-by Kevin Sonico
The shift from 9 years of teaching Grades 8 & 9 students to Grade 5 students proved to be an immensely transformative experience. This change in my teaching assignment demanded my consideration of how to involve my younger students in their learning. There is a wide developmental chasm that exists between Grade 9 and Grade 5, and how to communicate their learning in a meaningful way deserved careful thought. Further, there was the substantial question of how to engage their parents.
I had numerous experiences with various forms of medium and all yielded divergent results when it came to recording and communicating learning. Using agendas proved an individualized format but was simplistic a medium in showing learning and feedback; expecting parents to sign documents like tests proved to be a management challenge as papers would go missing (an obvious fix here was to keep the originals and send copies home); interim reports, although detailed, were not timely as they were disbursed in between reporting periods. There were also blogs created and posts written to inform students and parents about learning activities but these were never personalized. There was Edmodo too and its functionality for sending notifications for deadlines and attaching resources to assignments were its highlights. Navigating between learning activities and collating all feedback, however, were its shortcomings as it was too cumbersome to perform such important tasks. Then, there was Pathbrite, which was used as a digital portfolio for both students and teachers. However, the program’s confusing organization and the subsequent experience of navigating through it proved overly complicated.
In recording student achievement, I had used EasyGrade Pro, a software which allowed flexibility in determining categories, weighting, outcomes, and other customizations that reflected the variety in my assessment practices. This was a useful software that allowed me to calculate student progress across multiple outcomes. Shortcomings of EasyGrade Pro were its lack of transparency, as student progress and achievements resided in my laptop, and its heavy reliance on a numerical grading system.
With this year’s shift in our reporting scale, namely the change behind our definition of 4 from “excellent” to “exceeding expectations,” this had impacts on my assessment practices and reporting student achievement. Doing something very well but within the confines of the learning outcomes meant that a student was still meeting expectations. This shift in our definition also meant informing and changing the perspectives of our students and parents. Thorough understanding of the learning outcomes was required to be able to articulate what exceeding expectations meant. With these changes in teaching assignment and assessment paradigm, it was timely then to also consider alternate means of recording student progress. The cognitive development of my Grade 5 students needed to be considered in deciding the platform to use. This [past] year’s experiment into using a FreshGrade as digital portfolio and an assessment tool was noteworthy, in that by leveraging technology, I attempted to address concerns around feedback collation and use, student engagement, and parental communication and involvement.
Next time, read about Deirdre Bailey‘s experience in navigating the world of digital portfolios and online assessment…