Monday, 19 October 2015

NCEA and Term 4

It is that time of the year when madness reigns. Students frantically dash to finish work, teachers are overloaded with marking and moderating results. We are trying to get students prepared for external exams. Term 4 is a busy one.
My reflection for this week - a Connected Educator Challenge - is about this assessment process and about learning.

One of the things I believe in, and our school supports, is assessing students when they are ready. I have seen many students miss out on gaining standards by not having the opportunity to be assessed when they are ready. Obviously there are some standards that you don't have a choice about when you do your assessment - a practical assessment in Science, a field trip or something that relies on external providers, but in general we work hard to give students plenty of opportunities to present their work.

In Music, we have a number of standards that rely on students making a portfolio of work. Performances can be collected during the year and compositions completed at various times. Along with having checkpoints for these to keep students on track, we have a number of students who finish them early, or struggle to finish them at all - hence the last minute rush in Term 4.

 I know of many staff and schools who would say "it's due this date and after that it won't be marked". I find this quite difficult to align myself with, as I believe that it's hard to push that creative process of composition, and also the physical performance skills. I know how difficult it is to write a piece and have it right, getting frustrated with a chord, or a passage that just doesn't work. Sometimes you have to be in the right head-space or it just won't happen. Perhaps you just haven't quite mastered the technical skill to enable you to play a piece until later in the year. For these reasons, I believe strongly in giving students as many opportunities as we can to get these standards finished. We have numerous concerts during the year that they can use for assessment, as well as performances they do outside of school with their own bands. This, however, leads to a busy Term 4! It's good that students have a focus and for some, it's probably the hardest they have worked all year, but it leads to busy marking and feedback sessions.
 My students at the moment are all very credit focused. What happened to the learning that I felt I had earlier in the year? In fact, I have just had a class where one of the students has copied his pie-chart of credits and made it into wallpaper for his desktop. He wanted to remind himself to get Excellence as much as possible. A nice idea, but I want him to learn as much as possible...

One thing I implemented into my music classes this year was a listening exercise to try and encourage them to expand their listening and give them work that was NOT assessed, but still contributed to their learning. Student felt it helped with all aspects of music, expanding their knowledge. I really enjoyed teaching this, as there was less emphasis on assessment and more on learning new things just for the sake of gaining knowledge.

There was a great tweet by Sep 19

"If we called assessments "checks for understanding," our conversations would change drastically".

 I believe this is a really good idea - are we far too assessment obsessed? What are we trying to achieve?


  1. I also find it difficult to align myself with the this is a date and no chance after .... some are ready T1, some it takes three terms ... yes, busy T4, but I'm lucky that I am able to do this in my department of one.

    1. Thanks Anneke, always good to know others think the same way.