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Questions about learning progress

The assessment for learning process requires the teacher and student to monitor and reflect on the student’s learning progress.  Learning Intentions help establish the shared understanding of the learning that is happening in any lesson. 

Using these learning intentions and the related success criteria students could ask themselves the following questions:

  • What am I trying to learn?
  • Why is this important to learn?
    • How does this learning link to previous learning and key science concepts? How does it contribute to meeting stated success criteria for this unit?
    • How could this learning be useful in other subjects or life outside school? (For example, learning to evaluate sources of online information could help me research other subjects and make informed decisions in my life. Investigating local waterways and the water quality of locations where kai such as watercress is collected could improve the health of local communities.)
    • What gap in my knowledge is this learning addressing?
  • How well have I learnt it?
    • What do I now know, understand, or do?
    • Can I recognise accurate work and correct mistakes?
    • Can I apply this learning to different situations?
    • Could I explain or teach the concepts I have learnt to another person?
    • Have I achieved all of the criteria for success for this learning?
  • How do I know what I have understood or can now do?
    • Have I checked my work against the assessment criteria and exemplars? Has my work been assessed by my peers?
    • Have I submitted my draft work to my teacher for interim feedback?
    • Have I used my new skills and knowledge in different situations, such as when doing homework, sitting a test, or in life outside school?
  • What strategies have I used to promote my learning? (In other words, what do I do when I don’t know what to do?)
    • When I encounter a problem, do I try to pinpoint it? (For example, I might describe what I do know and where I have got stuck.)
    • Have I referred to notes, success criteria, or a worked model to try to solve issues independently?
    • Have I used feedback from previous work to focus on gaps in my learning?

Establishing next learning steps

Assessing the learning achieved by students is an ongoing process to help teachers and students establish the direction for future learning by recognising both successful learning and learning gaps.  Much of this is done by teachers as part of their daily practice where they identify through classroom conversations and activities the needs of their individual learners.

The teacher brings an understanding of progression in learning within a curriculum area, while the student takes responsibility for their learning.  Both need to appreciate that progression is not always linear; students will need support to build on their strengths and identify learning steps that are challenging yet achievable.

Innovative summative assessment tasks

The primary purpose of assessment is to improve students' learning and teachers' teaching as both student and teacher respond to the information that it provides.

(New Zealand Curriculum, 2007, p. 39)

Consideration of the assessment tasks to use to collect data to identify next step learning in science should ensure the assessment addresses the six characteristics of effective assessment identified in the curriculum (NZC p.40).  Using these criteria should ensure the most appropriate tasks are used and that both students and teachers will benefit from the assessment.  Where possible formative assessment approaches should be used alongside tasks to provide assessment data to benefit students and support their learning.

  • For example, a microscope task involving producing a scale diagram of a leaf cross section can be used to assess student understanding of biological drawing practices, but also provides evidence of student understanding of leaf structure and function if appropriate questions are included.  Teacher written feedback on the drawings could identify next step learning for the student on both aspects.

Effective teachers:

  • use a range of formal and informal assessments to help students identify their prior knowledge and knowledge gaps
  • monitor their learning progress (co-constructed or self-monitored)
  • determine what they need to do next to further their learning.

While summative assessment tasks can be used formatively to support better learning, innovative internal assessments collect a more representative sample of evidence of learning.

Innovative assessment tasks give students the opportunity to demonstrate their best work and minimise the impact of arbitrary time constraints.

Innovative assessment tasks may require students to:

  • complete a task as a group, compiling an individual reflective journal to record their explanation of the process and the outcome of the shared work
  • create annotated portfolios (possibly e-portfolios) of their work
    • The annotations record students’ own reflections on their learning and are linked to learning intentions and specific achievement criteria for a lesson or unit. See Nick Rate’s EDtalk on using digital portfolios to support effective pedagogy and formative assessment.
  • choose how they will demonstrate their learning
    • Rather than sitting a written test, students could decide to give an oral presentation, create an assessment task with a marking schedule, teach a group of students, or design and create a web page, slide show, video, or poster.

Students do not necessarily have to do a formal assessment task to demonstrate their understanding of big ideas or their competency in terms of Nature of Science. Their understanding will reveal itself in their everyday responses to worthwhile learning tasks/activities.

Teachers will also collect information about how students learn, what they know and are able to do, and what interests them in the course of regular classroom activity. In this way, they find out what is working and what is not, and are able to make informed teaching and learning decisions.

References

Clegg, K. (2006). “Innovative approaches to assessment”. In Innovative Assessment in Higher Education, ed. C. Bryan and K. Clegg. London: Taylor and Francis.

Ministerial Working Party on Assessment for Better Learning (1990). Tomorrows Standards. Wellington: Learning Media.

Ministry of Education (2011). Ministry of Education Position Paper: Assessment. Wellington: Learning Media.

Last updated August 10, 2015



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