Moving toward Assessment for Learning

I was recently contacted by an educator in Hong Kong wanting some advice around how he could make his tests more AfL appropriate. This is a great question (and a million more questions popped into my head – why a test? What is it measuring? etc.) and I promised myself to answer him fully.

Here is my response: 

There are heaps of ways to make tests more AfL appropriate for students. 

Ideally, working with the students to identify what the key learning needs to be and what is the best way to test this would be a start. 

If this isn’t possible (I.e. there is a set, common test for all students), try thinking about the lead up to the test. Are the students familiar with the success criteria? Have they had enough exposure to examples of what a quality response in the test may look like? Are they able to talk confidently about the learning and what is expected of them? Are they able to look at previous questions / test papers and go through how they may apply their learning to these?

After they’ve sat the test, don’t mark it and hand it back straight away. AfL is primarily about empowering the students as learners. I would give them a blank copy of the same test and ask them to identity questions that were easy, hard, or manageable (I use different coloured highlighters / pens for this). Then talk through in pairs where they have similar responses. This gives you really good info as a teacher where gaps may be occurring for your students. 

Then I would get them to peer mark the test. As a teacher, you could guide this process, provide model answers, act as a third pair of eyes for a student marker etc. Giving ownership to students of the learning and making them active participants in the classroom is key. I would probably get the person who the student had discussed where the student had struggled or found things easy to mark the test.

After this, I would suggest working towards some peer assessment. This is different from marking as the students need to evaluate the test information (which concepts or skills the students were able to deal with, where there are gaps etc.,) and then provide some feedback to each other. I would recommend using Hattie and Timperley’s questions: where am I going (how closely did I meet the learning goal), how am I going (feedback on strategies used, concepts or skills which are working) and where to next (new direction for learning, where the gaps need to be closed). 

Providing quality feedback to peers can be challenging for learners so some teachers guidance is key at this point. Using some sentence starters for peer feedback can be useful at this point.

Get the students to look at their peer marked and assessed work and reflect on their test. Was there correlation between things they found easy and what was correct? Or not? What does this tell them (and you) about how they are feeling about their competency at the moment?

Record the data from this test in your teacher markbook. I wouldn’t just record the final grade / percentage though. Find a way to record the student perception of their competence (at that point in time), the individual grades, groups of students who have gaps in the same areas, students who seem to be covering the key learning and finding it all easy. All of this information gives you some indication of where to go next as a teacher.

This is a suggested approach and makes some assumptions. I’ve assumed that the test is paper based, not online. If it is an online, computer-marked test another approach may be needed. The principles of AfL remain the same though, getting students actively involved in their learning so they can become self-regulated learners.

I hope that this helps in some way, please let me know how you are going with AfL.

I tried to touch on the principles of AfL and still keep things grounded at a practical level. And this is really important to me, knowing a theory and knowing what it may look like in practice are often different things. I have a clear theory for improvement coming through in my suggestion – share the locus of control with students, give them a chance to evaluate their own or someone else’s understandings of the concepts or mastery of the skills, and in doing so, students are more likely to be engaged as learners (which should lead to better outcomes for them). 

  
When I first moved toward an AfL pedagogy I felt a little hamstrung by the rigour of high-stakes assessment in senior secondary. By focusing on the principles of AfL, I found ways (and continue to find ways) to empower learners even when I couldn’t set the the assessment task myself (such as in NCEA exams). Assessment for Learning requires a shift of thinking for both students and teachers.

Guy Claxton – Teaching for intelligent mindsets

Teaching for intelligent mindsets: Auckland 15th March 2015

Teaching intelligence

Guy Claxton, King’s College London

 

  • Fixed mindset one of the most powerful brakes on intelligence.
  • We are trying to teach with the breaks on, no wonder it is a grind!
  • Intelligence is the word we give to our understanding of when the mind is working at full strength – as is creativity and wisdom
  • Intelligence characterised by times when we bring all of our resources together, we are firing on all cylinders, and we cope with situations that are complicated.
  • What is the mind like when it is at its best? Same for boys and girls?
  • Intelligence – understood in 19th – 20th cent by phrenology
  • What evidence do we use to justify judgements made by teachers about intelligence – gifted, struggling
  • Hierarchy of subjects – rational (maths etc.) at the top of the hierarchy and those involving the body (music, dance, drama, design) lower down the food chain
  • This preconception has been blown apart and is shattered by contemporary research (including Dweck).

