Reflection by Christine Zisa
As educators we know assessments help us gain an understanding of where students are in their learning paths. Both formative (progress oriented, check in, low stakes) and summative (evaluative, higher stakes) assessments are important to understanding what (and how) students are learning. This chapter discusses how assessment can drive student learning and how we can incorporate this in a blended learning environment.
The key components of this chapter include:
-Student motivation and learning
-Different forms and strategies for using assessment data
-Learning Management System assessment resources
-Higher order thinking and creative learning in a blended environment
-Different forms of formative assessment
-Strategies for planning
-Challenges and how we can overcome these
Teachers are busy! How can blended learning environment assessments help?
- Help relieve the daunting task of administering frequent formative assessments
-Collect data in a manageable way
-Determine best starting points for student learning
-Create multidimensional lenses to see evidence of learning
-Provide ongoing, immediate feedback
Prior to administering assessments, it is imperative that school leaders and teachers determine what motivates (and demotivates) students to learn in their school. What is working to engage? To inspire? What is in the way? These school-wide discussions then become a platform for how best to create goals for motivating learners. As schools design their visions, there are a variety of digital platforms that offer tools (some align with incentive and reward programs, some creativity, some communication driven). Other thoughts to keep in mind is the use of extrinsic or intrinsic motivators. Research suggests that extrinsic motivators work best for simple tasks which can be accomplished quickly without much creative thought, and the opposite is true for complex tasks or those requiring creativity.
We know that motivated students are key to a successful learning environment. Our job is to help motivate them. We can do this in a variety of ways. We can do this by relevant and purposeful learning. By doing this, students will be more motivated to engage in higher order thinking. Another motivator is presenting real world problems that students can relate to and are passionate about. This will help produce intrinsic motivation. We also want our students involved. Students that are engaged, are agents of their own learning, are able to help to set own goals, and have choice learning experiences with their teacher are able to achieve an age appropriate level of autonomy. Another key motivator is social motivation and authentic audience. Another important motivator is teacher/student relationship. Students are more motivated when they feel their teacher validates them as learners, connects and believes in them. These relationships, and knowledge of our students as learners can help us align motivating experiences in a blended learning environment.
Be aware! We may understand how each student learns best, know how to motivate them and have determined a variety of digital practices for them to access, but high student engagement does not necessarily indicate student learning. We need to make sure we are aligning learner outcomes, instruction and using digital tools that enable students to move at their own pace while encouraging them to challenge themselves. Adaptive learning platforms help guide this. These platforms are becoming more popular because it provides a data narrative for students. This helps guide instruction and define learning. It increases motivation because students see progress and instant feedback. Research shows a link between performance gain from immediate feedback as compared to delayed.
Taking these aforementioned components, we can further maximize our chosen LMS by using it as an assessment hub. The following are features of an LMS that empower assessment and provide feedback:
Individual and Small group assignment (and mastery of)
Another dimension of assessments are project and discovery learning. These allow students to collaborate, work at their own pace (given a timeframe), and explore in multidimensional areas. The Pedagogy Wheel developed by Allan Carrington provides several digital tools teachers can use to increase their project based creative learning. This was organized using Bloom’s Taxonomy and SAMR (Substitute, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition). Rubrics are essential tools for students in a project-based environment. Students need to understand what is being measured, how and what the intended expectations are.
To best lead a class of learners, it is essential to know and understand them. By using frequent lower stake assessments, you are able to gauge a variety of indicators (including interest, interest, grit, preference, disposition). This helps educators plan and guide learners on a more defined path. Doing this can create challenges. If teachers are working towards student personalized goals, they may find that they are met with many differences, and that can be overwhelming. To help alleviate, teachers can use formative assessment templates. These templates help anchor and unify class expectations while keeping personal learning styles/goals in mind. Choice boards, good form, and a rotation station are some examples of how teachers can implement. By providing a rubric (with these templates), students are able to have choices, but there is evidence of learning and teacher expectations are clearly stated. By placing student ownership on formative assessments, you are empowering and engaging your students learning.
When assessing in a blending learning environment, make sure you are selecting specific tools that will provide the majority of the data, don’t get caught up in trying to “use it all”. If you need to track turned in work, keep it simple, and use one drop box to hand in assignments. Communication with parents and other teachers is essential. All stakeholders need to understand expectations and how they are to obtain access to these tools. It is also important to be sure that parents understand how to use and support their child with any/all digital tools you are using in the classroom.
By providing a blended learning environment, where students feel empowered and motivated, you are able to more easily reach a student’s potential. Assessing in a blended environment that students understand their expectations, see results and can track their progress invite learners to feel comfortable, challenge themselves and reach their potential.