Friday, 13 November 2015

Student Assessments and Rethinking Assessment

Have been part of two student's assessment projects this week and helped countless others in the library during study leave and it has honestly reminded me to open my eyes as to how assessment is offered, tasks given and co-construction needed.

Too often we lay down the challenge - eg: the Task. Whether it's Building Bridges, Party in the Car or Before and After... we need to remember what the standard is. If it meets the standard - it passes. If it doesn't meet the task but does meet the standard - shouldn't it still be worthy of passing? I think so.

I was helping a couple of students with their close viewing assessment (1.11) this week. They've since begun their writing on a Google Doc and have both shared their work with me and with each other now as they've just told me - tuakana/teina - and I reminded them that their settings for each other as it is for me should be Comment - so that when I print out the revision changes I can see that they've only commented with suggestions and not edited the other's work.

Anyway - during that session where we were planning out their work I was watching a student who was sorting out her static image. Over the two hours it changed from searching an image related to the three finger'd salute that Katniss does to the people in 'The Hunger Games', finding a suitable image to modify and adapt (it was a really cool golden salute with an arrow through it and a golden circle encompassing the image), finding a suitable quote which she tried different fonts out on to see which one would be suitable enough and effective, colours for her font to stand out from the golden image and the black background, figuring out how to best cover the artists' signature/watermark (let's leave the intellectual appropriation talk for another time...), and finally thinking about the layout and where the quote should go. I offered help a couple of times and at first she didn't want a bar of it. I was a strange teacher to her and she didn't like that I'd pronounced her name wrong the first time I said it, and she also didn't like that I was watching this creation of hers because she was embarrassed of others seeing her work.

What I loved about this though was how incredibly growth mindset she was. She came against failure after failure, found solutions to her issues and kept working on her piece of work. She adapted her original idea because she knew she couldn't just use an image from the film. When she finally finished figuring out how to hide the artist's watermark she looked around to see someone she could celebrate with. She'd taken my idea of using the textbox to fill it in anyway and adapted it by using some kind of clipper to clip part of the golden circle and part of the black background to cover the artist's mark and finally got it in the right place and literally fist pumped the air. I was so proud of this random student in that moment and I told her how cool it looked. She gave me that look. Haha. Still not impressed.

Not long after she got told by one of our amazingly hardworking teacher aides that it wouldn't be accepted by her teacher because it wasn't hand drawn. The look on that student would have mirrored the feeling in my heart and gut at that point. I was so frustrated and annoyed because this girl had worked so so hard to get this piece of work completed. If she'd been in my class I would have given her a Merit or Excellence right there and then. The idea was incredibly clever and the message clear. I spoke up at that point and said that that's ridiculous because we get our students to use digital tools to create their work, especially at Y12 for their visual verbal assessment. We've had digitally made static images in the past and they were fine. It's frustrating because she shouldn't be disadvantaged because of the supposed expectations of her teacher wanting their static images hand drawn.

I asked if she would give me a copy and eventually sat down with me where I told her just how seriously beautiful I thought her image was. I made sure to tell her how proud I was of her that she'd tried and failed and tried again and that that kind of determination was awesome and that she should be proud of herself too. Eventually she did look me in the eye and eventually smiled too. A complete flip to her original behaviour.

Not long after she grudgingly went and copied the image by drawing over it on the window with a new piece of paper. It wasn't as solid of a circle or clear image as she'd wanted and her friend helped her to fix it up a bit.

When I went back later on that day I saw the nearly finished document she'd created - and while it does look pretty cool with the layered paper and still clear image - she will be marked down because of her drawing ability (not that we'd ever say that though..) and her slightly off cutting skills on the quote.

Regardless - the task she was given was to create an image where she showed a message through using visual and verbal techniques. She had a crafted and controlled piece of work that would have been worthy to put into a visual verbal assessment in y12 but was told by a helpful and forward thinking teacher aide, warning her that it wouldn't be accepted because it wasn't handdrawn.

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The second student - needed me to do a interview for him - it's a unit standard that I'm totally unfamiliar with but agreed to help as he's one of my students anyway and also because I'd originally asked him whether I could watch him present his speech. He'd originally said no. But this interview assessment I was asked to help with and I'm so stoked I did.

He had two of his mates interact with him, in two group interviews and in one that was one-on-one. I was incredibly proud of him and held back the tears. He was showing just how interested he was in three topics - volleyball, youtube, and Call of Duty - and it was awesome to see such focus and attentive behaviour to him about topics he truly adored.

I did not previously know about how knowledgeable he was in these three topics and the length and breadth he went into discussing these were truly impressive.

So so proud of him and these two boys who helped him, with brilliant questioning skills to boot. So so cool.

It reminded me that I need to think about how I do speech assessments. I'd love to do a TedTalk instead of a conventional speech which is the task we expect..

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I seriously think we need to rethink how we assess our students. We should be giving them opportunities to show their learning in a way that is relevant to them and that shows off their skills. We can't every student to do the same task the same way. We aren't in the industrial age anymore. We don't want students rolling out of a factory who can think, act, speak and do things the same way anymore. More importantly, we need to be aware of what our preconcieved notions and expectations do to a student's creativity and innovation.