Assessment, a few thoughts…


                  “The challenge for today’s educators is to lift their focus from the inevitable granular character of our national obsession with measurement, to the future which is broad brushed and uncertain. I do not underestimate this challenge but surely to constrain our debate as we habitually do is failing to educate the next generation in a way which is right for them and their lives in tomorrow’s world.”

from a very interesting blog post on the Stephen Perse Foundation…some very intriguing and inspiring content.

Somehow, just giving a standard test as the only evidence of learning just isn’t enough this time around.  In the past, as a Maths teacher this has been the standard modus operandi but this model carries with it a whole host of issues.

I am a little conflicted in my opinion on this, as irrevocably, our young people will have to undergo a barrage of examination at some point in their lives so we should as educators prepare them for this.  Does this mean preparing them to exclusion of all other methods though?  Increasingly, Universities and Colleges are using coursework to assess final scores in their classes, should schools not be following suit more consistently?  The focus on reproduction of Maths in a test environment is completely unrealistic in the real world.  In an age where answers to any question are a mere ‘Google’ from our fingertips, and the idea of working alone on… well, anything is bordering on the ridiculous.

So what do I do with all this conflict?…My assessment model has changed somewhat from the tried and tested (geddit?!) summative model.  This still exists, as it serves a purpose;  If I wish to assess benefits in attainment to students I must compare them on a like for like basis.  Therefore they sit the same test as their peers in other classes.  The approach to revision for the test is where we can apply a little lateral deviation from the norm to enhance the meta-cognitive process.

Mastery is a concept that is often combined with Flipped Learning as it lends itself well to the self paced, autonomous environment that a Flipped Learning methodology can provide.  Basically, the student must prove Mastery in a concept, usually through online formative testing (think Edmodo) before being allowed to sit the test.  This means that, in theory, students will get very scores and their anxiety will be very much reduced as they will know that they have already performed well in the material.

My model in this case has differed in that I provided the class with summary sheets of each unit of work to be assessed, along with additional video tutorials using Explain Everything for iPad.  The students were self paced, and could choose to work on whichever aspect of the course they wished in class and at home, over a period of one week.  They were provided with answers also, which I craftily located on my Sophia page, right next to the tutorials in an attempt to drive the students at these.  The criteria for ‘Mastery’: over 85% in each topic before we, as a class would consider testing.

I know…this conjures up images of 30 children wishing to sit assessments at 30 different times, so , in order to preserve the unseen nature of a test I have to make 30 different assessments right?  As it turned out, through working collaboratively (not directed to by me, they chose to work together) the students all wanted to sit the test as a class on the same day.  I was amazed!

The feeling in the room was much more relaxed on test day, with each student secure in the knowledge that they already knew the work, and just had to prove it in a test environment.  all the while reassured that they had already proven their knowledge to me through our various activities…

“the test is kind of like a display case for your knowledge, you already have it, now your just showing it off!”

I could go on for aaagggeeeeees about this, and understand that if you have got this far and are not bored…well done, so I will end with this quote:

“The common sense rules of the “real world” are a fragile collection of socially reinforced illusions.”                             Timothy Ferriss



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