Assessment for, of, and as Learning
A number of years ago I had the opportunity of being a lead teacher involved with an AISI project revolving around Formative and Summative Assessment. Now that I am a Learning Coach, I have the opportunity to go into classrooms to observe and reflect on the ways which teachers assess their students (both formatively and summatively) and then have discussions with teachers related to how these assessments help to move the student learning forward. Because of this, I decided to re-read a book, Leading the Way to Making Classroom Assessment Work, by Anne Davies and look at it through the lens of a Learning Coach. I came across a section which had some good questions for Learning Coaches to ask of their teachers in order to support them. Davies also suggests a Coach can support classroom teachers by asking them to reflect on what they already know and what they would like to learn more about, and by finding ways to share those key ideas. She recommends using Making Classroom Assessment Work as a springboard for engaging adult learners in conversation about classroom assessment. Some of the questions she has posed are:
What are all the possible ways for students to show what they know?
How do you learn best? How do your students learn?
What helps you remember? What helps your students remember?
What kind of feedback helps your learning? What kind of feedback works for your students?
Davies cites many pieces of research which state that students learn best when they are more involved in their learning and assessments. Student self-assessments help teachers design instruction to better meet the needs of learners (Anthony, Johnson, Mickelson & Preece 1991; et al.) Learning Coaches need to know how to support teachers in increasing their craft knowledge regarding assessment (Davies).
Much of this is reinforced in UDL. Universal Design for Learning is good teaching! Every teacher wants their students to learn and grow. Universal Design for Learning guides teachers in their planning which, in turn, helps their students to learn better.
UDL is a process which is broken down into three guidelines which provide multiple means of: Representation; Action and Expression; and Engagement.
The 3 principles are:
to support recognition learning -to provide multiple means of representation -offer flexible ways to present what we teach.
to support strategic learning – provide multiple means of action and expression – flexible options for how we learn and express what we know
to support affective learning – provide multiple means of engagement – flexible options for generating and sustaining motivation, the why of learning.
Teachers need to get to know their students well so that they can develop activities and lessons that allow their students to express their understanding in ways that use the learning style that works best for them. As a Learning Coach, I have had the opportunity to teach lessons for teachers while they observe their students’ learning styles so that they can then develop lessons which will more effectively support student learning in their classroom.
Of course there are activities that center on a specific learning style, however, that does not mean that all teaching of objectives should be presented in the same manner. Research states that approximately 65% to 70% of our population are visual learners, 25 to 30% are auditory learners while 5% are kinesthetic learners. Classes are made up of all three types of learners and these students need to have concepts presented in several ways in order for them to understand the objectives being taught. It takes 7 to 10 times of learning a new concept for it to be retained, so presenting the concept several different ways helps to support that retention. The teacher who reflects upon their own learning style and how they had been taught while they were in school will recognize the importance of presenting information in several different ways.
Sometimes teachers have to adapt programming and may have to teach outcomes from previous years in order for their student to develop skills and acquire knowledge which may have been missed. This is part of UDL … being flexible in the student’s development by making sure that the teacher is starting the student at their point of learning.
Flexibility is important in teaching because our students are individuals who come to us will many different needs that we as teachers need to meet – there is no average student. Pre-assessment is crucial to help teachers to identify the needs of their students and then plan accordingly. Having students recognize their style of learning is also valuable. If the teacher only allows one way of doing things, it is stifling student learning. If students know they are going to have success, they are more likely to be engaged. “UDL reduces barriers in instruction, provides appropriate accommodations, supports and challenges, along with maintaining high expectations for all.” Yes, it does mean that teachers should be planning more thoughtfully, but planning and refining of a final project can often be done with the students when developing criteria for an assignment. Asking your students what kind of project would best express their learning also develops their critical thinking skills — “How can you show me your understanding of this topic?” Allowing students to submit summative responses that use technology, creativity, linear thought, or speaking, shows our students that we understand their needs.This is not always easy to do. Being flexible in your teaching is important!