New Kinds of Smart (Lucas and Claxton)

  • Intelligence is made up of a constellation of aspects of our minds
  • Composite, attitudinal, physical, distributed, social, expandable
  • Intelligence is distributed – not just a single person on their own, esp. if deprived from social tools. Yet we treat students as if their intelligence is their own possession.
  • Intelligence is the sum total of your habits of mind” prof Lauren Resnick
  • Intelligence as a jazz combo: plays off each other, plays sweetly, knows how to orchestrate itself.
  • Links to mindfulness, so important in a world that seems to inspire students to be distractible

Cognitive combo

  • Attention
  • Investigation
  • Imitation
  • Imagination
  • Experimentation
  • Reasoning
  • Reviewing

Attitudinal

Intelligence is powerfully expanded – and contracted – by mindsets, beliefs, attitudes and vulnerabilities”

Fixed mindsets like a computer virus – perverts functionality

Accelerators:

  • Growth mindset
  • Tolerance for uncertainty
  • Fair-mindedness
  • Empathy (perspectives)
  • Craftsmanship

Brakes:

  • Fixed mindset
  • Intolerance for uncertainty
  • My-side bias
  • Egocentricity
  • Approval

Are senior secondary teachers keen to preserve students’ ability to think on their feet – flounder intelligently.

  • Fair mindedness vs. my-side bias
  • Keith Stanovic (sp?) – Canadian researcher – found that high IQ may result in people developing more sophisticated versions of “my-side bias” (focusing on how to prove my perspective)
  • Roger Berger (Austin’s butterfly guy) Creativity emerges from having a go, reflection, having another go, reviewing, having another go etc.
  • Ability to accept suggestions from peers and see how he is bursting with pride when he creates a scientific rendition of a butterfly. Flies in the face (no pun intended) of usual process – product aspect of learning – true creativity comes from having goes at getting it right.

Physical

  • Importance of the body in intelligence – connecting body and mind
  • “The hand is the cutting edge of the mind” Jacob Bronowski
  • True creativity often stems from gesture, if ignored it can hamstring
  • Connections between cognitive performance and physical expression
  • Discusses how we feel and think through our heart, gut, skin, lungs, brain – the body as a connected being where intelligence/ thought happens

Distributed

“We make the world smart so we don’t have to be” – Andy Clark

  • it is person-plus-tools
  • deep in our genetic make up to be designers of tools to extend and develop our intelligence

Yes, we do group work but when stakes are high we expect students to work independently. This is so important regarding how we, as a whole, approach assessment.

Social

Intelligence is a social triumph – Phil Brown and Hugh Lauder

  • Two heads are better than one (sometimes)
  • Communities of practice
  • Social and digital learning
    • Personal learning networks

Sugatra Mitra’s hole in the wall – perfect e.g. of social aspect of intelligence

Expandable

All the instruments of the orchestra of intelligence improve with practice..

We can teach in a way that builds and broadens habits of mind

  • Resilience, imagination, empathy, resourcefulness, reasoning, craftsmanship, reflection, collaboration
  • Links to HPSS Habits and Values
  • The joy of the struggle – Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant when working on ‘The Office scripts’.

Build imagination by using language that encourages imaginative thinking. Move away from “is” language – fixed idea – i.e. the rainbow is red, yellow etc. – Is there actually red? Or is it “man-salmon” (a quote from Steve)

Instead but on “could be” language rather than “is” language…

Love the “empathy specs” to build and stretch empathetic thinking

Building reflection

  • Teachers should coach students to think like a reflective practitioner of learning – essential skill
  • Landau Forte College school in Darby – learning powered school (video clip, see if it is online…)
  • Learning how to learn
  • http://www.landau-forte.org.uk/

Intelligence is NOT Fixed

  • Children can become smarter – and so can we
  • Schools can aim to build learning agility /power / growth mindsets
  • Learning powered students do better academically
  • Why train children to be diligent clerks when we can help them become intelligent explorers?

It is our moral, ethical responsibility as teachers to build students’ intelligence – aims for a more advanced NZ – aspects of citizenship

Question from floor re assessment limiting intelligence

Response – it is up to us to build learning power in students. Not a matter of choosing assessment success or life long learning.

These questions about NCEA and summative, high-stakes assessment are frustrating me! This is another example of how teachers’ fixed mindsets about NCEA and assessment are creating barriers for our students…

 

Streaming

Currently similar in levels of achievement and performance (CLAPS!) – evident in athletics, sports etc.

