google SITES, SeeSaw, Edmodo, LINC-EDHero, and MyPortfolio. See an article on e-learning portfolios on TKI HERE and the Virtual Learning Network discussion on e-Portfolios HERE.

Flax kete bag

Students learn most effectively when they develop the ability to stand back from the information or ideas that they have engaged with and think about them objectively. Reflective learners assimilate new learning, relate it to what they already know, adapt it for their own purposes, and translate thought into action. When students can select, collect and reflect on evidence to support their evaluation of where they are ‘at’ and where they need to go next, this becomes indisputably powerful evidence of learning.

Teachers recognise the power of student voice in this process and that digital learning platforms are powerful tools to enable the students’ voice to be captured as evidence of learning.

“I guess the (digital) reflection is the only way to show the process because it’s the only way you can really hear their thinking. They can articulate their thinking. … there’s nothing like the student’s voice. When you hear them…it is very powerful.”

6 tips to harness the combined power of assessment for learning and digital tools

  1. Determine the purpose for using the online environment to accelerate learning. This will establish the online environment that you will set up. Do you want a student-centred e-portfolio/blog, that is, the students’ story of their own learning, or do you want a digital platform to share data and student achievement, or a combination of both? Ensure your school has consulted widely to gather perspectives from students, parents, teachers, leadership. Centre the discussions on pedagogy rather than the system.

  2. Carefully consider the digital platform you choose to adopt school wide. Having determined the agreed purpose for your digital ‘kete’, also consider: security, aesthetics, user friendliness, capacity to facilitate social networking, user storage space, capacity to access, edit, contribute from mobile devices, capacity to demonstrate learning, comment, reflect, and feed forward on learning, ease of embedding web 2.0 tools in to the selected system. Identify ownership of the chosen digital portfolio when students transfer from one school to another and beyond.

  3. Use the archway of assessment for learning capabilities from Absolum’s Clarity in the Classroom to develop the ‘spirit’ of assessment capability as the embedded classroom culture.

  4. Amplify each assessment capability using fit for purpose digital Apps – examples are FlipGrid, Explain Everything, EverNote, Voice Thread, Google Apps for Education (GAFE) – to track the learning journey, capture student voice and artifacts as evidence of your students’ learning capabilities as they:

  5. Hand learning ownership over to your students by sharing the big picture, relevance, accountability and transparency for the learning with your students. Embed the process of reflection using the online environment into your daily classroom programme. Set aside time to deliberately teach protocols on how to reflect and give feedback in the online environment. Engage the expertise of talented students to support implementation of digital tools to support assessment for learning.

  6. Engage in professional development to support using digital tools to ensure AfL capabilities are embedded and sustained. For successful integration of digital tools to amplify assessment for learning, teachers will need to see and believe in the power of the pedagogy supported by the digital tools as central to the learning process rather than as an add on.

By following these six tips, schools and teachers can amplify the magic. They can put theory into practice by embedding assessment for learning and transferring its use into the digital environment to increase engagement and raise student achievement while personalising learning.

The next step is to work smarter and align and amplify the power of assessment for learning and technology using a 21st century digital report to accelerate student learning. Check out Janet’s last blog How to create a 21st century assessment and reporting system.

For support amplifying the magic in your setting contact Janet today

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