I know they’re learning – now how do I prove it?

I’m knee deep in reports at the moment which, as it always does, brings my assessment practices into sharp focus as I scan and condense what I know about my students into a small comment box. This is a good thing – there is nothing worse than our practice becoming stale through lack of reflection so, while I don’t particularly enjoy writing 400 reports, I do like the opportunity to question, probe and refine the way I do things, especially thinking about the rapidly approaching new school year.

So how do I assess now? Teaching ICT to students in Grades Prep through to 6, I keep copious anecdotal notes where I comment on things they can do, focusing on the ‘essential learnings’ currently specified in the Victorian Essential Learning Standards. When I started teaching ICT last year, I quickly deduced that the VELS standards for ICT were obviously not designed to be a complete and all encompassing ‘curriculum’ so I used them, ISTE NETS and various other bits and pieces I’ve collected to try to come up with a more rounded picture of what students needed to cover in their 1 hour a week with me. From this, I gathered some headings and focus statements to help me identify what I’m looking for and commenting on each week. It’s not perfect and, with 1 hour per grade to teach/assess/guide/problem solve/coax/share excitement with, it doesn’t always stretch far enough and there are frequent blank boxes.

I also have checklists of major bits of work and ‘skills’ – for the Preps this starts at ability to log in unassisted and moves on to skills like changing the file format of digital pictures or organising their files in a meaningful way in Grade 6. I also use this to keep track of the feedback I give to them through rubrics and self/peer/teacher assessment for their project work throughout the year.

What’s the problem? I’m aware that my system does have gaps and I’m conscious that I don’t capture everything that the students can do through my notes. When I was in the classroom, I liked the combination of formal and less formal assessment to give me a more complete picture of what my students could do and what we needed to work on next. I feel like I’m lacking that in my current role. The students do a typing test (old fashioned of me, I know, but I think it’s an important skill) and I’m pleased about their improvement in results during the course of the year. But I’d like a few more tools like this in my toolbox to help me achieve a more rounded picture of my students’ skills, particularly when I get to see them for such little time each week.

Over to you – any ideas? What do you use to assess your students’ ICT skills?

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4 thoughts on “I know they’re learning – now how do I prove it?

  1. Hi macgirl. I work in Secondary but have done a few weeks here and there as a fill in in a P-6 ICT room, so I have some understanding (and much respect) for what you do. it is important to be able to formalise the learnings in these areas that are fundamental to efficient use and enjoyment of ICT and digital products.
    My starting point is to rewrite VELS progression points to suit what we are doing. This is difficult and time consuming but makes report writing more authentic and reports far more accurate. Each VELS progression point descriptor contains the phrase ‘…for example’. This is the sign that we should rewrite them to fit our kids, their projects and needs.
    After this, embark on an inquiry (PBL, IBL). Then stand back and enjoy!

    • Thanks for the comment and suggestions. I’m waiting (eagerly) for the National Curriculum as the much of VELS (at least in relation to primary ICT) is now, sadly, past its prime. I do use the progression points to guide me and like your suggestion to rewrite them to connect them more with the learning that is happening. I’m playing with Scratch with my Grade 5/6 students at the moment which is requiring some very creative rewriting of VELS progression points. I guess I’m just always looking at ways to expand my ‘toolbox’ of assessment ideas. Thanks for your suggestions 🙂

  2. As a graduate teacher teaching ICT I’ve had a roller coaster year trying to get my head around how it all works (assessing as a specialist teacher). I can be honest and say this year I don’t think I’ve done a great job and I’ve let far too many students slip through the cracks.

    So in 2012 I’ll be working more closely with the classroom teachers, often not even running ICT classes instead joining the classroom as part of the team teaching environment. From there I’m going to create a similar skills list where students graduate through 3 levels, beginner, consolidating and expert. Once they reach expert they’ll be entered into a school database so other students (or teachers) can search and find an expert to teach them.

    I feel this year I have been disconnected with the classrooms with my lessons being about a program or skill while moving into the classroom to run classes means I can target my lessons to projects they are working on, often working with smaller groups which will also help with assessment.

    • Thanks for the comment, Mic. You’re definitely not alone in this – I think the role of a specialist teacher is a difficult one when it comes to monitoring student achievement as we have so many students pass through our classrooms each day. I think, each year, I’ve got a little better at my assessment as I tweak things and I’m sure you’ll feel more confident with it all next year.

      I also agree with your ideas about planning and am intending to try a similar idea at my school next year. I can see it will be a lot more work and a lot more individualising for each grade/group of students but will also result in a richer experience. I’d love to hear how it all works out for you too!

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