Why is there a Shift in the Way We Communicate Student Learning?
BC's "re-designed" curriculum has changed with the times, with a competency-driven, concept-based approach to learning. It's no longer a content-driven way of learning, but a model that emphasizes understanding, knowing and being able to do something. With this change of emphasis to deeper learning also comes a change in how we report on student learning. Our assessment practices need to make sense to students and be timely (in the moment). We know from current research that students learn best collaboratively, through hands-on activities, by integrating subject matter and by providing various environmental experiences. We continually assess students with feedback that helps them to improve and grow. We want students to engage in meaningful learning experiences, take ownership of their learning and be able to describe the process of how they best learn.
In fact, we want students to be able to say:
-"I know what I am learning and why it is important."
-"I can self-reflect and articulate where I am in my learning."
-"I can select and provide evidence that best represents what I am in my learning."
-"I can give and receive feedback to understand how to take the next steps in my learning.":
"I know how I learn best and actively seek opportunities to grow."
Ultimately, we want parents also to be well informed about their child's progress. Our goal is to communicate with parents in an on-going fashion. Currently this is taking various forms as we evolve in our communication skills. Many of our teachers report to parents on-going with "Fresh Grade (e-portfolio)" and other staff members are using more of a paper portfolio method as they also transition this year gradually to an electronic platform in addition to communicating student learning.
Portfolios play a role in highlighting student growth. We use both paper and digital (i.e. Fresh Grade or the Google Platform) portfolios and are committed to communicating regularly to parents on student growth. Each portfolio is a purposeful collection of a child' work showcasing their learning. It is a documentation of the each child's learning journey highlighting student growth.
What this means for Chute Lake is that in alignment with Ministry expectations we are also changing and adapting our report cards to better match our teaching and assessment practices. We will be focusing on competencies, the learning standards and communicating student growth in an explicit manner throughout the year and in the new report card. The ways we will be reporting student learning are:
· Student-led conferences
· Parent/teacher meetings
· Written interim reports
· Communication through student portfolios (written/electronic)
· Authentic samples and celebrations of student learning
Rather than using the traditional five-point scale (not yet meeting, minimally meeting, meeting, fully meeting and exceeding), we are using a strengths-based evaluation criteria that highlights the level of effort and independence displayed by the learner. This scale will not be an equivalent to grades. Most importantly our assessment focuses on providing descriptive feedback that supports growth.
Our Strengths-Based Rating Scale:
Acquiring- student requires teacher direction and support to acquire skill
Developing- student is learning to practice and apply skill with some teacher support
Refining-Student is refining skills with increasing consistency and independence
Mastering- student consistently and independently demonstrates competence in
Extending- student takes ownership and self-initiates innovative use of skills
Descriptive feedback guides learners to improving outcomes by developing next steps in the learning journey. There is pervasive research to support the use of descriptive feedback instead of letter grades. For example, researchers Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam (authors of a famous metacognitive study) emphasize that descriptive feedback increases student achievement while the use of letters grades do NOT. Others, such as Nobel Prize winning economist James Heckman, explains that test scores do not predict success later in life. Well known and acclaimed speaker/author Alfie Kohn states: Grades diminish student interest in learning, create a preference for the easiest possible task and most impactful reduce the quality of student thinking. In fact, many other current and relevant researchers, Carol Dweck, Carole Ames, Ruth Butler, and John Nicholls emphasize that the more students are led to focus on how well they’re doing, the less engaged they tend to be with what they’re doing. Alfie Kohn says, "Grades don’t prepare children for the “real world” — “unless one has in mind a world where interest in learning and quality of thinking are unimportant."
Letter grades can still be provided for families on request but we believe ongoing formative assessment and communicating student learning with families will provide stronger evidence of student learning and growth. To truly be 21st century ready, the skill sets we need to instill in students aren't about compliance, they are about creativity critical thinking, and developing a growth mindset.
Moving forward, our December interim reports (intermediate grades) will use a strengths based language that our community values. Our intent is not to focus on grades and percentages but to focus on motivating students intrinsically and on growth as learners. We will send more information home to families in the upcoming weeks (we are creating a video) as well as invite families for parent information nights to explain our new report card template as well as further explain our assessment and reporting of student learning.