Ottawa – February 27, 2014

Hosted By:

Pino Buffone, Superintendant of Curriculum Services, OCDSB

Damian Cooper, Plan~Teach~Assess

Details:

A brief pop-up meeting occurred following the Ottawa Carleton District School Board’s Lead Learner Session.  Approximately 10-12 interested participants spent-five minutes chatting with Damian Cooper.  Most had questions about the purpose of CAfLN.  While there was significant interest in the network, these administrators expressed the need to make it easier and more economical for teachers to join.  In short, these was a strong case made for the directors to again consider offering institutional memberships at a reduced rate.  One administrator suggested that in a school where a number of teachers had joined CAfLN, there could be time devoted at staff meetings, department meetings, or in PLC’s to discuss items on the CAfLN Forum, or materials featured in the Resources page of the website.
Damian spoke about the symposium and conference and invited suggestions regarding promotion of these events.  One participant suggested that subject associations in Ontario – STAO, OAME, etc. – would almost certainly be willing to promote the CAfLN conference on their websites.
Regarding the conference themes, one participant hoped that CAfLN would address the relationship between the provincial tests and classroom assessment.
Since it had been a long and full day for all concerned, the meeting adjourned at 3:15pm.

Vancouver – November 21, 2013

Hosted By:

Paige Fisher, Vancouver Island University

Robin Teirney, University of British Columbia

Details:

We are looking forward to a lively discussion among BC Members of CAfLN after the BCSSA Presidents Reception.  Those of you who are attending the BCSSA Fall Conference will want to check out the presentation by CAfLN member Lisa Skene and her colleagues on e-portfolios.

Vancouver – October 5, 2013

Hosted By:

Robin Tierney, assisstant Professor, UBC

Attendance:

8 CAfLN Members

Details:

On Oct 4 & 5, the University of British Columbia hosted the BC Assessment Forum, which was a session designed to generate dialogue and offer ‘action items’ to the BC Ministry of Education as it engages in a transformation of curriculum and assessment to meet the needs of  the ‘21st Century Learner’. The addition of 8 CAfLN members offered us an opportunity to advocate for a focus on formative assessment among the conversations around revisions to large-scale standardized testing systems in BC and offered us an opportunity for the first Vancouver Pop-Up meeting! We gathered at Rogue for dinner and drinks and great conversation was enjoyed by all.  We have already decided that a next step will be to convene in larger numbers adjacent to teh BCSSA Fall Conference on November 22nd, which is featuring Dylan William as a keynote.  BC is on a roll.

Edmonton – October 3, 2013

Hosted By:

Ken O’Connor, Assessment for Success Consulting Inc.

Damian Cooper, Plan~Teach~Assess

Attendance:

3 CAfLN Members

5 Guests

Details:

The meeting took place at the Westin Hotel where the Alberta Assessment Consortium (AAC) conference was being held. Discussion took place on a wide range of issues including the roles of AAC and CAfLN (agreed that it is complementary not competitive), required assessment courses at the University of Lethbridge, and the impact of provincial testing and exams in Alberta. The meeting started just after 7 PM and finished just before 9 PM with many of the group exchanging business cards.

Calgary – October 1, 2013

Hosted By: 

Ken O’Connor, Assessment for Success Consulting Inc.

Attendance: 

2 CAfLN members
7 guests

Details:

The meeting took place at the Coast PLaza Hotel with lively discussion from about 7:20 PM till 9:50 PM.  Great interest was expressed in the work being done at Calgary Girls School – a charter school within the Calgary public school district for girls from grades 4 to 9 – where there are no grades and no report cards.  It was interesting to learn  about the assessment course that pre-service tachers are required to take at the Univesity of Calgary and the directions being taken to support learning in the Calgary Catholic School District.  Also worth noting is the opportunity provided by curriculum redesign in Alberta to infuse assessment for learning.

Response by Ken O’Connor to the Toronto Star article on Ontario Grading Guidelines

Original articles here

and Ken’s response

I would like to respond to the article titled “Ontario’s grading guidelines get a big zero’ (Star, August 22nd) by saying that while Joe Killoran may be well-intentioned he is mostly wrong.

