As I reach the end of my first full semester of living my dream of being a Michigan State student comes to a close, it behooves me to look back and make sure I solidify in my mind everything that I have learned this semester. I want to start with my CEP 813 class that focused on Assessment.
The first lesson that stands out to me is the need to assess my assessments. This now seems obvious. There should be a way that I evaluate the way I evaluate students, but it wasn’t. Over the semester, I had four versions (1, 2, 3, and 4) and I used it to assess my own assessment. The most important part of the journey though was my progression of knowledge over the semester that changed and enhanced the rubric. I started out my journey looking at Social Constructivist Learning Theory (students construct learning interacting with other students) vs. a more behaviorist mindset. I definitely lean more towards Social Constructivist Learning as evidenced by my Rubric. We also read about the how transferring knowledge from one sphere to another is how you know you really get something.
— Earl Whittemore (@ecwhitt77) September 11, 2016
We moved on to talking about formative assessment (remember NC FALCON…is that still a thing? Sort of.). As my Rubric 2.0 indicates, formative assessment is the driving force of authentic teaching and learning. If you wait until the end to help students understand what success and failure look like with clear indications of how to be successful, you have failed. This hit home with me so much that when we had to create major assignments on assessments, I created things that I could use to formatively assess the teachers in my school (FAD 3.0 and CMS 2.0), which have been adopted by the administrative team.
We then moved into Backwards Design, which is something that I learned from my time taking classes as a lateral entry teacher. Since that is something I have already been doing, let’s move to the next area that we learned about that influenced the Rubric 4.0.
Next, up, we deep dived into Feedback and the best ways to do it. The part that stood out to me the most here is the need to provide actionable feedback all along but also as part of the summative assessment as well. Students should be able to grow from all feedback we give them.
MacFarlane-Dick and Nichol give us seven things good feedback does:
1. Clarifies what good performance is (goals, criteria, expected standards);
2. Facilitates the development of self-assessment (reflection) in learning;
3. Delivers high quality information to students about their learning;
4. Encourages teacher and peer dialogue around learning;
5. Encourages positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem;
6. Provides opportunities to close the gap between the learning goal and the students’ current performance;
7. Provides information to teachers that can be used to shape teaching.
If you look at the CMS and FAD I mentioned earlier, as well as my Rubric 4.0, you will see that I plan to use these extensively in my use of the Canvas Continuum.
The next big takeaway that I took away is the power of a good CMS (here is an admittedly biased comparison of a few of them). First off, it has the ability to streamline those formative and summative assessments that we mentioned later while integrating the need for useful feedback. If used correctly, a CMS is an obvious use for portfolios as well as assessments that are instantly graded and can give useful feedback on each question that a student misses so they can be more successful next time. According to my professors, mobile assessments allow students to get just in time, authentic, adaptable, and personalized. A CMS is capable of all of those things.
— Earl Whittemore (@ecwhitt77) November 27, 2016
My third takeaway was the concept of using games to assess. I noted in a tweet that I have had students create projects in Minecraft, but I never considered it a means of assessment (though it was). I also used this as a way of teaching kids about the craziness of 1066 in England, but it wasn’t an assessment. It was just a fun way for them to learn about something. Now, I am wondering how I could use it as a means of Assessment, or more specifically help the new sixth grade SS teacher use it in her class. I’m also on the look out for games that teachers in all the different subjects could use. Here is an example of how Minecraft can be used for assessment in a North Carolina Sixth Grade Social Studies class.
The final takeaway is the general way the course was outlined. Each week we learned about a concept, then we explored that concept, then we created something that gave us a way to transfer that knowledge into our current context, and then we shared that information out to our classmates and the world via Twitter. I feel like this is a method that would be adaptable for any class. I’m hopeful that I can get a few of my more experimental teachers to give it a try as a way of organizing their classes. If I were still a teacher, I would give it a go myself.
With those takeaways out of the way, it is time to look at the future. How am I going to use these things personally, and perhaps share the concepts with my colleagues? As I have mentioned on some occasions, I left the classroom this year for the Tech Director position at my school. I can’t directly use this with students. However, I will use the Canvas Continuum to assist teachers to use Canvas which was built with all of these concepts in mind. I will also have weekly emails where I can share snippets of these ideas in small bite size pieces. I will definitely keep using these concepts from now on.