Measuring what we value: New perspectives with Assessment for Learning


Measuring what we value: New perspectives with Assessment for Learning

Changing traditional methods of assessment isn’t about a little tweak here and there, says Dr. Paige Fisher of the Faculty of Education at Vancouver Island University. “It’s a gigantic foundational shift.”

When foundations shift, it leaves room for something stronger to be built in their place. Fisher’s research focuses on the emotional impacts of assessment practices. “[Students] become powerfully associated with the numbers and letter grades we assign to them. We say someone is a ‘2’, or an ‘A student’, or a ‘C student’.”

“What we measure is a clear indication of what we value. The way we measure [students] tells them what we value in them.” Meanwhile, there’s so much more to a child beyond the grades they’re assigned, she says.

We don’t often communicate about non-cognitive skills…the social, emotional,” says Fisher.

A shift in focus is important for 21st century learners and the skills they’ll need for the future. While literacy and numeracy are easier to measure, it can be more difficult to assess what it means to work together, or to be part of a community.

“We have to invite change, and that takes patience and time. We’re hoping for a tipping point, but we’re only beginning to see new teachers taught [to approach assessment] in a different way.” Change begins with the kind of discussion and sharing Fisher is helping to facilitate through her work with the Canadian Assessment for Learning Network, or CAfLN. (See end of story)

It can also happen with the assistance of technology. More teachers are interested in trying tech, but it needs to be straightforward and safe, says Fisher.

QUIO’s approach has the potential to illustrate the essential learning happening in classrooms. Learning Maps, the backbone of the QUIO application, along with e-portfolios, create a big picture of a child’s learning. This view helps students “own” and understand their progression, to understand themselves as learners, and makes it easier to share evidence of learning with parents and other educational stakeholders.

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