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Corona School Closing; the importance of validity and reliability in assessments

How do we change assessment practices in an open digital world?

According to UNESCO monitoring, over 100 countries have implemented nationwide closures, impacting over half of world’s student population. Several other countries have implemented localized school closures and, should these closures become nationwide, millions of additional learners will experience education disruption. We need to ask ourselves, what is happening to our students learning now? Source: UNESCO

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Schools are closed, and teachers and students have been working from home for a week in Norway. More and more countries and states are following suit, this seems to be the new norm.  It is in that context I would like so share some of our experiences so far.  During this first week, a massive initiative has been launched where 50 000 teachers share digital resources and get answers to their many questions. It has been a great source of inspiration and help for many even, if it for some, can be a bit overwhelming, at least for me. 

After week one, experiences from my school, Sandvika high school, are the following;  the teachers are ready, the students are ready, but the workload is perhaps too much for both groups. Teachers adjust as best they can according to these new conditions, and try to balance the required work.  In other words, many teachers may have been a little overzealous when handing out assignments, but this is going to work out, we only need a slight adjustment, I’m sure of that.

In this post, I would like to address another issue.  We now face a greater challenge as I see it; assessment. Many have already reflected on how school has changed radically in as little as a week. Most likely this will forever change teaching and learning as we know it, even when everything returns to normal.  After only one week my experience is that teachers have a good grip on the digital content and have seen the benefit of using it too. (finally!)

The challenge at this stage is how to assess student work when everything is open and available and students can communicate with each other when being tested.  In other words, we need to change our mindset from online collaboration seen as cheating, to accept that this is the new norm. We need new ways of assessing our students in an environment and make sure they have the chance to reflect, argue and demonstrate their competence, alone and with the help of others. And this transformation makes perfect sense. In order to make reliable decisions about actual student achievement, our assessments must be of high quality. We cannot prove that students are learning in our online classes without valid, reliable assessments. This is not a new challenge, but in light of what is going on in the world today, it is a different challenge. What is an advantage for us in this difficult situation is that teaching has already slowly shifted from teacher-led teaching to student-led learning. Where  students are more actively responsible for their own development. (Black & Wiliam, 2009; Hattie & Timperley, 2007). These are trends that fit well into the current situation. The student as an active, responsible participant in his own learning process is clearly a prerequisite for success today. And research also shows that peer assessment and self-assessment are tools recommended promoting a more active student role (Wiliam & Thompson, 2007). I wrote about peer assessment here.

In order for this experiment of homeschooling on a global scale to succeed, we need active students. If you have time the video with Dr. Wilam is still valid in these conditions. We need students who know what is expected of them, what they are required to do to pass the courses and how to do it. We need to ensure that students have opportunities to collaborate and that teachers work together in learning communities in their schools to help and support each other.  In other words, we need to develop our professional learning communities to focus on how to provide assessments that promote students’ learning. At my school, teachers have started to share their experiences.  We have to ask ourselves, How do we best assess our students? How do we check for understanding?

Some examples of how assessment can look today:

Video meetings for assessments using Microsoft Teams. Students send video presentations to their teachers, recorded conversations between students, foreign language learning – discuss the use of language instead of producing it since students now have access to Google translate, make  PowerPoint presentation with audio, have clear guidelines on structure and content and use of sources, (plagiarism control) peer-assessment as a way to practice before being tested.

Reach out if you need any help in working like this.

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