lundi 28 mars 2011

Student-Centered Assessment - Volante

The first of the seven principles suggested by Volante is that assessment be student-centered. The ultimate goal is that we make students responsible for their learning and having them take ownership in the assessment process is the first step in seeing this through. According to his research, this approach will positively influence motivation and learning.

In order to enhance this motivation for learning, teachers should rely more heavily on formative assessment. We need to be continually engaged in dialogue with our students about what they do well and what they are lacking in order to be proficient in their work. Ken O'Connor stated that when we give a grade to students, nothing improves,  but when we give feedback, we can expect an average of 30% improvement from students. Volante included a list of things we can do in our formative assessment to encourage student engagement.

  • Give a pretest before a unit of study: This allows us to make necessary adjustments to the personal learning goals for each student.
  • Be aware of students who are in need of more assistance or practice. They will more likely need to be monitored more closely.
  • Continually revise instruction based on assessment results. If some students are not getting it, what do they need to learn in order to get it?
  • Convey strengths and weaknesses to students. Effective feedback will allow them to grow from where they are.
  • Match students in groups that will encourage growth. These groupings can become a ressource for students to use independently once they learn how to work together.
  • Allow opportunity for self-assessment. This is key in order for students to take ownership of their work. They are able to direct their own learning this way and they become responsible for what they have done and how they plan to grow with each susequent assignment.
Encouraging students to self-assess smooths the transition from the teacher being the director to the teacher simply guiding an independent worker.

All of these conditions make sense. Most would not argue that when a student becomes responsible for his or her own learning, he or she becomes a lifelong learner, capable of assuring continuous growth in life. I can picture it in my head, running smoothly, a motivation-filled classroom guiding the students to a state of independence they want to reach.

Conversely, I also have questions about how this motivation occurs when the inclusion of a student is not enough. How do we cope when a student dares you to make them care and then sets up camp behind a granite wall of resistance? And what of class sizes? When teachers are facing groups beyond 30 students, they are overwhelmed with duties leading to learning and other academic and behavioural issues. Teachers slip into survival mode and find it difficult to make the time to consult with each student in the goal of guiding their next steps.

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