Problem only comes when you insert the virus of labelling this as predicitive of performance expectations – interesting in terms of how we are using our e-AsTTle / OTJs

Carol Dweck – teaching for intelligent mindsets

I am very lucky today to be attending this amazing PL opportunity. Here are my unstructured notes. Photos to come…

Teaching for intelligent mindsets

Auckland 15th March 2015

Dr. Carol Dweck

  • Motivation – you never see an unmotivated baby! Babies are infinitely curious, yet many of the things we do turn kids into non-learners.
  • Too much emphasis on “gifted” and “talented”
  • When we foster “natural talent” we make kids feel infallible
  • Where are the kids who can take fb and coaching without it being a blow to their self-esteem?

Fixed and growth mindset

Fixed – search for perfection

Growth – intelligence can be developed.

Which mindset is correct?

  • Neoscience reinforces growth mindset through brain plasticity
  • Cogntive psychologists are isolating aspects of the brain and focusing on how to develop these.
  • Alfred Binet (IQ test designer) actually had an impressive growth mindset. Yet test is used to measure “talent” but his initiaul idea was as an assess tool to identify the students for whom public schools were failing them. Unfortunately, test design does not reflect its use.
  • Are mindsets all or nothing – not necessary, can have a mixed of fixed and growth in different areas (i.e sports, academics, within academic disciplines etc.)
  • When we feel that we are failing, we can fall into a fixed mindset!
  • Mindsets can be changed

Mindsets matter

Studies in students who are trying to enter med schools

Foxed just hope for best, growth actively involved in their learning (sorting out study groups, actively seeking feedback etc.)

All 10th graders Chile – the poorer students in Chile with growth mindsets were outperforming those who from wealthier homes with fixed mindsets. Growth mindset is powerful indicator for academic outcomes.

How do mindsets work?

Whole pscychological world for students which has different meaning.

  • Rule 1:
    • Fixed – look smart at all costs (but above all, NEVER LOOK DUMB)
    • Growth – learn at all costs ( why bother looking smart when you could be getting smarter)
  • Rule 2:
    • Fixed: effort is a bad thing, if you are smart, you shouldn’t need to try (i.e Homer Simpson – trying is the first step towards failure)
    • Growth – work hard, effort is the key. No-one accomplished anything great without great strategies and help from others.
  • WORST IDEA THAT ANYONE CAN HAVE IS THAT EFFORT DOES NOT LEAD TO
  • Rule 3:
  • Fixed – hide mistakes and deficiencies
  • Growth – confront mistakes and learn from them

Where does Mindsets come from?

Praise

Intelligence praise vs. Process praise

Studies on how mother’s talk to babies over time (babies, five years, seven years) thos who were praised with growth mindset (learning) outperformed those with fixed (are secondary schools trying to buck trend)

What to praise:

  • Struggle (only praising kids when they work hard is called nagging)
  • Strategies, choices
  • Choosing different tasks, making mistakes
  • Learning , improving

Growth is about appreciating strategies and choices that students are using –what strategies are working, which aren’t,

How we talk:

  • “Oh, you got an A without really working” – subtext for child effort not important
  • You did that so quickly – subtext rewards for speed

Challenge is interesting and worthwhile

  • Without working – A is nice but you must not be learning much
  • Quickly and easily – it must be boring for you, I’m sorry you’ve wasted your time. Lets do something you can learn from.

Importance of “Yet”

Not ok to say “I’m no good at…” need to retrain our language and semantics to use “I’m no good at … yet” (growth)

Students at school in Chicago use “not yet” as part of their assessment language – culture now of collecting and comparing “not yets” for growth – awesome, AfL in practice! Does B, P, A do this? Probably not, SOLO taxonomy may do? Not Achieved? Not yet achieved would allow for growth – help shift kids from performative to learning focused.

When is it too late for growth mindset training? Answer – NEVER!

Brain plasticity can be an avenue to shift mindsets about mindsets (very meta) – Herrmann’s Brain whole brain dominance at #HPSS developing this in our learners

Maybe an aspect of growth mindset is realising that you never really “have” it – not binary fixed or growth but recognising that situations alter the degree to which we have it.

Consider rock star new teachers – give up when times are tough. Need networks of support for new teachers (and all teachers) to develop their growth mindsets. Story of struggling teacher who persevered with growth mindset by filming and watching self daily to improve. Saw her struggle as “the worst she was ever going to be”. She got there in the end.

Can an organisation have a mindset?

In short, yes! People within the org agree with each other, values either fixed or growth mindset. This applies to schools as well. Are you in a school that worships fixed talent in students and teachers? Or fosters growth? Sense of ako for all akonga.

Fixed – teachers in competition with each other. Growth – teachers collaborate and share.

