In PYP schools there are six units of inquiry over 6 ‘grade’ levels from PREP to Grade 5. That equals 36 units of inquiry. That’s 36 opportunities to analyse and synthesize the learning at the ‘conclusion’ of a unit of inquiry. Yes, I’m fully aware that formative assessment is happening all the time. But as far as the summative assessment goes, we do this only once at the ‘end’ of a unit. This is a way to gauge what a student’s understanding of the central idea is after 6 weeks of learning and inquiring.
How can we effectively capture all that learning and understanding?
For years we’ve been creating rubrics. They take a long time to design and develop. This process does allow the people in the same room to not only deepen their understanding of the learning and make connections to the central ideas and lines of inquiry…….this approach also creates a common language and sets clear expectations on the possibilities and the potential that may come out of those learning experiences.
Is the investment (time, effort and energy) worth it when developing a rubric to assess students’ understanding and knowledge? Does this process add value?
In short, yes. Taking teachers through this process requires a lot of constructing and it is through that process we are able to share, defend, explain and talk about student learning. That in itself is pretty exciting stuff. While it does take time in reaching consensus… only then can we achieve clarity. It helps us see how to measure progress of learning and evidence it alongside of the rubric. Students still can choose the best way to demonstrate their learning, it is the rubric that anchors how student’s represent what they have come to know and do.
We’ve changed the branding of ‘rubric‘ to ‘learning continuum,‘ which has created a positive spin on developing robust, relevant and authentic learning expectations.
Our goal as a school is to develop 36 learning continnums, just like a POI. We can critique these, challenge them, build upon them, just like we do with all central ideas, not only as a POI review, but at the start of each unit. We are finding that we are getting better at writing these over time too. Yes, at times we hit walls and get stuck, but it is the fighting through it that we have the best conversations which leads to better ideas, resulting in better teaching.
Personally, I feel that most assessments fall short and teachers end up doing another reflection as their summative assessment. This is not good enough and it touches on Sam’s previous blog post of salmon swimming up stream…. teachers just run out of time; therefore, well put-together, thoughtful and meaningful assessment tools take a back seat! The unit simply fizzles out and doesn’t become much for student’s to engage with it and look for way they can transfer this into other areas of learning.
So why am I writing this? Well, there are a few reasons… the main one is that through the self-study process, I’ve come to realize that section C4 (Assessment) is an area that we need to challenge. We don’t have a clear approach or expectation on what that is or can look like. If we are to be true to the teaching and learning then we need to honor it with a rich and authentic learning continuum – it is all in the feedback we give to our students. Finish the unit well by taking it all the way! Do more than notice the learning, embrace it and set goals with your students, so that the next unit is a continuation from the previous one. How can our students improve from unit to unit, not just wait for the next ‘Sharing the planet’ unit in a year’s time.
What do you do to capture your students’ learning?
Let me know if you want to take a look at some of our Learning Continuums. We need to share these more with one another, so we can adapt them and design powerful assessments – together.
During my week with Kevin Bartlett, he would often refer to “the cauliflower principle” during conversations about leadership. He used it to say that things don’t (or shouldn’t) really change that much when you take on leadership positions in schools. He argues that the attributes, the skills and the values should remain the same… it is only the scope of influence that changes.
So, to give a few examples to explain this in more detail:
- A teacher is concerned with getting the best out of his or her students. A leader is concerned with getting the best out of the people they are leading.
- A teacher is concerned with making the most of the talents and skills of his or her students. A leader is concerned with making the most of the talents and skills of the people they are leading.
- A teacher is concerned with learning. A leader is concerned with learning.
- A teacher is concerned with creating the conditions for success for his or her students. A leader is concerned with creating the conditions for success for the people they are leading.
- A teacher is concerned with getting to know who their students really are. A leader is concerned with getting to know who the people they are leading really are.
- A teacher is concerned with building positive and constructive relationships. A leader is concerned with building positive and constructive relationships.
- A teacher is concerned with providing support and help for those who need it. A leader is concerned with providing support and help who need it.
- A teacher is approachable and easy to talk to. A leader is approachable and easy to talk to.
- A teacher is flexible and open to new ideas. A leader is flexible and open to new ideas.
- A teacher can be light-hearted and playful. A leader can be light-hearted and playful
That’s enough of that! I am sure you get the point now and can make up plenty of your own examples. It all seems very obvious really doesn’t it. I guess the main thing for us all to think about now is… are you working with, or for, leaders who apply “The Cauliflower Principle”? If not, why not… and imagine if you were.
I dropped by Year 5 today, starting in Kate’s classroom, and found students reflecting on the presentations they have been doing for their parent audience over the last few days. The Y5 teachers were pretty “pumped up” about it and really wanted to talk about it because they felt it had been an excellent experience, and that the whole process of the unit had really empowered the students to do really effective, informal presentations that demonstrated their conceptual understandings.
The process of the unit looked like this:
- The unit started with rotations in which teachers demonstrated 5 different presentation techniques – both formal and inforaml – and 5 possible areas of inquiry
- The inquiry process helped students develop conceptual understandings, which made them able to focus their presentations instead of just listing random facts
- Research skills were taught in homeroom and in library sessions to enable them to focus on relevant and important information
- Parents were invited in to see presentations and demonstrations. They were ”converted” from passive observers to active participants by being given sample questions to ask the students
- Presentations were filmed in some classes to enable students to watch themselves sharing their work and assessing how they presented themselves.
Watch this space for more information about this!