Making collaborative decisions about formative assessment

Technology offers a variety of ways for evaluating student learning to suit individual student needs. Some decisions are made by groups of teachers. Use a structured process to collaboratively explore and demonstrate the effectiveness of new tools.

Mark is a secondary school science teacher in the UK. Mark is currently participating in a project to support cross-curricular learning in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. This is an innovative approach to learning, but will it be more effective in supporting student learning? Mark and his fellow STEM teachers need a method to assess student learning during the project. This is an innovative new approach and they are looking for ways to improve the design of learning experiences within the project. This is not only about Mark’s teaching practice – it involves many teachers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. Therefore, Mark and his colleagues need a method for evaluating learning that facilitates sharing of evidence and ideas between teachers.

NEXT-TELL offers a process called TISL (which stands for Teacher Inquiry into Student Learning) that structures the process of evaluating changes in teaching practice. The process involves 4 simple steps, each of which is guided by questions. Through the process Mark identifies: a) what it is the new STEM project is changing in his practice and why, and b) how he will evaluate the impact of this change. He wants to encourage learners to reflect on their own learning so he uses audio to record students talking about key concepts. Mark and his colleagues will collaboratively identify the key concepts. The students will work in groups during the project, therefore, Mark decides to conduct the formative assessment in the same groups. He and his colleagues will record students’ reflections and then they will collaboratively listen to them and assess student learning.

After the students’ reflections have been collected, Mark and his colleagues upload the audio to SoundCloud and collaboratively annotate segments. Because they have previously decided on the key concepts, they have a common reference point. The collaborative analysis sessions helps them discuss the effectiveness of the project with reference to the project as a whole rather than only their individual sessions. This enables Mark and his colleagues to improve the structure of the project work with clear reference to the students’ learning process across the entire project.

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