Fresh insights from lockdown on classroom assessment

Assessing learning, while teaching remotely

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Over the course of the last 10 weeks there has been a seismic shift within the domain of teaching, the backdrop of which is the Covid-19 Pandemic, and the move to distanced learning.

I teach chemistry to secondary and sixth form students, and have always had an interest in assessment.

Assessment is, I believe all teachers would agree, a fundamental, core aspect of good teaching and a necessary tool in promoting effective learning. However how we, as professionals, think about this  aspect has had to change to meet our current context, and I think this is a good thing for our profession.

Teachers are facing new challenges, they cannot scan a room to ascertain who has understood an idea, and who is struggling. They can no longer just look over a student’s shoulder and review their work, or throw a selection of questions out to a room or at targeted, or random, students. There is a sense that this has disempowered teachers, and made it harder to support learning for our students.

I disagree.

Although I fully support the use of these ‘in the moment practices’, I also believe that many teachers have lent on them as a crutch, using them as their primary process for providing ‘feedback’ through ‘formative assessment’. There may be many reasons for this: not having enough  time to plan more meaningful assessment tasks; a lack of expertise and competent CPD around the subject; the need to “be seen doing” during professional observations, which are meant to support professional development but more often are the basis for (low validity) judgement of a teacher’s ability.

Not having these tools means we really have to think about how we will assess our students now, in order to provide them the education they deserve. I believe that this can only be good for education, and the opportunity to develop this over-simplified aspect of our jobs should be viewed as one of the silver linings of this terrible time.

Here’s the approach I have taken:

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