Week 3.2: Digital Assessment

Let me preface this by saying that I have a deep appreciation of every teacher who uses digital formative assessment in order to “expedite their ability to provide student feedback in real-time” (Nu-man and Porter) – I’ve never found that digital tools expedite my formative assessment process, it expedites the feedback my students offer each other and creates new opportunities for summative assessment.  

I should probably inform on my context before going further: I teach a grade 7/8 split, 30 students in total.

So, I have this problem with formative assessment technologies: I know what they are and how to use them, but I very rarely do because I find that the majority of my formative work comes from conversations with students.  I’ll start with math, I do not use paper and the tech I do use are tools that enhance the concrete learning experience; for example: great math tool and calculators. My room is covered in whiteboards, and by the end of September every scrap of my floor has been covered in math (and poetry).   My regular lesson structure is 10 minute group teaching, and then the rest is guided inquiry through small student groups (3 students in a group max). We emphasis problem solving, listen to Disney soundtracks, and most days Math lasts for two to three hours.

For the majority of my other subjects, I focus on project based assessments wherein I typically utilize a program that students will keep track of their progress, be able to present it on-the-fly, and I can offer quick feedback through conferences.  Even when we went online, I scheduled conferences via zoom to check in and ran my formative work that way. 

What are my epistemological beliefs and assessment values?  I’ve always been drawn to story – the qualitative aspect of teaching.  I understand that assessment websites develop engagement, but I’ve never been a 5 minute fill out a quiz kind of learner.  I utilize programs like Kahoot, but my questions are frequently outrageously sarcastic and have very little do with the content because a) I don’t rely on the kahoot to tell me where they are at and b) I find that my students couldn’t care less about a digital assessment that asks them authentic learning questions because they are going to randomly click anyway.  

An example of how my own Kahoots amuse me.
They just randomly click anyway.

Thomas (2019) in her article writes: “No matter which tools you select, make time to do your own reflection to ensure that you’re only assessing the content and not getting lost in the assessment fog”. There are so many options out there and they do a variety of things which is wonderful, but there has never been a time where I have purposefully chosen a formative digital assessment over having a conversation with a student one-to-one.  

Now, all that being said I will return to my previous statement about the expediency of students offering each other feedback.  In my class before any piece of written work is submitted, it must undergo 5 edits, and 5 revisions (editing is for mechanical errors while revision is for thematic and conceptual conversations).  This may sound like a substantial amount, but by December my students get upset if I do not allow time for these discussions.  Technology has streamlined this process because they can comment and edit through whatever productivity tool that they utilize – if even a choice though they would still prefer to sit in a small group and converse face-to-face (or via zoom).  In the future, I would like to partner with a separate school and assign feedback groups that way so that perhaps it is more meaningful to use the commenting and editing features that way. 

Sometimes I feel like there are just too many options, and they all basically do the same thing. In order to combat the constant evolving flow of technical possibilities, I tell my students that if there is a different method of product or process they want to create, they just have to tell me.  I find students are better at finding ways of digitally representing their knowledge than I am.  

I love technology and I love having my students utilize it, but I’ve never been able to build a relationship through a digital formative assessment the same way I have in performative and conversational assessment through story.

6 thoughts on “Week 3.2: Digital Assessment

  1. Wow, your math program sounds really interesting and unique. Whereabouts do you teach? Do you have any pushback to get more time for the other subject areas as well? It sounds like you have a good grasp on assessment in math and that the students enjoy your processes and your philosophies. Do you have a video or outline that you can share of how this works? I would love to see it in action.

    I too agree when you talked about there just being too many options. In elementary schooling, I think that assessment practices and tools are always changing, getting implemented or adopted, then thrown out just as fast, and changed again, that often I feel like we have tried so many and haven’t stuck with any long enough to really use any to their true potential. That being said, I think that is a top-down thing, where the division makes decisions and implements them without much teacher input, focus groups, trials, etc. Assessment practices can be so limiting and tiring, and it seems like everyone in our school, let alone division is doing different things. Great, but where is the consistency and professional learning? Great ideas, I loved reading your post.

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    • Thank you for the questions and interest in my math class! I teach in a small town (Caronport, SK). I don’t get any pushback from anyone, but I presume this is because I am still hitting all my outcomes (and indicators in math, super important that ALL indicators are hit). Although it’s long, this https://youtu.be/gWHidmhVk9c gives a pretty good example as to the structure of my class. Peter Liljedahl https://www.peterliljedahl.com/btc) is one of the primary scholars on this concept.

      I think the problem with a top-down approach is that it has a tendency of taking away freedom from educators and everyone grumbles when they lose freedom, but I think you are totally right in the solution – consistency and professional development.

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  2. Daniel, I agree with how you described that the conversations that you have with students are so important. When researching GoFormative many highlights included the importance of providing real-time formative feedback to students, you can see on your screen if students are correct or incorrect. For face-to-face learning, to me, this seemed so weird. Why would I sit and stare at a screen when I could be interacting with my students to understand their level of understanding?
    I also agree with your description of Kahoot!, I would never use it for formative assessment as my students are more worried about getting the most points by clicking quickly as opposed to answering the questions correctly. I love how you incorporate Disney soundtracks into your teaching, sounds like a fun place to learn!

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  3. Daniel,
    Your math structure sounds wonderful! I especially love that you listen to Disney music!:)
    It is not always easy implementing new tools in our classroom. I believe we need professional development around these tools in order to use them effectively. I agree with you that there is nothing like a one-on-one, face-to-face conversation to really gage where a student is at.
    Thank you for sharing!
    Christina

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  4. Daniel, thank-you so much for sharing how you structure your daily math in the classroom. Hearing these lived experiences that are different from the norm allows my imagination to believe that it is actually is possible to teach math outcomes in way that is different from what I was taught as a child. I very much appreciate how you incorporate so much peer edits on projects. This truly allows students to compare, contrast, revise and work collaboratively before submitting the final product. This is something that we as teachers do on a regular basis. Why shouldn’t we be supporting this in our classrooms more often. The answers should not be a hidden secret for only certain students to obtain. I will definitely be making a note saying that “I’ve never been able to build a relationship through a digital formative assessment the same way I have in performative and conversational assessment through story.” This is so powerful because without relationship and a sense of belonging the classroom will never be the same without it.

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  5. Daniel, thank you for sharing your thoughts around choosing/not choosing assessment technologies. This is a conversation we had in our group in preparing for the presentation. Your statement about having many options but never having a time where you have chosen digital assessment over a conversation with a student is a view that I believe many teachers have. I believe that with so much to consider about assessment, the trade-off for using technology needs to greater than what many of the tools have to offer.

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