As the new school year is underway, I’m teaching at a new school, I’m teaching in a new system (Hello UK system), and I’ve been starting my class on Electronic assessment, with all of this going on it is fair to say that assessment’s in a general, and specific, form have been on my mind. As I am trying to be more reflective and take a more critical view at my teaching practices I am left today thinking about how I utilize assessments in my teaching and how I could better accomplish this important, albeit often underappreciated, task.
Within my current practice I am specifically thinking about how to apply a more individualized approach, and with this comes many challenges (pacing techniques, accountability maintenance, class structure and work for students currently in different areas of curriculum, high quality/impact teaching, etc.) but for today I want to simply focus on the assessment aspect of this challenge. When students are using a more individualized learning approach, and therefore on different areas or different levels of a curriculum it can make assessing, on an on-going and small unit scale, more challenging and requires greater proactiveness, because you can’t just pick a Friday to have a quiz, exam, presentation, project, etc. because everyone will be working on different things, but you also want to ensure that students are meeting the standards and learning objectives that you have for them (whether specific individualized learning targets or standardized content area objectives).
With these issues in mind my assessment needs to be something that is individualized for any specific student and their targets, able to be applied without utilizing a common class time that requires everyone to be working on it, meets the high standards of assessing a students true knowledge, prepares the student to be able to utilize this knowledge for formalized testing (GCSE and 6th Form), but is applicable for the student in the real world still (and a nice addition would be to have the students enjoy it still!).
Now this seems very challenging as it is vague, and overarching, and so to help me get this started it would likely help to focus this on one specific objective within my upcoming term. So to do this I will focus specifically on creating an assessment of learning for the comprehension of atomic structure and with secondary a secondary assessment FOR learning of the periodic table. I would like to test the theoretical and application of knowledge surrounding atomic structure allowing students to answer higher Blooms Taxonomy level questions, and demonstrate their knowledge through application of this knowledge in an electronic assessment.
I will name this assessment the Mad Alchemist, and will involve students following through directions to “apprentice” as a chemist and learn how to measure, differentiate, explain, and create various atoms (varying elements and isotopes). The way this will differentiate (this is me hoping I can figure out how to do this with technology) will be if a student gets correct answers for different learning objectives they get more challenging questions for that learning objective, but if they get it incorrect they are given similar or easier questions until a full understanding of their scope of knowledge is in all given learning outcomes. After the “apprenticeship” has been achieved they will then be challenged to apply this knowledge to “save the world from the alchemists plan of destruction” where they will have collaborative problems they will work on with partners or small groups that stretch their knowledge and require teamwork. This will happen by requiring multiple tasks to be done concurrently, or tasks that require multiple individual participation to achieve one task. This final stage would require them to use outside resources and serve as an extension, and help students apply their knowledge to real world situations.
The instructions for this would be straight forwards and as follows. “Please collect a tablet (or computer, or use your phone, this depends on creation of the digital assessment and the availability of ICT at the school), and open up the Mad Alchemist assessment. This will be an individual test but you will be working in a group for part of it. You will not be assessed on your partner(s) work but will be assessed on how well you work in a group setting. Throughout the exam you will be given more challenging questions as you get questions correct, and easier questions when you find areas you struggle with. You will all be given different questions, so looking at your neighbor or speaking will not help you for this exam, but to help everyone have the best chance for success, we will be following our essential agreement and not speaking or causing any disturbances. Throughout the exam you will be asked about various elements, you have the option to open a periodic table, but this will deduct points from your periodic table score every time you do this, but opening the table and being correct is better than being wrong as your score will be impacted greater by being incorrect about an element. When you get to the challenge at the end that requires a partner please go to the back part of the room and wait for a classmate to join you. You won’t be waiting for your best friend but will be working with the first person who joins you. For the challenge portion you are able to use any resources at your disposal, you are able to speak, and you should use each others strengths to be successful, my only stipulation is to remain respectful of those who are still working on the individual portion of the test. When you finish your test please return your (tablet, computer, etc.) to where you collected it and you can XXXXXXX (follow on instructions to start next unit of learning or complete work). Good luck, and if you need any help please raise your hand and I will come help you.”
This is a very challenging feat in developing this assessment, and I have the exact idea in my mind, but making this a reality will be highly difficult. I would need to have software that is able to assess questions and give differentiated responses to completion (successful versus failure), I would need the software to assess to a varying level (based on success rate) to determine when to move on from a learning objective, and I would need to create the entire software (game) that goes through the storyline. This task would be very time consuming and technologically demanding, so a starting point may have to be a variation that is lower level than described. One task that would be necessary to successfully assess a student in this way would be to ensure my instruction allows time for students to apply their knowledge the way it is assessed (similar method or with an understanding of what is expected).
So now I am going to start working on this (gulp!) and I would love any thoughts or assistance from anyone who has ideas for this. Thanks!