I happened upon Robert Jones’ blog post  about Assessment recently. He used Curriculum for Excellence  assessment principles to learn how his students had synthesised work on a money topic which included wages, VAT and exchange rates.  He concluded:

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.

By chance I carried out a similar exercise at a primary school yesterday.

Last term I had been working with a group of 10 children whose poor working memory hinders them from learning as well as they might.

I returned after the 3 week break to ask them to capture their learning. Like Robert, I asked them to create a poster (they chose to use Comic Life) as an assessment exercise. I was very explicit, telling them this was for me to learn to do my job better as well as to gather evidence of their own learning. To make it more relevant, we agreed we would show the posters to others in their classes so that they could benefit from learning new studying strategies.

The challenge for Robert and I was ‘to figure out a way to capture the evidence … heard in class today’. These conversations I found to be even more enlightening than the finished products. The children built upon each others’ knowledge and understanding and reflected on questions put by me and others in the group to produce thoughtful responses. They were not inhibited by the  notion of this activity being An Assessment as they understood that deep learning is ongoing and does not have one ‘final answer’. They were confident enough to say when and what they didn’t remember, and to take steps to find out information from each other  in order to complete the poster as effectively as they could.

I now feel better equipped to teach this another time. I think the children themselves were surprised at how much they were able to recall in a collaborative atmosphere.

And this was the meta-point: they had an enhanced awareness of the skills many people use to remember information. The fact that they remembered the work we had done prior to the spring holiday showed them that they could, and had, improve their memories. Two for the price of one!

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