He states that the rationale for determining grades only on achievement of academic expectations and reporting learning skills separately is that “it is more important for students to think critically and understand the subject matter.” It is not a matter of relative importance – the rationale for separating achievement from learning skills is that when you mix them together you know nothing about either as grades become an uncertain mix of achievement and behaviour. For far too long before this policy change thirteen years ago some students received inflated grades because of their excellent behavior and relatively poor achievement while other students received deflated grades because of their high achievement and less satisfactory behavior. I cannot help wondering if Mr. Killoran would like to fly with a pilot who got high grades in pilot school because he tried hard but had poor ability to fly the plane!

Mr. Killoran is also wrong when he talks about “rewarding” behaviours by including them in grades. I agree that the behaviours he lists are very important but grades are not rewards; they are or should be accurate summaries that provide useful information for students, parents and teachers. The Ontario school system does “grade learning skills as well as knowledge of course content” and it is by separating achievement and learning skills that the importance of the learning skills is highlighted. The Ontario Ministry of Education made this importance even stronger when the learning skills were moved alongside the grade for achievement for each subject in the most recent version of the high school report card. In the first version of the report card used from 1999 till 2011 (approximately) the learning skills were on the right hand side of the report card separated from the achievement grade, a placement which some saw as indicating lower importance.

There are many reasons why it is inappropriate to use zeros, the main one being that when a student is given a zero they are effectively being told that they do not need to do the assignment. This is the opposite of accountability; the way to make students accountable is to say ‘until you provide this critical piece of evidence of your academic achievement your grade is “I” for incomplete.’  This is an accurate communication and puts the responsibility clearly where it should be – on the student. If Mr. Killoran does not hand his grades in on time the Principal does not say you don’t have to submit them, he is told his work is incomplete and to get them in promptly. This is what a grade of incomplete also accomplishes for students.

The final issue that Mr. Killoran addresses is the “most-recent, most consistent” approach to grading. He says that this “bears no relation to how students are graded in university or how they are evaluated in the work-place” and again he is wrong.  Learning is a cumulative and developmental process and what evaluators of students and workers want is continuous improvement. This requires ongoing effort and learning but what is emphasized when it is time to make an evaluation is the more recent achievement. For example, it makes no sense to include in the end-of-year evaluation of a student’s reading and writing skills how they were performing in September because with good teaching – and good learning – most students are at a completely different level of achievement at the end of the year.

Mr. Killoran’s “approach to grading is well-intentioned but it does students no favours. Skills like meeting deadlines, showing up on time, and working hard (do) matter in the real world.” It is made clear that they matter in the school system by separating achievement from learning skills and reporting on each, and that is exactly what the Ontario Ministry of Education’s policy requires and the Ontario report cards provide.

Sincerely,

Ken O’Connor, an edu-babbler with 23 years classroom experience and ten years as a Board Curriculum Coordinator.

CAfLN at CSSE

Some members of the fledgling CAfLN met face-to-face for the first time at the Canadian Society for Studies in Education (CSSE) meetings that were held in Victoria in June.  We had a chance to introduce CAfLN at the pre-conference hosted by CATE (Canadian Association of Teacher Educators).  This session focused on assessment issues within teacher education programs and we were a perfect fit. Lorna Earl, Paige Fisher, Robin Tierney and Martha Koch distributed post cards and told the group a little about our plans.  It was clear that there is considerable enthusiasm for Assessment For Learning among Canadian teacher educators and lots of excellent ideas about how we might connect and work more closely across the country. It was also clear that there is a need for a Pan Canadian conversation about the field of classroom assessment and Assessment for Learning, in particular. 

Following the session, CAfLN hosted an informal session of sharing and “getting to know you” at a local Victoria pub, which was attended by about 40 people.  Conversation flowed; connections were made and ideas were volleyed from province to province (figuratively).  Since CAfLN is a network, it depends on its members to move it where they want it to go.  As a result of the social , some new connections were formed, and previous connections re-established, which we hope will continue to be the case whenever we gather – face-to-face or virtually.  

CAfLN hopes to have these “pop-up” network meetings wherever and whenever our members gather across the country.  Let us know if you have an idea for the next one.  Get involved – this is your CAfLN.  To paraphrase Pogo, my favourite cartoon character, “I have seen the future of Assessment for Learning; and it is us!”

CAfLN is Looking for Annotated Bibliographies

CAfLN is looking for Annotated Bibliographies related to Assessment for Learning and associated areas for posting on the CAfLN website.  If you or any of your colleagues or students have completed a bibligraphy that you are willing to share, please contact Robin Tierney to arrange for it to be reviewed and posted.  Each submission will be attributed to its creator on the website.