“We are always slow in admitting any great change of which we do not see the immediate steps.” – Charles Darwin
When we’re talking about changing an aspect of the educational system, change is slow. The first step is recognizing that something is no longer serving the function it once was. Heavy reliance on testing does not promote meaningful reflection. Percentage marks let a student know how they rank in comparison to their peers, but do not necessarily let them know how to improve.
We educators know that in order to increase self-assessment ability amongst our students, we must offer qualitative, dialogic feedback. Where do we go from here?
For much of education’s history, skill development and personal growth have taken a backseat to content knowledge, but assessment need no longer be limited to traditional subject areas. Commentative feedback can foster emotional literacy, self-awareness, and interpersonal skills (just to name a few) in students. More importantly, the ability to look back on constructive criticism enables self-assessment over the long term. One can see where they started, and how far they’ve come.
In my teaching experience, commenting on student work can be time-consuming, and often occurs at the end of term. Handwritten comments are difficult to distribute to students and parents, and difficult to keep a record of (especially when teaching high school – how do you organize this information for 100+ students at once?). I found it challenging to physically keep and organize the feedback I provided to students. I am a big fan of technology, not only in the classroom, but to help me stay organized. So, when Dr. Gillian Judson, SFU lecturer and Executive Director of CIRCE, told me about a new platform for assessment I naturally wanted to know more.
Last week I had the fortunate opportunity to meet with Kristina Tzetzos, co-founder of a new tech platform that will facilitate and track dialogic feedback between students, their peers, and teachers. We spoke about our teacher training programs, teaching experiences, and our views on how assessment is in a state of flux. We spoke about how traditional assessment – providing a detailed rubric, setting a due date, collecting, marking and returning work – often curtails the potential of the learning process.
Have students been taught that receiving feedback serves as a finish line to their work? How can we educators encourage students to engage with constructive feedback on a more personal level?
Kristina’s product, Spinndle, could serve as a tool for increasing the ways in which students receive and interact with feedback, for traditional subject areas as well as transferable skills. Moreover, Spinndle offers teachers an organizational tech tool to keep a detailed record of feedback for each and every student. This way, educators, parents and students can easily look back on where the student started, and in which areas they’ve grown.
Learning in Depth challenges the current and dominant practices in education of one-time assessment, and limited inquiry in a specific topic area. Assessment when using the LiD program must be qualitative, on-going and reflexive. Students do not receive a grade for their presentations with LiD, but they do receive constant feedback in whichever area they are working on/struggling with: writer’s block, online research, public speaking, etc.
Spinndle and LiD may be a match made in educator heaven.
This ed tech platform can provide curious teachers with a concrete way to formatively assess the learning that takes place with the LiD program. Finally, there’s a systematic way to engage students in feedback in real time, and have a record of it. We’re looking forward to changing (in small increments) the way educators and students conceptualize assessment.
Check out Kristina’s and Jacqueline’s blog, jack + kris, and stay tuned for CIRCE fall professional development opportunities: share your practice around assessment, learn more about using Spinndle in your classrooms, and provide us feedback that will help improve teacher experience with this new way of engaging students in reflecting on their learning. We can’t wait to connect and collaborate with you!