Thursday, October 28, 2010
Students in school I loved to visit have found a wasps nest in the school grounds. After local expertise was used to destroy the nest, and with the teachers help, the students set about to study wasps and how they organise themselves. They sorted out their questions , worked out what they already knew and involved themselves in , as the revised curriculum says, 'seeking, using and creating their own knowledge'. They took the nest a part , drew what they saw, completed drawing of the various stages in the wasps life cycle and read all about wasp 'culture' to answer their questions in their own words. All their research work was presented using charts each one representing individual children's thoughts and drawings. They also painted what they felt interesting,and wrote their creative thoughts.
The quality of their presentations were really impressive having been taught how to layout their work artistically.
This is what learning is all about. Shame it is not so common these days. These students easily applied what skills they had gained to undertake individually chosen studies which the teacher used to assess progress and to determine what extra help was required.
It seems strange to use the term authentic assessment. It implies that much of the assessment used in schools is inauthentic. Which, of course, I believe it is.
If I wanted to see how well students can apply what they have been taught is to ask them to undertake an independent study with no help from the teachers -except for the normal bit of advice as required.
This form of assessment would tell me all about the children's attitudes, independence, research reading skills, writing skills, design and presentation skills and their ability to present their ideas making use of their own 'voice' or individuality. To me this would be more valuable that all the current 'evidence based' data collecting teaching that consumes teachers today.
It would also tell me how good the teaching had been prior to the task - this is why the best time for such a challenge is in Term Four, after all the skills had been 'scaffolded' into place. Students need to be able to transfer what they have learnt , by exhibiting, demonstrating, or applying. Any other sort of assessment may result in paper achievement only.
Most of such an authentic assessment task would demonstrate if students had learnt the lesson of doing something well rather than the more common, and faster, 'cutting and pasting' approach.
By term four students should have internalised the criteria for completing such a study but teachers could clarify, or renegotiate, them before the task.
Suitability of the study chosen.
Quality of the key questions.
Indication of their prior knowledge.
Quality of observation and written descriptions as required.
Depth of understanding seen through written research
Use of diagrams and focused illustrations
Quality of s design and presentation.
Teachers who enter their students into science or maths fairs will be aware of such criteria. Students need to have understood that assessment will focus on depth of their understanding - quality of thought not quantity.
Be interesting to see how students would handle such a task. I have my doubts many students could achieve what some of us used to use as our main form of assessing our teaching?
I certainly see little evidence of real student authentic research.
Such a task could begin as early as year three -even earlier.