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 has over 16 years of experience designing curriculum and teaching middle school science and STEM courses. After receiving her MS in Instructional Design and Technology from Cal State Fullerton in 2006, she has been focused on integrating transformative educational technologies and next generation teaching into science and STEM classrooms. She currently works as the Computer Science and Engineering TOSA for the Tustin Unified School District after spending four years as a Digital Learning Coach for middle school science and STEM teachers. She also serves as a member of the Science EQuIP Review Panel for Achieve in order to help identify lessons that best illustrate the cognitive demands of the NGSS. She is the lead STEAM curriculum writer for TPSF Summer Academy and leads the TUSD Robotics program servicing over 400 students in grades 4-12 and growing. To learn more about this program, go to www.tusdrobotics.com/