Aligning Assessment with Vision
In my earlier blog post on assessment, I talked about how assessment shapes our learners. Assessment also indicates what we value and what our end goal for education is. Is the purpose of education to ensure successful completion of a curriculum and to secure a place in post-secondary education? Is the purpose to ensure the successful development of the whole child? Can it be all of the above? At WIC, our purpose is articulated in our mission: “Empowering each student to thrive, contribute, and live a healthy, purposeful life.” Unpacking this mission extends beyond the parameters of assessment; however, this blog post will shine a light on how vision and mission are connected to how we assess.
Critical thinking and effective communication are essential skills that will help students to be contributing citizens, creative co-workers in the future, and engaging people to be with. In the past, a novel study in English Language Arts (ELA) might have been a fairly solitary activity requiring students to read a book and write a written response to questions posed by the teacher. Alternatively, a seminar format provides a more student-centred approach, where their contribution is a requirement, and curiosity is sparked as students pose the questions and direct and guide the discussion themselves. Insights emerge through the students by the students through their discussion, not because someone has told them to write or talk about this topic.
“A new insight I have now is that who you become in the future doesn’t have to be dictated by your DNA. This topic was brought up when we were discussing how different Matt and El Patron were by the end of the book, even though technically they are the same person. This shows that Matt’s environment and upbringing were the most influential in his life and that El Patron wasn’t as much of an influence as I initially thought.” (Grade 8 student’s reflection after a seminar on The House of the Scorpion)
Ms. Kotyk-Sarich, ELA & Social Studies Junior High teacher, on seminars: “Seminars are a fantastic way for students to enhance their understanding of a novel by listening to multiple perspectives being offered from their peers. Creative and innovative ideas come from combining multiple perspectives. For teachers, it allows a unique way to assess students’ understanding of the material through their ability to discuss ideas, follow up on comments made, and to extend the discussion forward. After each seminar, students submit a self-evaluation where they reflect on new ideas or perspectives they have gained.”
“A lot of people made some really good points and a few I didn’t agree with.” “I changed my opinion on some topics because I heard the full explanation from my peers.” “To be honest, I loved today’s seminar. I got exposed to ideas that I never would have thought of otherwise.” “I wonder what the book would be like from another perspective.” (Grade 8 students)
As personalization of news and special interest topics have become prevalent and possible through podcasts, they have also become an innovative vehicle for students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. In Mme. Berezowki’s FLA (French Immersion Language Arts) 7 and 12 classes, students create podcasts that not only allow them to develop skills with this technology, but also to demonstrate their communication skills in a creative way. With these skills, they are empowered to share their interests and opinions with a larger audience than their classroom teacher and peers. Click HERE for examples of student podcasts from WIC.
"At first, I thought creating a podcast was a bit strange, but once we started, I really enjoyed how we were able to do something out-of-the box and creative. I had a lot of fun creating the podcast and now if anyone is ever curious, I know how to make one." Malina Watson, Grade 12
In FSL 9 (French class 9), Mme. Minich incorporates journaling into her repertoire of assessment practices. In relation to WIC’s vision and mission; journaling empowers students to take greater ownership of their learning, thus providing greater sense of purpose of their learning.
“From a teacher's perspective, there are few activities that can trump journal writing for understanding and supporting the development of student thinking. Journaling turbo-charges curiosity.” Edutopia article, Todd Finley (2010)
Through regular journaling, students increase their understanding of their learning as they reflect on specific areas they are doing well and noticing what and how to strengthen other areas. Mme. Minich then reads the student reflections to help tailor her instruction to their individual needs. Click HERE for an article on the benefits of journaling in education.
Assessment practices have changed significantly in recent years, not least because of COVID-19 reducing the reliability and ease of administering standardized tests. Our vision and mission will continually be the lens through which we make decisions about teaching and learning; as such, I hope it’s clear to see that students are thriving on being able to express what they know through a broad range of creative opportunities.
About the Author
Director of Learning and Innovation