Saturday, May 20, 2017

Webinar: Assessment for Learning (AfL) - what does it emcompass?

Attended a webinar (organised by ETD) yesterday and glad to have one solid hour of learning and engagement :)

At the start of the webinar, a poll was conducted among the participants - to indicate which of the following did they think would describe assessment for learning most appropriately,
  • Thermometer 
  • Stethoscope
  • Mirror 
  • GPS (Global Positioning System)
Dr Tay spoke about the big picture (to set the context) before sharing an number of classroom examples to illustrate how one could assess learners' understanding (in particular, tapping on the affordances of technology) formatively. Indeed, the overarching idea when designing the AfL learning experience is to ask THREE following questions:
  • Where the learners are?
  • How best to get there?
  • Where the learners need to be?
This is accompanied by two important principles: Find the gap; Fix the gap

Based on the way the questions are phrased, it is no doubt that GPS seemed to be the most appropriate "answer".

Personally, I think all (4 items) are relevant and contribute to the big picture, especially if we talk about "effective" assessment for learning.

It was obvious that GPS best describes the "moves" involved:
To begin with an end in mind (where the learners need to be at eventually), we need to know our learners' strengths and gaps, what they know, what they do not know, what are their learning challenges/ difficulties and who they are (which would involve other areas like learning style). Only then, we could identify the most appropriate/ suitable approach to be integrated into our lesson/ assessment design so that they could benefit from the process.

How about the rest (thermometer, mirror and stethoscope)? Can we do without them?
  • Thermometer - it's about measurement. Indeed, I would equate it with our sensing - to sense readiness of students to move on? to sense if they got stuck at a difficult point. It also means to be sensitive and responsive to the students' needs. This requires us to be flexible and responsive. For example, do we complete what's planned for the 60-min period lesson, and 'die-die' must finish what's planned, or should we "detour" or change path because the sensing tells us that students needed additional support or scaffolds that we might not have anticipated? Will we end up in a situation that "we have taught; but have students learnt?" This is essential to alert us where the learners are.
  • Stethoscope - an item that I would associate with diagnosis, which I think it's an important step. If the diagnosis is inaccurate, we would plan and implement something that is irrelevant or not appropriate, when the good intent would never lead to fruitful or productive outcome. Diagnosis does not necessary just refer to what's immediate; but sometimes, it's where we surface other underlying issues which may or may not link to something we can address to immediately. We need to 对症下药, else would lead to 前功尽弃 

  • Mirror - close association with reflection (of practices). I would regard this as a 'given' -  teachers would regularly draw on his/ her past experiences, review and reflect his/ her practices to hone his/ her skills. The reflection would also mean he/ she could best match the approaches/ strategies to address what is needed (surfaced through the diagnosis).
Hence, I think, all these complement each other, and when synergised, would create a 
1+ 1 + 1 + 1 > 4 impact.


tyh said...

in my understanding of AfL, students played an equal, if not larger role in the processes. the descriptions of the 4 tools appeared largely teacher-centered to me. what would the descriptions be like if students were using these tools? (:

Loh Kwai Yin said...

Good point! I was just looking at the Teachers' perspective only - in terms of the role we can play to bring about AfL in the classroom.