Evidence of learning is collected within the context of student performance relative to curriculum outcomes. This evidence does not include extraneous factors such as behavior, tardiness, or assignments not completed. When data about these factors is included, then information about student performance becomes distorted. If teachers, for whatever reason, are unable to collect sufficient information about learning to make a valid and reliable judgement of student performance, then the most honest communication is to indicate that no mark is awarded due to insufficient evidence.
To arrive at a meaningful representation of student performance, teachers require multiple pieces of evidence derived from a variety of assessment strategies. Teachers need to consider carefully how much evidence is required during a typical reporting period. The actual amount of evidence required may depend in part on whether or not the evidence collected confirms a typical pattern of performance. If the evidence shows an erratic pattern of performance, then additional evidence may be required. As such, a mathematical calculation of marks must be mediated through the eyes of teacher professional judgement.
Supporting Collaboration among Teachers
Jurisdictions have found creative ways to provide collaborative time for teachers. When new reporting systems are being introduced, teachers require time to develop lessons and assessments, and to grapple with new technology.
Judging Student Performance in Relation to Curriculum OutcomesTeachers need to be cognizant that performance is only based on what the student demonstrates relative to curriculum outcomes. While other aspects of what students do can be reported (e.g., behavior, attitude, work habits) these factors must be kept separate from the demonstration of outcomes.
Gathering Evidence on the Full Range of Curriculum OutcomesWhether the decision has been made to use outcomes based or holistic reporting, it is the teacher’s responsibility to gather and report evidence for the full range of curriculum outcomes. It is generally appropriate to cluster knowledge and skill outcomes when designing assessments. This not only ensures that the skill outcomes are not being overlooked, but also makes assessments more robust. A variety of mechanisms are in place for tracking the outcomes that have been assessed in order to fit with the reporting categories.
Using Teacher Observation, Anecdotal Comments, and Checklists as Part of the Body of Evidence
These processes are valid ways of collecting evidence about student learning. The intent of the outcome may well guide the selection of specific strategies to most effectively capture the assessment evidence required. For example, an outcome that requires students to ‘demonstrate’ would likely best be assessed through teacher observation. Efficient mechanisms for collecting and storing this information must be devised so that it can become part of the body of evidence used by teachers to make judgements about student performance.
Amount of Evidence Required to Arrive at a Meaningful Representation of PerformanceHaving a myriad of marks in the marks book is not necessarily a desirable objective. What is critical is that the assessments are providing information about high priority outcomes and enduring understandings. Having a major part of the Language Arts mark based on spelling quizzes in no way reflects the intent of that Program of Studies. Likewise, in mathematics, using marks from the administration of timed math tests is antithetical to the pedagogical intent of this curriculum. It is not about the number of assessments, but rather about the quality of assessments that are used.
Gathering and Recording Evidence of Student Learning
Technology can support a variety of processes for gathering and recording student learning, i.e., anecdotal records, video/audio files in electronic portfolios, regrouping of data, and so forth.
However, the technology platform must not dictate the way evidence of learning is gathered, calculated or recorded. These are professional decisions that rest in the hands of educators.
Working Together to Determine What Acceptable Work Looks LikeLooking at student work collaboratively is a valuable process for coming to a common understanding of standards. A variety of protocols are available to enhance the effectiveness of this process.
Looking beyond the Use of the Mean
Teachers need to have confidence in their ability to make judgements about student work. Often, the use of an arithmetic mean does not validly represent what the student has demonstrated relative to a course of study. Teachers need to put more credence in the most recent evidence and be prepared to discount earlier evidence that no longer represents the student’s current learning. This practice is particularly important when reporting on student skill development that occurs over the course of a term or the entire year.