Moving Assessment Forward in Strong and Wise Ways

Submitted by Brooke Moore and Neil Stephenson

Teachers who spend time crafting thoughtful comments on student work are wasting their time if they also give a score (Dylan Wiliam, 2015). But taking away the mark won’t do any good either unless you replace it with something worthwhile. The worthwhile strategies are clear and the news is not new: beyond almost any other strategy or improvement action, effective teaching and learning uses the following strategies as outlined in his 2015 book Embedding Formative Assessment.

  • Clarifying, sharing, and understanding learning intentions and criteria for success
  • Engineering effective classroom discussions, activities, and learning tasks that elicit evidence of learning
  • Providing feedback that moves learning forward
  • Activating learners as instructional resources for one another
  • Activating learners as owners of their own learning

At this point we can conclude that there is no mystery about the “what”. However, many of us struggle with the “how”.

  • How do you get kids to give one another good feedback?
  • What does good feedback even look like?
  • How can I manage to give kids feedback when I don’t have extra time in a day.

In May 2019 the 6th CAfLN Conference and Symposium in Delta, BC will do a deep dive into the “how” of assessment for learning. Our pre-conference day on Thursday May 2nd will start with school tours. Here’s the plan: you and your colleagues from across the country get on either a secondary or elementary focused bus and, after some coffee, muffins, and a little intention setting, head out to visit three schools where teachers have shifted to using assessment for learning in their classrooms and are actively using collaborative inquiry to support and develop this shift. Along the way, you’ll enjoy a lunch at one of the school sites. The tour will end at Farm Roots  where we will debrief, enjoy the farm and beach location, and then transition to a relaxing evening with refreshments, dinner and a cash bar while enjoying ignite-styled talks to open the conference.

Whether or not you join the fun on the school tour, all registrants are welcome to the Barbeque and Ignite event. The talks will be high energy, provocative and feature diverse perspectives. There will be time to network and enjoy the gorgeous setting.

Friday May 3rd will kick off with a welcome and a lively keynote from Dr. Linda Kaser and Dr. Judy Halbert, founders of the Network of Inquiry and Innovation. The Network, once called the Network of Performance Based Schools, was originally designed to provide a place for teachers to engage in action research around British Columbia’s Performance Standards. The action research eventually distinguished itself as collaborative teacher inquiry, a process Kaser and Halbert capture in their writing: The Spiral Playbook (2017), System Transformation for Equity and Quality (2016), Spirals of Inquiry (2013), Leadership Mindsets: Innovation and Learning in the Transformation of Schools (2009), and, with Helen Timperley, A Framework for Transforming Learning in Schools: Innovation and the Spiral of Inquiry (2014). They have stories from around the globe about teachers changing their assessment practice through collaborative inquiry and also about the formal leaders who supported them in doing so.

Following the keynote, colleagues from across the country will offer a variety of breakout sessions from which you can choose. The day will be packed with learning from experts, researchers, and practitioners. Whether you are a formal or informal leader at a systems or classroom scope, you’ll walk away with concrete ideas backed by solid research.

The theme of “Moving Assessment Forward in Strong and Wise Ways” focuses on the processes of change and how assessment for learning can move us closer to achieving quality and equity education for ALL learners. The change in question may be small in scope such as a teacher who designs learning where students feature as resources for one another, or a cross-grade group of teachers who use clear criteria to help students learn or it may be large in scope such as a system that has moved from a sorting to a learning system by using assessment for learning principles. The pairing of the concepts “strong and wise” means our learning will be focused on both the content of the change and the process of the change, whether at the classroom, school, district or provincial level.
So please join us in May 2019 at the 6th CAfLN Conference and Symposium, where the mighty Fraser River meets the great Pacific Ocean, for an action-oriented, hard look at the strong and wise ways of assessment for learning.

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