Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Rethinking Assessments during COVID-19 and Beyond

The pandemic has caused us to make many changes in our everyday life, causing businesses to re-think their business strategies to remain relevant and open during these challenging times. It’s no different for education. For centuries, “school” has remained consistent and almost unchanged overall. 

With people all over the world making and implementing new plans and new ways of doing things, we wanted to focus on the topic of assessment for this blog post.  

There are some hard questions that have been raised by educators about assessment:

  • Is formative and summative assessment necessary during the pandemic?
  • Do tests need to be proctored and/or timed?
  • Can it really be considered an assessment if students are allowed to use notes and resources to craft their answers?
  • Is it possible to move beyond assessing what students know to what students can do with their knowledge (apply, create, iterate, solve)?
  • Are we measuring what we value?
  • How can we use technology to assist in the creation of authentic and interactive assessments?

Matt Enlow’s tweet on December 2 started a thread that gave insight into changes that teachers were making and although there is no one size fits all assessment solution, there are ways in which we can grow and assess better.

Below are five ways we found that assessments and final exams might be given and adapted during COVID-19 and beyond. 

1. Student Choice

Design tasks that allow students to spiral back through the most important standards you have covered during the semester.  Let students earn points for the challenges that they take on. Here's a challenge board that teachers can customize.  Another way to approach this type of assessment is to list the standard and then it’s the student’s job to submit evidence that they understand or have mastered it. The length of time across the bottom of the board could be adjusted to grading periods or to the complexity of the challenge. An example of a product that might be submitted was created by high school student, Shirley Zhu, “Combinatorics: Sticks and Stones”  

2. Evidence of Mastery using Flipgrid 

Create a Slide Deck and have each slide with a standard or learning target that students can submit a flipgrid response to. Check out the Bingo Card he created for students and the Slide Deck with Instructions.  Students are presenting evidence and it’s in short snippets. If they are recording something in Flipgrid, it’s specific and not drawn out. They hit their target and move on to show evidence on the next standard in another Flipgrid submission.  Everything is linked in a slide deck which makes it organized and easy for the teacher to assess. 
     **Pro Tip: To make assessing the Flipgrid responses quick and efficient, organize students as individual topics in flipgrid.  Greg Kulowiec explains this hack here

3. Final Exams or Epic Finales by Anthony Crider
Could exam week become the best week of the year?  Anthony Crider took the traditional exam and flipped it upside down to create a culminating experience at the end of the semester.  After seeing a colleague tackle a final by asking one really good question, he set out to do the same thing. 
“It took me longer to come up with that one good question than it did to pick 100 questions for my introductory astronomy class. I also trimmed the question down to be as short as possible, requiring students to “unpack” it even before answering it. As one student wrote to me afterward, “I think I spent as much time figuring out what the question was asking as I did answering the question.” 
“The unspoken truth of education is that we don’t want students just to learn the material; we want them to want to learn the material. The final exam closes the book on a semester of learning. An epic finale primes the students to discuss the topic for weeks (or years) to come and to leave the classroom amid a bit more awesomeness than when they arrived.”

4. A Google-Proof Assessment
Developing an assessment that allows students to use their notes and the resources that are available to them on a daily basis.  It is a question that can not be directly answered via Google because it requires analysis, interpretation, and application. The web will be a very helpful resource for students in collecting information related to these questions, but search engines will not lead to easy answers. Use Blooms Digital Taxonomy, adapted by Andrew Churches, to help craft questions that cause the learner to create, evaluate and analyze. Creating these questions will take time and practice. Get with your team and divide the learning targets that you’ll be accessing and use this template to help develop your questions. 

5. ePortfolio - Collecting Evidence of Learning   

A portfolio allows the assessment to shift and have the learner own the assessment process.  John Spencer has a great collection of resources to help establish a portfolio process to collect evidence of learning and has included steps to take while curating a portfolio during distance learning. 

What sets people apart from others in the 21st century is knowing what to do with the information that is available to them, not simply having the information. Developing the skills of curation, evaluation, synthesis, and application should be goals within any assessment.   

How might the next assessment you develop look different? How would you lead teachers to re-think and change their assessments?

Monday, December 28, 2020

Be your own champion!


I think most educators are familiar with the TED talk by Rita Pierson. She boldly stated that every child deserves a champion. "Kids today" need adults to guide them, encourage them, and help them to become more than the child ever thought he or she could become. 

What I've come to realize through many years in education with many different experiences is that the ability to champion someone else starts with being our own champion. 

This is where the theory and the practice get muddled. In theory, we can say, "I can be my own champion." But in practice... it's a rollercoaster.

The knowing-doing gap is easily understood in a food / healthy eating analogy. We know the foods that are "good" for us (nutritious) and the ones that we should avoid based on our health and fitness goals. When we KNOW what we should eat and we choose to eat something that does not align with our goals, there's a gap there. A knowing-doing gap. (This gap can be found in most areas of our lives, sometimes wider, sometimes smaller... but this analogy seems to resonate with many, many people, whether they have a knowing-doing gap in this area or not.)

Have you noticed that when you get ready to be a champion and begin to work at being a champion, you are faced with cynics, dreamstealers, and complacency? 

Have you ever had someone to say to you, 

"Are you sure that you're the right person for that?"

Or what about... "I don't think that's going to work."

I once had a teacher say to me: "I never trust a female in an authority position." 

In the case of Rita Pierson's quote, "Every child deserves a champion..." maybe you've heard people say, 

"It IS what it IS with THOSE kids."   or   "If he doesn't care, why should I care?"

This past year, 2020, has shown us all kinds of difficulties and challenges. It has caused us to pivot in ways we didn't know we could, and it forced us to create a new dialogue and perspective about education, how we lead, and what we value. 

As we approach the close of the calendar year, we begin to think about what the rest of the school year will look like and how we will be different in 2021. I challenge all of you to join me in this journey. Let's be our own champions so that we can champion others. We are going to face negative people and those who think it can't be done. Let's change the narrative. Let's not wait on someone else to do that; let's take the lead on having hope, doing the work, and forging ahead. 

Over the holidays, my husband and I broke out the Table Topics conversation starters while we waited on friends to arrive, and the question on the card read (and I paraphrase), "If you could be witness to any sporting event, what would it be?" 

The event I chose was when Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile record in 1956. Until Bannister did it, no one believed that the mile could be run in less than 4 minutes. 

What a legacy that has been left by Roger Bannister and Rita Pierson! It has me asking the question of myself, What legacy will you leave?

Teach like a champion. Walk like a champion. Talk like a champion. Lead like a champion. Work like a champion. Love like a champion.

Bring it on, 2021!  

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