As term one approaches its end and I meet daily with students and parents to review their progress and generate report cards, I am plagued with an uncomfortable feeling associated with the “power” of assessment. I have stated clearly to my families that, together, we are generating the report card, and for the first time we will not be assigning grades. Comments are generated based on work samples, observation and interviews and progress (or lack thereof) is noted. Coming from a special ed background where I have always used a performance scale (NYM, AP, MM, M, EX) to compare students progress towards individualized goals, I find the process adequate and fitting for where each individual student is at. The marks that were sometimes generated “out of thin air” in the past were arbitrary and irrelevant because they did not help move students forward. Now, I can be specific about the behaviours that show effort and work that shows progress and can offer critical feedback about what needs to change to improve both. Without criteria, or standards of achievement, it is near impossible to determine the “grade”, though criteria and expectations still need to be generated and known for growth and development. If students are working individually on their goals, as is in our blended learning environment, knowing expectations and learning then it just makes sense to monitor progress, and report out with comments.
Formative assessment is critical however, as students move towards achieving learning goals. Without feedback, it is impossible to know if you are on the right track and if you are making progress. As I have progressed through this course, I have very much appreciated the feedback from Mary and have hopefully improved my work with her guidance. As I spent the weekend working towards completing the final project, I was consumed with the responsibility (and feelings of lack of ability) of figuring out how I was going to assess my unit work. I have not had much experience creating units from scratch and have found the responsibility of assessment – trying to create lessons that are worthwhile and meaningful, look at establishing clear criteria, and then eventually being tasked with assessment, to be a big one. Authentic assessment is important. Clear guidance along the learning path is crucial. I often wonder what makes me “the expert”, and if the way I assess is adequate. Using the new curriculum in BC as a guide, I am relieved to see ideas reflected in the work I am asking my students to do. Now I need to figure out how to assess it properly.
As I continue to struggle with the concept of authentic assessment, I look to the work of my colleagues, and examples of assessment around me. I appreciate the support I receive from families in the workplace who value my feedback, and are grateful that we are not assigning “marks” this year. I believe in honesty, hard work and commitment to learning and know that when my students display this they move forward. My work on my final project continues today, and I hope that as I continue to struggle with parts of the assignment, my perseverance, inquiry and hard work will also show my learning path in the end. I look forward to my own summative assessment feedback and know it will help me progress as an online teacher/learner.