This post builds upon the previous post: Formative Assessment in ICT. Following the implementation of a new framework in the top two years of the primary school, and training based around building websites, webpages and using and making a blog, I knew that I needed to introduce Formative Assessment to bring the whole thing to life. This became especially important as the ICT suites in the school were set up in rows and therefore the environment imposes very traditional (read here old fashioned) methods of delivery onto the teacher. The other relevant item is that my other duties including managing the end of year reports system and setting up the timetables for the following year started to dominate my timetable.
With full timetables and training calendar, I decided upon a couple of shorter sessions in the mornings before school starts. With our early morning starts (the school day starts at 7) and teacher’s multiple commitments after school that mean that that time is taken up, the morning briefing session are the only spaces we can find. I used one twenty minute session to refresh the basics of building a webpage with a layout that fits the non-fiction genres of the two year groups (non-chronological reports in Y6 and newspapers in Y5). For the second session I focused on Formative Assessment. In particular the use of rubrics to structure a number of sessions focused upon building a webpage.
To support the planning I had created two rubrics for a building a webpage which combined success criteria from both the English framework and the new ICT framework. In my introduction I made the point that rubrics are a tool that can be used at different stages of the learning process. The building of a webpage is a cross-curricular mini-project. It may take anything from two lessons to a couple of weeks to complete. It can be used in the introduction to the work, in the middle to assess progress and set next step targets and then, finally, as a summative evaluation tool. I have worked with the rubrics in all three ways.
How the rubrics are used is as important as when they are used. Let’s take the example of their use in the introduction. The classic method would be to display a rubric on the interactive whiteboard for all to share. Then the teacher could read through each part and explain its meaning and importance. This could work but not necessarily engage all the children in the room. Year six is particularly hard to reach at times; between the bubbling of emotions because of puberty, the clicks of special bonds of friends in the room and the minds turned towards the thoughts of going to the high school. How to engage? The answer is in group work; Vygotsky highlighted the important part socialisation plays in the construction of learning. Getting the children into groups and discussing the rubric, with a scaffold for the talk, will create better engagement. The children should be in groups of three or four. Ask the children to identify the criteria that they all know how to do. Further ask them to circle three to four things that they don’t know how to do. (It doesn’t matter that they might know it all; by asking for three to four things it removes worry from children who are further behind). This sharing with a focus of what to look for will engage children within each group and across the classroom. It can be followed up by a brief feedback session and revision of the parts the children don’t know how to do.
Group work was discussed in this post here. Giving the children roles also facilitates better group work. An appointed leader, a reporter and a reader would be good roles for the above.
Using the rubric in the middle part of the project enables the children to self-evaluate their own progress. I keep the structure simple: Give out one rubric per group and the children then visit each website and judge what has been achieved and what that student’s next target is. Again I like the group to record the targets in the footer of the rubric. This gives the necessary scaffolding to the exercise so it is completed correctly.
The rubric can be used successfully at the end as a final summative assessment tool. This is particularly powerful in the hands of the children as it empowers them with the understanding of what excellent practice in the particular project area is and leaves each with a target. I found through trial and error that the method of use has to be slightly different in the final phase of assessment. Children can be trusted to make judgements about their peers standard of work, particularly if you are using a rubric with different standards. Children are not able to distinguish between their close friends and the quality of their work so a more impartial system has to be set up. Over the course of one hour I asked the children to open up the website on each computer. I also placed one rubric in front of each computer and a further piece of paper to record the level. I then stood all the children up and rotated them one row (approximately four seats) around the suite. The children then sat down and judged the website against the rubric. Each child would use a pencil and mark the rubric to make a judgement about the overall best fit. Approximately seven minutes later I asked the children to record a level on the piece of paper and then to stand up. And then a second time I rotated the children around the room and the children repeated the exercise. Over the course of one hour I did this four times. For the plenary session the children returned to their own seat. Each child inspected the pare with the four levels recorded and considered whether the judgements of the common majority were a fair reflection of their website. Children then wrote their name on the paper (not before as this could have prejudiced judgements) and then lined up to hand it in to me. Children then commented to me whether they were happy with the evaluation/agreed with its decision or didn’t agree. The two comments formed two different piles. I would commit myself to speak specifically to anybody who hadn’t been happy with the decisions when I reviewed all the assessments.
As I went through the assessments for the two hundred and fifty children in year five and six, I found that there were less than 5% that were incorrect. The majority of the children agreed with each other and the overall common assessment was correct.