Is this for marks?

Assessment can certainly sometimes feel like just a set of numbers and scores. Students seem to be stuck in this mindset as well. Common questions from students are, “Is this for marks? How many marks is this out of? Is this formative or summative?” That last example I’m sure they only know that summative means marks that affect their grades and formative doesn’t.

We are quite literally set with tasks/outcomes that students need to hit. Could we just say, “yes they hit it or no they didn’t” and have that be that? Of course not. For some reason we need to quantify everything with a score. This student knew 83% or the material while this one knew 63% of the material. So did we hit the outcome then? Did we only kind of hit it? The topics surrounding assessment and the discussions than could be had are to large for me to encompass in this post. I wish I had more knowledge on the subject. In my undergrad we only had one class directly about assessment and assessment practices, which ended a month early because of COVID and then the professor just gave me the mark that I got on one of my projects as my mark for the whole class, which then confused me even more about assessment.

When it comes to assessment technologies like Kahoot, Quizlet, and even something like Google forms, these technologies are able to tell students whether they are right or wrong in an instant. Sometimes they are even able to elaborate on why the student was wrong by providing the correct answer. This is good right? Students know if they are right or not. This can be helpful, but it can also be problematic. If a student learns their answer was wrong, but say a word like “red” was the correct answer to a question, they might not dive deeper into why “red” is the answer or how. Just that it is the answer. This type of “behaviorist” learning lends itself to memorization and not application.

When it comes to technology being used for assessment the way that I personally see it being as a positive is how technology can open the door for students to be able to show their thinking, understanding, and comprehension through a variety of different mediums, which could then be assessed.

For example, a classic example, and one I have used in the path, is an inquiry project. Students have to research something and present the findings. I usually let it be quite open. If they want to demonstrate their learning through a paper, PowerPoint, drawing, skit, song, poem, movie, tiktok, it is completely up to them. Students can cater their creativeness to their own needs/wants and doesn’t force them into a style that they do not like or that may not be equitable to them. Some of these methods do offer different challenges than others, I will admit that whole-heartedly.

I’ve done rubric making with my students before where we come up with a pretty generic guideline for what their project has to showcase to show proof of understanding. We try to make it specific, yet broad at the same time to not alienate any type of project. After the projects are handed in we go through an interview process where we talk through the project, the rubric, and come to a decision on the grade together.

This isn’t something that is new or revolutionary. It has been done a lot in recent history by many different teachers around the world, and I think it brings in a good blend of technology. The technology allows them to be more constructivist and cognitive while working within the confines of the assessment.

For something that actually relates to using the technology for assessment something like Kahoot could actually be reversed and used by the student for creation. In the article here and discussed briefly in one of my discussion groups, a student could actually take something like Kahoot and create their own. If they were able to make their own quiz highlighting the key questions and understandings that they took away, they are moving away from the true behaviorist method of this device and trending towards the other planes of learning.

Where I’ll end it is by saying that the “behaviorism” method isn’t always bad. Before we often go into a project or new topic, we need a background of information before we can begin to apply it. Most of the previously mentioned devices could certainly be used in this “acquisition” period. It would be great if a student knew if their info was accurate before going and applying it, and these devices can help with that. It shouldn’t necessarily be the be all end all.


3 thoughts on “Is this for marks?

  1. Hi Greg,
    The title of your blog, “Is this for marks,” reminded me of a sequence of the video that I included in this week’s blog. When Eric Mazur showed a lady he met on a boarding flight that the flashcards she was making for the smartphones were not effective for the students, she answered that the flashcards would only guarantee that students would pass the tests. So, I assume the assessments ARE for the mark. Unfortunately, assessments sometimes are just for a passing mark, and in the long run, they do not even tell if the knowledge is retained or not. I think we do assessments because first, they are required by our division, and second, all the teachers do them, so why shouldn’t we? This raises a critical question regarding the effectiveness of the assessments. As educators, I believe that if we reconsider the role that assessments play in education, we might be able to shift towards a system that values knowledge over marks.
    (The link to the video I mentioned:

  2. Hey Greg, I can appreciate your commentary on summative vs formative grading and the different reactions students can respond with. It makes me think of “I Can” statements that can be used for younger students to show their knowledge of the skill. I agree, online assessment can provide more opportunities for students to show their learning through different mediums that classrooms 15 years ago wouldn’t of imagined. Your rubric development process and including interviews is worth a big round of applause because those conversations don’t always happen, instead the finished product just receives a mark. A missed opportunity to see some of the learning beyond the project from the perspective of the student. Great post!

  3. Great post, Greg. I also make rubrics with my students or have them make their own quizzes. But I have not had them make their own Kahoot! I will save that for later. I really like to reinforce learning by using games and having students teach each other. I really think it helps to deepen understanding for students to create questions for each other.
    The irony of receiving an arbitrary mark for an assessment class during COVID is not lost me and me laugh out loud.
    Thanks for the great read.

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