Why we assess learning has been a philosophical discussion happening in education on many different levels. Whatever the case may be, what we do know for certain is that it is only the learners, and not the teacher, who create learning. It is the teacher’s role to guide the learning process by responding to their learner’s performance. This happens through designing the very best kinds of modern learning assessment possible and using it to help students improve and excel as they learn.
So how do we succeed at providing the kind of modern learning assessment that is most beneficial to our learners? Let’s begin our exploration with a breakdown of the term itself:
- Modern—creative, effective, and highly relevant; takes into consideration the most current information on how students learn best.
- Learning—an ongoing process as opposed to summative assessment; it is about how the child learns, and not necessarily about the content itself.
- Assessment—must be for the child to take ownership of his or her own progress; at the same time, it gives the teacher information on redirection for the next lesson.
Designing a Modern Learning Assessment
We visited Vanessa Bianchi’s blog The Evolving Educator where we found a great article entitled Assessment in a Modern Learning Context. She provides a great analogy using Blockbuster and Netflix.
Blockbuster made money by charging late fees to their customers (like a ‘pen-and-paper timed test’ where points are taken away for wrong answers) as opposed to Netflix, who made money via buy-in by members (as in trusting students to access what they need when they need it). As we all know well, Blockbuster is no longer around.
For another project, Ms. Bianchi used 3 programs: Trello, Evernote and Google Drive. The goal was to track progress in real time and allow students to critique each other’s work. Each of these online devices is collaborative and made for sharing work and creating valuable discussion on projects.
Here are some other examples Vanessa provided in her article:
- Paired Problem Solving—”Students are paired and given a series of problems. The two students are given specific roles that switch with each problem: Problem Solver and Listener. The problem solver reads the problem aloud and talks through the solution to the problem. The listener follows all of the problem solver’s steps and catches any errors that occur.”
- Gallery Walk—Students walk throughout the classroom observing a gallery of student work or examples of images from study material for a particular project. “They work together in small groups to share ideas and respond to meaningful questions, documents, images, problem-solving situations or texts.”
- Math Congress—Student groups or pairs prepare by posting their solution and decide what to share with the rest of the class. While students are writing out their solutions, we as teachers need to be aware of students’ use of different ideas. Acting as a mediator in a Congress, the teacher asks meaningful questions to spark discussion such as:
- What is similar and what is different between the different solutions presented?
- Why or why doesn’t this strategy work?
- Twitter—Using Twitter, teachers can easily and quickly assess students’ understanding. Have them tweet what they learned, perhaps using it as an exit slip.
- QR Codes—Quick Response codes are being used more frequently. Perhaps you’ve seen them at your local museum where you could simply scan the pattern with your cell phone and you will be brought to an outside link that has more information about the work of art. Bianchi says, “ In my classroom, we used QR Codes to create an Audit Trail of our understanding of Fractions. Each code provides a glimpse at a child’s questions, wonderings, or discoveries around fractions. It is a quick and easy way to quiz what a child is retaining, and to bring others into the discussion.”
What Else Do We Consider?
- If you use technology, it should not get in the way of the assessment. If kids are stuck on how to use something, then results could be skewed. Imagine yourself going to vote for a political candidate and not having clear instructions on how to use the ballot. Carefully vet tech tools and look for clear directions. Work the process yourself several times, and get somebody to use it before going live.
- Students need to be able to receive instant and relevant feedback. Tech can sometimes do this quicker for a teacher skilled in its use. Other less-tech solutions that provide instant feedback by their peers are kids working in pairs, gallery walks, etc.
- Allow kids to determine what’s next for themselves. Any homework that the child deems necessary has a better chance of being done than an arbitrary declaration of assignment by the teacher. Work together with students on this to guide them in seeing where they may most need improvement, and allow them to think critically about how they want to make that happen.
- Explore what we call “heartwork.” By taking a stake in each other’s work as a team, assessment becomes helpful feedback between students that genuinely want their peers to do well. This can be achieved through supervised collaboration as well as mindfulness practices on tolerance and acceptance of differing views.
In good modern learning assessment, students gain instant feedback. They are not penalized for mistakes and they are given a chance to apply changes as needed. This type of assessment lends itself well to making the thinking process visible. While pen-and-paper quizzes have their place, it is the Inquiry-based learning approach that drives modern learning assessment to showcase that students are “pushing beyond rote knowledge.”
If you want to find out more about how to excel with modern learning assessment, take a look at our bestselling book Mindful Assessment: The 6 Essential Fluencies of Innovative Learning.
- The 7 Best Assessment Practices and Resources You Can Use Right Now
- 6 Handy Charts for Performing Critical Thinking Assessment
- The 10 Things You’ll Always Find in Ideal Learning Environments