How utilizing student voice leads to authentic assessment in PE
For the last decade or more, I have worked very hard to help students develop themselves into being 'assessment capable' learners who can take ownership of their learning in ways that are relevant to them. In all of the workshops, teacher training and coaching that I deliver, I focus heavily on sharing strategies that promote student voice as part of the process of assessment design.
Involving students in the process of co-constructing assessments promotes self-regulation and helps students to set realistic goals, monitor their own progress and to better understand where it is they need to focus their attention. Not only can they identify what they are doing well, but also prioritize what it is they may need to pay more attention to as they journey through each week of the units being taught.
There is a very specific process that I take students through when involving them in co-constructing success criteria related to important concepts and themes being taught in class. In this blog post, I will share what that process looks like in my own teaching and in the workshops I lead and coaching that I do with teachers.
Let's use the concept of 'responsibility' as a practical, hands-on example of what this process actually looks like. Each teacher has their own way of doing things of course which I deeply respect. However, what I am sharing in this blog post is what has worked for me in my own teaching space, but in addition to this, I've also seen it work very well in the programs of many of the teachers that I coach around the world.
Step #1: Always Begin with a Driving Question
As a unit begins, I like to focus on the most important concept being prioritized based on pre-unit teacher planning. This prioritized concept is called the conceptual lens of the unit. Most of the teaching and learning in the unit is viewed and unpacked through the lens of this concept.
Using the conceptual lens of "Responsibility' as an example, the unit begins with a driving question. I will usually ensure that I have written the driving question on a white board or piece of poster paper to front load this concept. I have my students think about this concept, what it means, and how it applies to them and their learning.
In this case the driving question was:
In what ways did I show responsibility as a member of my group today?
Once this question is introduced, the students are then engaged in physical activity the rest of the lesson. They are given reminders during the lesson to remember that they are focused on ways that they are showing responsibility while working with others and to be prepared to share their thoughts at the end of class.
THE EXIT TICKET STRATEGY
With 5 minutes to go in the lesson, I provide each student with a sticky note and have them chat to an 'elbow buddy' (a person beside them) to share their thoughts. I then have them write down, on the sticky note, their ideas about how they showed responsibility during that lesson. Once finished this, they simply place the sticky note on the whiteboard as they leave class.
The next lesson, the driving question stays the same, but the physical activities change in the lesson. As an exit ticket, they once again write down more ways they showed responsibility in the lesson. The white board fills up with ideas during the week.
The photo below shows week #1 of the process:
Step #2- Categorize Main ideas
At the end of week one, I look at all of the student responses on the white board and begin to create similar categories. I then find clip art images to represent these main categories of themes to support the English language learners in my class.
In the case of the driving question from step #1, the students came up with 8 different themes/ideas by the end of week 1. Going into week 2, I wrote the 8 themes on the whiteboard and included the clip art images. Week 2 of the unit was devoted to brainstorming even more ways they could show responsibility. Following the same process, at the end of each lesson that week, we had them, in small groups, have a quick chat about other ways they were showing responsibility (they were encouraged to share new ideas, not repeat any ideas similar to the 8 ways from the week before).
The students ultimately came up with 4 more ways they were showing responsibility. We now had a list of 12 ways that they were demonstrating responsibility as a member of their group. The photo below shows what the white board looked like in week 2. This process is completely owned and created by the students which, to me, makes it very authentic and meaningful.
Step #3: Creating a Class Visual
Once we had identified 12 different ways they were demonstrating responsibility as a member of their group, I created a class visual that I intended to use every lesson for the rest of the unit. In week three of the unit, I printed off a number of these posters and placed them on the walls of the gym. To start each lesson, I had my students do a walk and talk, sharing with their partner ways that they intended to show responsibility in PE that lesson.
We then got on with the lesson and at the end, they teamed back up with a partner to share how they had demonstrated responsibility in that class.
Added to this, I also shared the 'Responsibility' poster with their classroom teachers. Together with their students, the classroom teacher had their class vote on the top 3 ways, as a class, they wanted demonstrate responsibility in future lessons and in their own classroom.
The teacher reported back to me the results of the vote. I then created class specific posters for each class. The plan was to then have the students self-assess ways that they were showing responsibility using their own class poster. Although the poster showing 12 ways they can demonstrate responsibility was still up on the wall with each of the ways still being important, each class focused on the 3 that they had voted on which reinforced even more ownership individually but also as a collective group.
We used sticky dots for this end of class assessment. For the following 4 lessons, we had the students write their name on a sticky dot and place it on the one way they felt they most showed 'responsibility'.
However, the one key thing was that each lesson I used a different colored sticky dot, so I could observe longitudinally over 4 lessons, how they were self-assessing themselves. I took photos of these self-assessments and shared them back with the classroom teachers so they could also know how their students were doing with demonstrating responsibility in PE.
ONE KEY CONSIDERATION
If any student tried to place a sticky dot on a way that they felt they had shown responsibility, but in fact, based on my observations, they did not demonstrate responsibility in that way, I didn't allow them to put the dot on the poster. That was my timely feedback for them. In a positive, supportive tone, I let them know I felt they needed to better focus on showing responsibility the next lesson and then I would allow them to put the sticky on the assessment poster in the following lesson. In 90% of the cases, the students behavior improved the next lesson and they were able to put their sticky on the poster as a sign that they had in fact demonstrated responsibility.
See below what this process actually looked like in action:
In closing, I want to emphasize that I feel the most important part of assessment is to involve students as much as possible in the process of creating it. Of course, this is not always possible, but when it is, allow students lots of voice. It shows they matter and involves them not only in the unpacking of important concepts, but also gives them to autonomy to build their capacity to become more assessment capable. It allows them to point out what they feel they are doing well, set goals to improve certain areas, and promotes important dialogue with their peers about their learning and growth in class.
It also provides important data/evidence for the teacher to use when reporting which is the added bonus to developing a student-friendly, student-center assessment process.
Have questions or want to share your own process? Please comment in the space below. Thanks. Happy teaching.