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By Steve Wheeler

There has been much consternation about the amount of standardised testing the British government is determined to impose upon English school children. Children don't learn any more or any better because of standardised testing, unless there is feedback on how they can improve. But SATs seem to be the weapon of choice for many governments across the globe. It seems that little else matters but the metrics by which our political masters judge our schools. At a recent head teachers conference, one of the most astute comments was 'you can assess without testing.' There are many ways to assess, and here are seven:

  1. Teacher assessment. Questioning is an old, tried and tested method where teachers check children's understanding. The questioning must be appropriate, and timely however. A well timed question can reveal how developed children's understanding is, and what needs to be done to help them to reach a particular standard. Another method of teacher assessment is through observation. This has been used for centuries, and is great for ascertaining how well a child has mastered a particular skill, whether they are disengaged or are on task, and how well they are integrating into the social context of learning.
  2. Show and Tell. When children get the chance to present something to the rest of their class, they often grab it with both hands. If they are passionate about a topic, they will show how much they have learnt by what they present and how they present it. Show and tell also encourages children to think about their learning, and makes them more aware of how they have learnt it. Most importantly, show and tell helps children to develop their articulation and explanation skills (speaking and listening).
  3. Personal Development Plans. Teachers can work with individual students to agree on what they wish to achieve. This is often connected to their passions and keen interests, and can be instrumental in shaping their future careers. This is a very personalised form of self-assessment, which can be facilitated by the teacher as an informal method of assessment. It indicates how well students are progressing in a range of subjects, but ultimately is about their readiness to take up responsible positions in society.
  4. e-Portfolios. This is clearly a digital age assessment tool, allowing students to build their own personal profiles, develop a CV, showcase their achievements and generally develop their presentation skills using a set of digital tools. This goes hand in hand with number 3, enabling students to apply their learning with a view on their future employment. Most e-portfolios have a setting that allows students to share their learning and qualifications with others such as potential employers, when required.
  5. Games. There is an increasing number of games that can showcase children's learning, especially in some of the core subjects such as numeracy, science and literacy. Although games are generally fun and can be competitive, the key aspect of playing the game is that children can develop reasoning and problem solving skills which are demonstrated in the levels they reach and the points they score.
  6. Authentic challenges and real world tasks. My own students showcase their learning through making videos or writing blogs. The feedback is informal, and the learning is variable, but such activities can clearly lock into the demands of future work. Some of my students are given the chance to speak publicly, either at Teachmeets run by their own Education Society, or at other events nationally, and even internationally such as conferences.
  7. Project work. This can take many different forms, depending on what most interests the student. Some projects can run for a term, or even an entire academic year. Students develop a number of organisational skills such as resource and time management, and if the project is collaborative, can also lead to building negotiation, decision making and leadership skills.

From the blog of Steve Wheeler

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Lea's Learning Analytics Blog

Learning analytics, educational data mining, formative assessment - all recent buzz words in educational research. In principle, the idea is to find theoretical frameworks, models, procedures, and smart tools to collect, aggregate, analyze, reason on and visualize large scale educational data. LEA’s BOX is a research and development project funded by the European Commission. The project aims at (a) making educational assessment and appraisal more goal-oriented, proactive, and beneficial for students, and (b) at enabling formative support of teachers and other educational stakeholders on a solid basis of a wide range of information about learners. That means, LEA’s BOX is a learning analytics toolbox that is intended to enable educators to perform competence-centered, multi-source learning analytics. More info at http://www.leas-box.eu!


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