This post is part of a serialized collection of chapters composing my recently completed Master’s of Education degree at the University of Victoria. You can access the other chapters on this site here, and access a pdf of the completed paper on the University of Victoria library space here.
This proposed unit plan for assessment includes opportunities to document individual learning in diverse forms and media on individual blogs. It is intended that by collecting a record of learning across various units, these documents will help contribute to a larger, summative syntheses of learning such as a midterm or final examination. In these documents, students may choose to capture learning in a variety of ways: blogged text, handwritten notes, audio or video reflections, social media updates (Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, or others). At each stage, so long as the intention and record of one’s thinking can be tagged, categorized, and curated appropriately on the individual (or class) blog, the documents will serve the larger outcomes in the course of study.
At a minimal level, the first position and reflection / self-assessment assignments introduced in this chapter will continue to drive a critical praxis of individual expression and reflection, while other aspects described below (including the Midterm / Final Examination) can be added or taken away from units as time and context deem necessary.
Objective: To ‘capture’ ourselves at the outset of the unit / lesson / activity.
- What are my first impressions of the topic?
- What do I / we know about the topic already?
- What do I wish to know about the topic?
- What questions do I have?
- How will I go about finding answers to these questions?
- Why is it important for me to find answers to these questions?
In this introductory post, base knowledge and initial questions are outlined. Following an initial encounter with the unit objectives (through a class discussion, lecture, reading or individual research), this post seeks to set goals and outline personal intentions for the learning to come, including how the achievement of these goals might be realized. As even at the outset of a unit, a student’s “first” position comes as the resolution of previous learning, it is important to highlight the importance of reflection at this stage and connect emerging themes and questions to prior lessons or experiences.
Document of learning in progress
Objective: To make a record of learning as it is unfolding.
- What did I set out to find?
- What am I finding?
- What has thus far been successful / interesting / of value?
- What has thus far been challenging / disappointing / confusing?
- Has this experience revealed any new questions?
As students (and perhaps teachers) look to document learning that is in progress, it is important to look both backwards and forwards. Checking in on one’s original intentions, and making plans to progress further, offers the opportunity to reflect upon and assess individual learning, as well as to recalibrate goals toward emergent inquiries and outcomes. In addition to this point of reflection on individual learning, the document of learning in progress allows for further engagement with peers’ work, and the chance to synthesize collective narratives around shared themes or topics of study.
Planning for summative assessment
Objective: To propose possible means of demonstrating and sharing one’s learning at the conclusion of the unit. This stage can be utilized for individual, as well as group/class planning.
How will I/we best be able to demonstrate or represent my/our learning during this unit?
Is there a particular medium of presentation which suits the topic, lesson, or personal/collective theme at the heart of the unit?
What are the possibilities or challenges associated with these various forms?
It is important at this juncture of a particular unit for students to outline appropriate forms of representing their knowledge at the culmination of the unit, whether within a common set of expectations, or as individual expressions of learning. While this stage of a unit and brainstorming / goal-setting of this type may be completed through discussion, and may not ultimately demand to be archived for future reflection, it can be helpful for reflection and self- assessment of summative experiences where what emerges goes well beyond (or below) original expectations. Charting how these expectations are met, or not, by looking back on these previously stated goals, can offer specific direction in future opportunities.
Objective: To record or document one’s effort in a final expression or representation – whether as an essay, dramatic, collaborative, or explanatory presentation, or experiential project – of summative learning for the unit. As the reflection and self-assessment stage of the unit plan seeks to synthesize unit learning surrounding summative exams and presentations, documenting these learning experiences in digital form is not an essential element of the unit’s design. The objects which are created to represent emergent learning can often lose meaning outside of their immediate contexts, and as such it is not imperative to have these summative representations documented on an individual blog.
The challenge to capture the summative experience or effort should not interfere with the quality of the examination or participation in the experience in the first place. Rather, it is important to use these objects and experiences as prompts for reflection, self-assessment, and future goal setting. If the archiving can be bent to serve unit objectives while developing digital literacies and means of expression, indeed, then so much the better. However, digital curation should not impede the central objectives of the summative assignment.
• Does the summative activity, project or presentation lend itself to digital archiving?
• Can the means of digitally preserving the summative learning become part of the process of creation and supportive of the overall unit objectives?
Reflection / self-assessment
Objective: To engage in metacognitive critical thinking about the process that has unfolded during the unit.
What have been the main learnings (personal or collective) throughout this process? What will you remember about this experience?
- During which aspect of the assignment do you feel that you did your best work? Describe the process which led to this success.
- During which aspect of the unit do you feel you did work which you feel that you could improve? Describe the process which would lead to this improvement.
- Who helped you in achieving your success in this unit? How?
This reflective aspect of the unit may or may not be published to the individual public blog. However, it is important that this stage of the unit is executed, as it provides the required impetus to synthesize both personal and collective themes into unit lessons that can provide the first positions in subsequent units and learning. In addition to publicly posted reflections and self-assessment, discussions on these topics conducted in private (on an individual or class basis) can similarly lead to powerful learning.
A digital tool that can aid in the private collection of student reflection and goal setting is Google Forms, which allows teachers to gather survey responses to a variety of questions surrounding unit outcomes in a single spreadsheet or range of data representations. The documents created through these anonymized reflections can produce useful compendiums of classroom learning which can be used to produce themes of success or struggle, and highlight the work of peers which might otherwise go unheralded.
Midterm / final examination
Objective: To look back on multiple units, a term of study, or an academic year, and synthesize major themes and concepts encountered during the course of learning.
• Which learning outcomes – personal, curricular, or emergent – have I have learned particularly effectively?
• Which documents and evidence of my learning can be used to support these claims?
• Which aspects of the learning have been particularly challenging, or unsuccessful?
• How will I make use of the learning that has taken place here in my future schooling, employment, citizenship and life?
In this larger summative opportunity, students are invited to reflect upon and synthesize individual and collective narratives of learning that take into account successive cycles of the critical praxis. Here, there is an ability to contextualize and reframe even unsuccessful efforts into moments of beginning, where the ultimate lessons of a term or course can be identified and begin to take root. And by inviting peers to continue offering feedback – whether in posts to a public blog, comments on a physical representation, portfolio, collage of learning, or presentation to the learning community – those who have played integral parts in an interdependent journey of discovery remain included in the process.