Why Traditional Assessment Sucks

ExamI spend a lot of time thinking about assessment, not just because I hate marking (which I really do), but because it determines so much of what I do as a teacher. As a less experienced educator I actually dropped content that students loved from …

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Assess This Teacher

Gress LessonYesterday I put together an end-of-year survey for my students. Instead of focusing on lots of questions on different aspects of my teaching, I simply asked students to grade me in the same way I grade them: a comment, an attainment score and an …

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Strimming With Students

StrimmerStrimming, weed whacking, weed eating, call it what you like, it’s a crazy process. Take a piece of nylon string, use a 2-stroke petrol engine to spin it around real fast, and then use that force to hack away at vegetation. As part of my …

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Visual Assessment Guide

What started last year as a Self Assessment Guide, has been reworked into a more general tool for assessment. This new guide is suitable for teacher, peer or self assessment and also offers a visual map of what we want students to learn (with highlighting of which concepts are most important). Although still ICT specific, this guide could be adapted to any subject by changing the attributes and keywords. Visual Assessment Guide - ICT & Media_web

Printable Version (PDF)

So, what's changed? Well, after a year of experience with student self assessment using the original guide, I have come to the following conclusions.
  1. Self assessment is great, and students really learn a lot by revisiting concepts learned, and writing about them. However, students get bored of self assessment, so using it more than 3 times a year with one group is not so great. The assessment tool should thus by more general, useful for teachers and peers to use.
  2. The old guide was based around "strands", which were essentially high level learning outcomes. The new guide focuses on "attributes", as I really want to be centered around the kind of students I want leaving my course after three years. The two schools I am involved in (ICHK Secondary and ICHK HLY) include formal ICT learning from Years 1 to 9, and we have tentatively decided to use these attributes across the entire age range. Hopefully this will lend consistency to what we are doing, allowing us to be more effective.
  3. In the original guide there was mapping from the ways of learning (a Bloomsian set from knowing through creating), allowing these to be turned into numeric scores. This was never ideal, as it is too reductionist and focuses attention on the grade, not what has been learned. The new version dispenses with the levels, and just focuses on the ways of learning. It has been tentatively agreed that next year I can experiment with reporting the top way of learning achieved in a particular piece of work. Hopefully this will help
  4. The old category of "becoming" connotes a moral element to what is being taught, and means assigning levels based on my own world view. Whilst I might find this appropriate, others may not. This point was raised by Toby Newton, and whilst I was initially hesitant, I can see the value of his point that we need students to be more critical of what we say, not just accepting and applying everything automatically.
I am really keen to get feedback on this style of assessment, and on the ICT content included and omitted from the guide. I don't doubt that collaboration will make this idea more useful and usable.

Carpet Picnic

CarpetTry as I might, there are some things I simply cannot teach without a fair amount of talking. I can throw in some visual stimuli, get the kids involved in discussion, add some inquiry and generally try and be student-centered…but there are just too many …

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It’s Complicated

10326436_303815836450062_376544952_ndanah boyd‘s It’s Complicated (full PDF) is a book which seeks to change the way we view teenagers and their use of digital technology. Viewed as a vulnerable demographic, teens, it is commonly believed, need our protection to thrive. At the same …

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Epic Wallpers

In Year 7, my students undertake a short unit of work called Epic Wallpaper, in which they attempt to make a glossy wallpaper using Acorn and some graphic design techniques. This is the first year I have run this unit, and it went very …

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Inebriation

I saw these photos on Neatorama, and thought, that combined in to a series, they would make an amazing resource for students to discuss alcohol, prohibition and cultural shifts over time. From my point of view, any time we take a black and white view of things (e.g. alcohol equals bad) we run the risk of marginalising people whilst reducing issues to a point where realistic and profitable discussion is impossible. Inebriation

Wiring A Plug

British PlugLooking back on my own time in secondary school I remember, in terms of useful practical outcomes, precisely one lesson. Of course there are many more which influenced and shaped me, but only one that I regularly and knowingly draw on. It was Year 9 …

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The Importance Of Design

Often I feel that I teach students all sorts of tricks and techniques to make their work look better, but that they fail to apply them to their work. Some of this is inexperience, but sometimes I think students just believe that it does not make a real different. To try and convince students that this stuff really does make a difference, I asked a class to come up with a fictitious company name ('Bannnana') and industry ('fixing ears'). I then wrote these in Acorn, projected on the white board. With all the students watching I went through a 3 minute example of how to use font controls (font face, font size, kerning, line height, alignment) and colour (drop shadow, font colour, colour gradient) to make a design that has some impact. The resulting change is shown below. I think they now know that design does matter in terms of how people respond to their work: does it look like they just threw something on the page, or does it look considered? Bannnanas Credits: the font is Grobold from dafont.com. My students chose the yellow colour, which I missed entirely, going for white. Inspired!  

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