A child’s progress – the child’s learning story in a school as she/he progresses from one grade to another is often defined by a report card that documents the child’s ‘performance’ evaluated year on year.
Different pedagogical approaches offer a variety of strategies to assess the learning outcomes and skills-check. The lockdown times and its subsequent continuous virtual learning has created a bit of disruption in the way we will be thinking of evaluating children’s progress. Virtual Engagements despite the resistance from many, is emerging as the only option to continuous learning that normalises a children’s academic journey for the year, which many educators have admitted is critical as we are unsure and uncertain of when schools will re-open.
Virtual Engagements, remote learning, online education, whichever name you define it by, is education that continues in virtual world with its balance on screen time and a distinct changed approach – it is a fact, the physical and virtual world require an shift in the way we teach. And if the way we teach, quantum of what we teach, timing of each engagement changes, there is a strong case for what we are evaluating when we hit the quarter one milestones. 2, 3, 4 – the frequency is dependent on the academic board or the school’s internal working, what’s important is the format of this evaluation.
So let’s get some facts out of the way. A new learning architecture that allows for personalisation and differentiation, edtech provides effective ways to teach and deliver content, and focus on developing skills that are really critical as we think about 22nd century application. For me personally, this platform brings to the front a new wave for assessing and probing ‘deeper’ into a child’s world – working out engagement levels, attitude to learning, personal goals and targets and working with the individual child’s potential which is the real take-away. The standardised assessments may continue for many, but the flexibility of the digital platform gives us opportunities to ‘track’ every child’s learning story in a hope to build more success.
There are many who work with digitised assessments completely, and using the online testing, are able to set question papers, using algorithms to grade responses and monitor performances. This part is the easy bit. Technology will create platforms and versions that allow you to work with LOTS and HOTS, MCQs and descriptive answers, reduce human error when correcting, and also increase speed in submitting the grades in a manner that is far more efficient that we ever imagined. Reduced time to set up the exam rooms; formulate, format and print and store question papers, monitor the children taking exams and yes, they have worked out how to ‘track’ the cheating Toms! Retakes are possible as well!
That for me, like I said before is the easy part. Several organisations have this in existence, and several schools have been using this.
This for me represents a child’s output in a time bound way, and subsequent ‘marks’ to define this performance.
Is it really checking for a child’s learning?
The narrative that I hope changes is this fixation of subject mark performance and emphasis on attitude, skills and effort.
Assuming we work with 36 weeks from the 52 weeks we have in a year to ‘teach’, then every month can lead to a ‘culmination’ of the understanding for all that is ‘taught’ and this could be in the form of projects, debates, discussions, case studies, events, research papers, book reviews, quizzes, competitions while the daily and weekly can focus on capturing attitude to learning, participation, enthusiasm and initiative, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity given that our teaching can become a lot more personalised and direct on line. And we can ‘track’ this as this bit is now ‘stored’ for us to view later. We can always go back and review the tape, we can schedule break-away sessions to understand what happened that particular day with the kid etc
I may have overwhelmed you with the last para, and you are probably thinking I am pushing for more ‘testing’ and evaluations and this would add more pressure on the students and that’s when I want to remind you that when changing the narrative, I was hoping to make it less threatening for the children. Instead of the standard class tests, once I have pre decided my groups in a class, based on a learning level, my ‘culmination’ task may vary depending on the child’s ability. So I customise the format with an eye on building motivation and success.
I have watched in awe, how some students enjoy class tests, some on the other hand want to present their thoughts, and some want to build on projects to express. Here’s our chance to change the narrative and motivate these children. We can create those SWOTS basis of these formats, and then work at improving areas and using the strengths to go deeper into a concept.
Yes we can continue with our ‘pen-and-paper’ type of online assessment, and we should because the academic boards require this standardisation but by adding the innovations, and frequently ‘checking’ in on a child’s level, we can alter our teaching and ‘resolve’ those misunderstandings or build on certain skills so the next time a child is evaluated we have built in a solution. And the child does better.
This requires more effort, more independence on part of the child, more accountability, more communication with parents to explain this ‘new normal’ (oh my lord you say, they have just about accepted the online education is education?), more creativity in coming up with ways and means to assess and importantly, smaller ‘checks’ like this will make sure that every child is mindful of the learning and we do with a deeper understanding of concepts and make it more life long! Remember in this narrative, we include life skills and socio emotional learning, we include all the co-curricular subjects as well!
I also think it is time we start demonstrating the 4 C’s that we speak about – Communication, Critical Thinking, Collaboration and Creativity in ways that truly are impactful.
And this is possible.
At ACE, we have customised this approach to a child’s learning story in several schools and are inspired by how the children are more motivated and committed to the personal and academic goals they set themselves and independently track this via the format of continuous evaluation.
It surely isn’t easy, and it works only if the teachers invest in research and development and are willing to collaborate. But it is time to create that disruption. For too long we have spoken about this and not done enough to be a part of the solution that we all wanted. Here’s our chance. To change the way we think, and that will help build a more dynamic future.
For more information about how to do this, and personalise workshops for your schools, write to firstname.lastname@example.org