Growth orgs have more creativity and innovation going on.

Growth mindset and assessment

Formal assessments came about for a reason but their prevalence is killing the joy of teaching and learning. Oh dear…

Culture that celebrates failure – i.e. failure videos, fail blog – detrimental to growth mindsets as an aspect of citizenship?

Professional reading February 2015

This is what I am currently wading through / have recently read/ re-reading old favourites. Lots of this is to do with the PLD leadership and assessment contract that I’m lucky enough to be facilitating this year or part of my leadership role at HPSS.

Clarity in the classroom by Michael Absolum
Formative assessment in the secondary classroom by Shirley Clarke
Weaving Evidence, inquiry and standards to build better schools ed. By Helen Timperley and Judy Parr
Student-centred leadership by Viviane Robinson
Problem-based methodology by Vivane Robinson
Quality Teaching for Diverse Students in Schooling: Best Evidence synthesis
Lead with Wisdom by Mark Strom
Theory in Practice: improving professional effectivenessh by Chris Argyris and Donald Schön
Assessment for Learning: putting it into practice by Paul Black, Christine Harrison, Clare Lee, Bethan Marshall, Dylan Wiliam

I love seeing the overlap between these texts. Will blog more shortly.

#edchatnz Conference – my reflection blog

I love that there is a blogging meme going around – it is awesome. Here are my brief, yet well considered responses…

1. How did you attend the #edchatnz conference (face 2 face, followed online or didn’t)?

I was lucky enough to have the inaugural #edchatNZ conference at my lovely school, Hobsonville Point Secondary School. I was teaching, and therefore part of the conference on Friday, and totally F2F on Saturday.

2.  How many others attended from your school or organisation?

All! And several from my other organisation, NZQA – Steve and Alan as my former NZQA ‘bosses’!

3. How many #edchatnz challenges did you complete?

Hardly any! Maybe two. I helped @michaelcentrino with some Twitter stuff and was in the Taheretikitiki Learning Community Selfie

4. Who are 3 people that you connected with and what did you learn from them?

  • @pamhook – I have had the pleasure of working with Pam before but we had a lovely, critical discussion about the perils of a new school and SOLO taxonomy – these are unconnected ideas! – and I continued to be awed by her.
  • @Melmoore – I felt that I met Mel properly at the end of the conference and it was awesome to connect with someone who has similar ideas about assessment and how it can empower students. I know that we can connect online, which is just as good.
  • @marywoomble – great to be sitting in the same workshop and realise that we are retweeting each other – great minds think alike! Again, more time together could have been awesome and I’m looking forward to the possibilities presented through our #socscichatNZ

5. What session are you gutted that you missed?

– I would have loved to have been able to attend the political debate that @claireamos chaired. I was teaching, which was really cool as well (don’t get me wrong), but it would have been great to have been able to take students along to this as well. Luckily we are having our own political debate next week (student led) with local politicans but I won’t be there.

6. Who is one person that you would like to have taken to Edchatnz and what thing would they have learnt?

I would have loved to have my old principal and friend Vicki Barrie there as she is so keen on being innovative in education. Unfortunately she is currently working towards her masters so (rightly so) was busy over the weekend. I would have also loved for some of my fellow Classics teachers to be there – notably Paul Artus!

7. Is there a person you didn’t get to meet/chat with (F2F/online) that you wished you had? Why?

As I teaching on Friday, I felt that I didn’t meet heaps of people I wanted to meet/chat with. While we met, I wanted to hear more from Sonya (@vanschaijik) as I love a lot of what she is doing online. I really enjoyed by brief conversation with Red (@rednz) – want to connect more with him online, wickedly funny guy!

8. What’s the next book you are going to read and why?

I purchased The Falconer by Grant Licthman when I realised that everyone else in my office has already read it/ only have an electronic copy. I’ve got a long haul flight on Friday so it may be my reading there. I am also about to read “Lead with Wisdom: How Wisdom Transforms Good Leaders into Great Leaders” by Mark Strom. I purchased this in a bookdepository shopping spree and love that it seems to be a mix of leadership and philosophy.

9. What is one thing you plan to do to continue the Education Revolution you learnt about at #EdchatNZ?

Get more teachers on Twitter! As president of my subject association I feel that my role is to provide links for people and Twitter is a connection to the wider educational sphere. Watch this space!

10. Will you take a risk and hand your students a blank canvas?

Yes! Absolutely!!! I do this all the time and while it is not a nice feeling at time, a smidge uncomfortable, it is what we need to do. However, we need to be there to support them.