Self-Assessment and the Core Competencies in British Columbia

2016-11-25 Submitted by Paige Fisher, PhD Faculty of Education, Vancouver Island University

The province of BC is abuzz with a new provincial requirement for students to be involved in self assessing against the Core Competencies, which the province has articulated as Thinking (Critical and Creative) , Communication, and Personal and Social (Social Responsibility, Positive Personal and Social Identity, Personal Awareness and Responsibility). An element of student voice, as students self-assess in these areas, is required on the year-end summative report for all learners.

What I am noticing is that the self-assessment / assessment as learning conversation is happening everywhere as teachers grapple with how to meet this requirement. As I facilitate professional learning sessions in relation to the Competencies, I find myself going back to some of my past favourites – like Lorna Earl’s Assessment as Learning and a current favourite, Dylan Wiliam’s Embedding Formative Assessment, while combing through the fine print on the new reporting order and the descriptions of the competencies themselves.

Another wonderful side effect of this new requirement and the whole curriculum shift in BC is the amount of sharing that is happening. As districts develop unique solutions to the policy, they are sharing the work they are doing for the benefit of all. Fantastic examples of support for formative assessment practice can be found at School District 71 (Courtenay/Comox), School District 68 (Nanaimo/Ladysmith) and School District 48  (Sea to Sky).

Manitoba Members Meet to Strengthen the Local Network

With founding member Damian Cooper coming to work with the staff of College Louis-Riel in the Division scolaire franco-manitobaine, Manitoba CAfLN members took the opportunity to network face-to-face over dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory in the heart of Winnipeg on October 18th. Four city school divisions and a private school were represented as current members and potential new members shared their current work with assessment for learning. The evening was filled with good food, interesting stories, and passionate conversation related to teaching and learning. Since the first conference and symposium, Tuesday’s dinner was the first of, hopefully, many networking opportunities for CAfLN members in Manitoba.

Assessment Takes Its Rightful Place – ISTE 2016

Submitted by Kent Brewer, River East School Division, Manitoba

2016 ISTE Conference in Denver.

Head-spinning, mesmerizing, mentally draining, sometimes downright confusing and one of the most engaging and enlightening experiences an educator could have. That statement alone would lead some to inquire of the mental state of the person combining these words in the same sentence? However, if you’ve ever attended a conference with some 20,000 other like-minded people, you know what I’m trying to say. The experience of an ISTE conference is definitely worth the effort of attending as most Canadian educators are in their last week of school when the conference opens. Over 1200 sessions with close to 2500 presenters and an expo that included over 600 exhibitors had an interesting something for every level of our profession and from all aspects of education, including assessment.

At ISTE 2016 in Denver, a simple program search for assessment sessions revealed 267 results including some 22 presenters and 38 exhibitors. From that perspective it may seem a bit overwhelming and in reality there was so much more! There virtually seemed to be an underlying buzz of assessment. For the first time in the 3 years that I have attended this conference, there seemed not only be a willingness, but a genuine must for developers and companies alike to “take-it-up-a-notch” explaining the need for quality assessment in the search for the enhancement of education as we see it today. Don’t get me wrong, assessment chatter in the ISTE past was there, but it was never a genuine focus of technology conversations.

In the past, it was concerning when attending technology integration conferences that merely focused on the shiny new digital tool that afforded classrooms the way of the future and all of the “cool” things that could be accomplished with it. However, I would often think to myself, what about using the technology throughout the entire learning process? Where are the sessions on assessment of/for learning with the newest software and gadgets? In my mind, in the not so distant past, these types of conversations didn’t really exist within the grandeur of the digital world that has made its way into classrooms all over the world. Not so long ago, if you wanted to disengage a crowd of onlookers during a demo of some shiny new digital tool of education, all you had to do was ask, “How does this tool integrate into classroom assessment?”. Silence…

But alas, ISTE 2016 had taken a new path for me! It became apparent that “techie companies” are listening to the masses of educators that are transforming the way that education is delivered and hence not only the way that teachers are assessing the development of their students but the ways in which learners are reflecting on progress and redirecting focus to obtain goals. Most products and platforms alike are now “front and center” with a holistic approach to the entire process. This is raising the eyebrows of some educators that have long said powerful integration is based not only on creation, but feedback, reflection and assessment.

ISTE 2016 was not only a great snapshot of where #EdTech is today, but benchmarked just how far education has come over a relative short period of time. Most importantly, it was a reassurance of what an exciting time it is to be an educator! And not just any educator, but one that has a clear focus on the importance of effective assessment practice.  Moving forward, the possibilities when teaching and learning alongside our students and colleagues are endless!

