assessment for fun and profit

I'm sure I am not alone amongst Scottish educators in wondering what assessment is going to look like in coming sessions.

Having watched this Teachers' TV video at the weekend, I felt inspired to try an assessment activity that might better reflect the principals of assessment in CfE.  It wasn't a big deal, but the outcome was interesting enough to prompt this rare blog post!

Today was the last lesson for my S2 class on a money topic which included wages, VAT and exchange rates.  I told the class that the aim of the lesson was for them to produce evidence of what they had learned during the topic, then asked them how they thought they might do that.  The first response was  "a test" (loud boos from classmates!).  Someone else suggested making posters, and another pupil suggested making up questions for the Activote pods, which they would then answer.

We settled on making posters.  I have done this many times before as a way of allowing a class to reflect upon their learning and pull together a topic.  The difference this time was that I had been very clear with them about the fact that this was an assessment activity.  We were doing this activity to gather evidence of their learning.

I put them into groups of 3/4 (at random) and gave them 3 minutes to decide on their roles within the groups.  I stopped the clock after 1 minute, because they were assigning roles like "write the banner" and ""draw the pictures".  I said "remember - the purpose of this lesson is to gather evidence of your learning", then started the clock again.  This time they immediately began talking about the content of the topic, and chose roles like "write about VAT".

I told them that each team shared responsibility for everything on their poster, then let them get on with it. None of them seemed to have any problem with being assessed through a group activity.

As I walked around and discussed their posters with them, several pupils asked me "is this okay?" or "can I do ...?". I replied by asking them whether or not they felt that it provided good evidence of everything that they had learned. This seemed to be a very powerful question - they always responded by going back to their posters and adding more or amending what they already had.

Some pupils asked me (or other members of their teams) to explain parts of the topic that they had not fully understood. They seemed quite comfortable with the fact that these conversations would form part of the assessment process. And the whole class understood that what they said counted for something. In fact one boy, when I asked what evidence we were getting from his intricately written title, replied "but I told you about how to work out VAT when we were talking to X". The challenge for me is to figure out a way to capture the evidence that I heard in class today.

To cut a long story short, I was reminded today of the benefits of giving youngsters a say in how they are assessed, and of the benefits of sharing the purpose of an activity with them. It hardly seems worth mentioning when I put it like that :-)

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