Rebranding the Assessments into Learning Progressions
As we begin to close out the school year, many of us are reflecting on how this new model of competency-based instruction has drastically changed the way we teach. I have heard from several teachers that they could not imagine going back and teaching the "old way". We have seen significant changes in the depth and complexity of student work through the use of the model provided on this website. However, the term assessments is one that has begun to freak out the kids! Originally, I used the word assessments to help students and teachers realize that we are no longer using multiple choice tests as a measure of learning. This transition worked in that both students and teachers used the student products found within each assessment to assign a grade without a single test. But the word assessment has begun to have a negative connotation with the students. Furthermore, teachers can easily get confused when others use the terms formative and summative assessments. Moving forward, the word assessment will now be replaced with term "learning progression".
Learning progressions are simply a path a learner takes when trying to reach a particular learning goal. We all take these paths whether we are learning to play guitar or how to play a sport. Achieve uses the "stones across a river analogy", to describe the stepping stones that exist between a student’s beginning learning state and desired learning goal. However, learning progressions are not a linear path and students will need extra stepping stones added for their personal journey. To read more about learning progression research by Achieve, please read "The Role of Learning Progressions in Competency Based Pathways".
What We Learned
- We need more stepping stones including direct instruction and reinforcement activities.
- We need to shorten the parts of the learning progressions so they seem more attainable.
- We need to add the dynamic personalities of the teacher back into the learning progressions. Many teachers seemed fade into the background to allow students to direct their learning. However, sometimes the stage show the teachers put on is what engages the students.
- We need to add a pre and post assessment to each learning progression to let us know what students actually learned and if the students are able to transfer their knowledge to a test similar to the CAST.
This year we have observed:
- A transition in students to a growth mindset through the use of mastery grading, feedback and revisions.
- A transition in teachers to more of a facilitator role while students drive a more personalized learning experience.
- Evidence of much deeper and complex scientific thinking.
- Evidence of students becoming proficient in the use of science and engineering practices.
We have much work still to do, but what an amazing start. I could not be more proud of the teachers who took such a huge risk to try and figure this out together. Although almost all felt like new teachers again and many had sleepless nights, the work that has been accomplished this year is nothing short of extraordinary. Your students are lucky to have you all as teachers who model risk taking and true passion for life-long learning! Bravo
Cari Williams is a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) for the Tustin Unified School District in Southern California. She holds a MS in Instructional Design and Technology from Cal State Fullerton and works on the side as a consultant writing science and STEAM curriculum and training teachers. After working for 12 years in the classroom as a middle school science and STEAM teacher, she transitioned into the role of Digital Learning Coach in 2013. In this role, Cari helped teachers innovate curriculum and shift pedagogies through the integration of educational technologies. Her most current work as a TOSA is focused on engineering design in robotics, computer science, and Makerspaces. She is an official VEX Robotics event partner hosting tournaments for teams from around Southern California as well as leading 28 robotics programs servicing over 100 teams in the Tustin Unified School District. Although her expertise has taken her deep into STEAM education, she remains passionate and engaged in helping teachers transition to the NGSS through participating as a Science Peer Review Panelist for Achieve and as a Professional Learning Facilitator for NSTA.