Added Bonus! – Time to meet up and have some great conversation with fellow CAfLN’er Ken O’Connor!

President’s Fall Message

Damian Cooper - Portrait

Dear CAfLN members,

Sitting on my deck this Labour Day, I’m thinking about the words of Tom Allen, CBC Radio 2’s afternoon host, who last week described tomorrow as the “real New Year” for so many Canadians.  Certainly, as educators, the day after Labour Day typically brings many more new beginnings than January 1st.  Meeting a new group of eager – we hope! – students, welcoming new teachers into our school, perhaps opening a new school, or maybe sending your own children off to the first day of the academic year – in our roles as teachers and parents, tomorrow is truly a fresh start.  I can’t believe that after 37 years as an educator, I still experience school dreams during the last week of the summer holiday! Once a teacher, always a teacher!

To prepare for the coming year, most of your CAfLN Executive and Directors travelled to Lorna Earl’s cottage last week for a planning retreat.   The 3-day event opened with Friday’s question, “Where are we?” On Saturday, we tackled the question, “Where do we want to be?” Sunday was devoted to action plans as we tackled the challenges of “How do we get there?”

Here is a brief list of some of the topics we discussed and decisions we made:

  • To assist with the growth of CAfLN regionally, a “toolkit” will be developed for the regional representatives. This will provide both information about the network, as well as suggestions and processes to assist these representatives with expanding CAfLN’s local influence.
  • We will continue with monthly live Twitter chats but will explore a variety of formats in an effort to deepen the conversations. The first chat for this year will occur on September 13th, 8 pm EDT time.
  • The website will be redesigned to improve its look and user-friendliness.
  • The “Research and Resources” pages on the website will be expanded and updated regularly.
  • A research committee will be struck to investigate how CAfLN can support Canadian assessment research.
  • CAfLN will endeavour to increase the number of members who share their work at future symposia and conferences.

This leads me to our Spring Conference and Symposium which will take place in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  The date and conference theme will be announced on the CAfLN website by the end of September.

So as this new school year begins, I invite all of you to invite two of your colleagues to join CAfLN to discover how high-quality assessment is one of the most effective tools we have to increase learning for ALL of our students.  Have a great year and hoping to see you in Halifax!

Damian Cooper

President, Canadian Assessment for Learning Network

Hacking Assessment : 10 Ways To Go Gradeless In a Traditional School

Hacking AssessmentA Book Review by Denine Laberge

Many parents and educators will argue that “This is the way we’ve always done it and it isn’t broken!” To this, Starr Sackstein offers some sound advice, “… the world has changed in the last hundred years and … a 19th century system doesn’t prepare kids for the creativity and critical thinking required of the 21st century.”

Starr Sackstein gives her readers something to think about in this quick 131 page read by putting the focus on what matters in assessment. Going gradeless is a big step for many teachers but, as she clearly demonstrates in this book, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Organized into 10 “Hacks”, this book starts at the beginner level, for those thinking about making the switch, and progresses right through to the details of a successful transition to a gradeless school environment. Sackstein addresses concerns that may arise from teachers, administrators, parents and even students, giving sound reasoning to keep the initiative alive.

For me, this book affirmed that I am on the right track in my growth as an educator and learner. For others, it may inspire an awakening of what our real mission as educators is; to lead our students to become independent, responsible thinkers and lifelong learners. The best way to do this is to involve the student in his or her own assessment of learning. After all, who would understand their learning better than themselves?

Learning as a Continuum – Nanoose Bay, BC

Learning is a continuum Pic 1Teachers at Nanoose Bay Elementary School in BC  and teacher candidates from Vancouver Island University at have been developing a writing continuum that can be used by teachers and students to assess progress in writing. Based on the idea that all learning is a continuum coming out of the new BC cuuriculum, the goal was to show the progression of emergent through to fluent pre-adolescent writers and to provide a concrete example as well as a descriptor of what the author demonstrated at each stage of writing.

Peel’s Journey

At the 3rd Annual CAfLN Conference and Symposium, Kristen Clarke from Peel DSB shared her district’s journey of professional development to improve student learning. The innovative thinking and the willingness to think outside the box is wonderful to see. Storified tweets will take you through it. Feel free to check it out!

2016-05-17 Kristen Clarke

The Nanaimo Experience


2016-05-17 Nanaimo Group Kingston

Well, there are some exciting things happening in BC! As part of the 2016 CAfLN symposium, a team of educators (Justin Green, Marcy Boudreau, Joanna Atkinson-Cornthwaite, and Brittany Leonard) shared their journey in networking to enhance the learning experience of their students and the collective professional growth of their teachers. Their blog highlights this growth. The powerpoint includes the main points and some diagrams of their process.