February 28, 2021
We find ourselves continuing to exist in states of uncertainty. Few among us knew last March that we would still be living our lives – both professional and personal – in the throes of a global pandemic. We pivoted quickly from in-person learning to blended, hybrid, remote, and online learning environments and some educators still find themselves adjusting to changing restrictions and jurisdictional decisions. We know that everyone has worked unbelievably hard to make their students’ learning experience the very best it could be, even under incredible circumstances. Yet, we still hear teachers and leaders repeating statements like, “If only we had known, we could have been better prepared.” or “Had I additional planning time, the transitions that we have faced could have been smoother.”
The same can also be said for evidence of learning. At the end of a unit, term, or semester, it is just too late to think about the evidence that we should have collected. Some may think this sounds obvious, maybe even like a “no brainer”. And yet, why is it then that when we do have plans to collect evidence of learning we often think to include products (tests, assignments, projects, etc.), but our plans are less likely to include strategies to collect evidence from conversations (listening to students make their thinking visible to others) and observations (watching students in the process of learning) (Davies, 2020).
We know that given our curricular outcomes, standards, competencies, or expectations, collecting evidence from these three sources is necessary – even in hybrid, blended, online, and remote learning environments. For example, there is no way to gather a student’s understanding of visualization in mathematics or stewardship in science on paper. If we don’t plan to collect the evidence of these curricular processes before the instructional sequence, the chances to do so, at the end of that sequence, may have vanished. The event is over and we have nothing to show for it.
As you find yourself planning for the final term, the next unit, or a new cycle of inquiry, consider the following:
Evidence of learning is messy. Because our curriculum outcomes, standards, competencies, or expectations require us to collect evidence from triangulated sources (products, conversations, and observations), a simple file folder for each student that contains pieces of their work will not suffice. We must work on our own and with others to determine ways that will bring validity, reliability, and efficiency to the systems of collecting evidence from observations and conversations.
Moderation is not only for large-scale assessment. When we plan for the body of evidence that we will collect over a unit, term, or semester, we also build in opportunities for both formal and informal processes of moderation. The purpose of these processes is to build a shared understanding and agreement about what quality and proficiency are. Without time for these discussions, our professional judgment about a body of evidence can differ widely from teacher to teacher.
Evidence that is collected in the classroom is different than that collected during the large-scale assessment. At the classroom level, teachers plan for evidence collection with the curricular outcomes, standards, competencies, and expectations in mind. We start off with our jurisdictional documents and then make adjustments according to the types of learning experiences we are planning.
Moving Forward with Planning Reliable and Valid Evidence
As you plan to collect reliable and valid evidence of learning, consider asking yourself the following questions:
- Is the evidence that is being collected representative of the full range of curricular outcomes, standards, competencies, or expectations, not just those easiest to measure?
- Is the evidence this is being collected in alignment with those outcomes, standards, competencies, or expectations?
- Based on the learning experiences that are planned, will the students be able to produce the expected evidence, regardless of the learning platform?
- Is the evidence that is being collected understood fully because teachers have anchored their understanding in processes of collaborative conversations and moderation?
Planning to collect a body of evidence that is both reliable and valid takes time. But at the end, you won’t hear yourself saying, “I wish that I would have…” or “Too bad I didn’t…”.
Davies, A. (2020). Making Classroom Assessment Work, 4th Ed. Courtenay, BC: Connections Publishing.