ECS 410: Week 6 – Struggling with Assessment as a Learner

I think the notion of transference is very accurate and relatable as I truly believe all of our past experiences play a role in shaping our present ones. It is easy to spot this transference when thinking of myself as a teacher; I have loved the way some teachers have taught me and plan to carry some of those strategies with me into my future classrooms. With that being said, I have also been in classrooms in which I did not like how the teacher taught and I know the ways in which I do not want to conduct myself as a teacher in the future. In these moments of not enjoying the way the classroom instruction has been conducted, I think these feelings of for a lack of a better word, resentment, carry into the assessment processes as well. I distinctly remember in physics 10 I struggled to grasp the content of the class, so when it came to written exam time… and if I managed not to fail, then I often just barely passed. I think some of that resistance to the classroom teacher and the instruction strategies they were using permeated into the poor perspective and performance that came with the assessments. It is very evident to me now, as a teacher-in-training, that instruction and assessment are closely linked.

In terms of less “traditional” forms of assessment, university has certainly had its moments of frustration for me. I have found that elementary and high school education was very ‘strict’ with the instructions/assignment outlines that they would give; creating the idea in my head that there was only one right way to get something done and if I did it in exactly that way, then I would get a good mark. However, I have found in university education classes, this idea of having only one ‘right’ way to do something, is being flipped on its’ head. I have had a few professors in particular that give a lot of leeway in their assignment instructions, and when I asked for more clarification or detail about how they wanted something done the answer they gave me was often “well, just do what works best for you”. Hearing this never helped, and generally resulted in more frustration. I am not used to having choice in what I think will give me the best outcome or what I believe makes most sense for me and my learning. When I am being presented with this freedom makes me nervous and unsettled, and honestly sometimes I would just rather somebody tell me what they want me to do, instead of having to decide myself.

This being said, I recognize from class and our readings that being provided with some academic freedom is beneficial for myself, and the professor. When thinking about Brown, Smith and Race’s book, 500 Tips on Assessment and my blog posts from weeks two and three, I can see that these proposed ways of assessment are able to fit my personal needs and contexts as well as take into account 21st century competencies. Additionally, Louis Volante’s suggestion of student-centered assessment in their article “Principles for Effective Classroom Assessment”, supports the benefits that can come from some academic freedom. Students being able to direct a portion of their learning processes is a great way to obtain student ‘buy-in’ and in many ways is more motivating for myself. In these situations, I know that I can do things the way that makes most sense to me, and still get a good mark.

Week 3 ECS 410- Assessment in the 21st Century: Why can we no longer Rely on Traditional Forms of Assessment?

Jennifer Rowsell and Maureen Walsh, the authors of “Rethinking Literacy Education in New Times: Multimodality, Multiliteracies, & New Literacies”, are discussing the intense emergence of digital technology both in society and in classrooms around the world. In the article, the term ‘literacies’ (being plural) is said to have “signaled a shift in thinking about the ways that people make meaning with language” (2011, p. 55).  Technology has significantly impacted the way that students, teachers, schools and communities as a whole have been presented with and interact with literature; creating a new, and perhaps exciting, task for teachers which is to effectively use technology in the classroom.

Modes- “regularized sets of resources for meaning making. A visual, a sound, a word, a movement, animation [and] spatial dimensions” (p. 55).

Multimodality- “How individuals make meaning with different kinds of modes” (p. 56).

Multiliteracies (as pedagogy)- “simultaneously accounts for linguistic diversity and the use of multimodalities in communication” (p.56)

Working with and reading content from a screen is unescapable in today’s society and teachers should recognize the importance of implementing technology in the classroom. It is important to do this as the shift from traditional learning and assessment processes to advanced 21st century forms is happening fast and in order to prepare our students for the ‘real-world’, then that means we have to give them opportunities to learn and grow in 21st century ways while they are still in the classroom.

With this in mind, I will now talk about Filip Dochy and Liz McDowell’s article entitled Assessment as a Tool For Learning. In this piece the authors recognize that assessment can and should be used as a tool to further enhance students’ learning rather than just “a means to determine measures…” (1997, p.279).  This article compliments the article by Rowsell and Walsh as it suggests that assessment should be done in various ways such as diagnostic, formative and summative, as well as others being alternative and pluralistic. In this way teachers can fully grasp the types of knowledge that students are now learning, such as digital literacy.

In my opinion, these readings really remind me that instruction should be geared to fit students’ needs and strengths, and subsequentially assessment should be provided in ways that allow students to experience success. Educators need to take into account the world that we live in and allow for students to show off their varying skills in new and advanced ways.

Week 2 ECS 410- Why are we assessing? What is it for?

Authors Brown, Smith and Race in their book entitled 500 Tips on Assessment focus on characteristics like validity, reliability, authenticity and transparency when discussing values of best practices in assessment in the first chapter of their book. Although they continue to name twelve other characteristics of assessment, it is essential to understand that they are emphasizing the point that assessment should promote success and deep learning for all students.  They also suggest that for assessment to promote success and deep learning it should be timely, incremental, and started early on in the course; this will allow for students to experience growth in their studies as they are provided with feedback and additional opportunities to try again over a longer period of time.

When writing on why teachers should be assessing, the authors point out that it is important to take into account your circumstances and context; every teacher will assess students at different times, in various ways and for a multitude of purposes depending on their unique contexts. I think the main thing to remember from this section about why teachers assess, is that is should always to be to “guide students’ improvement” and to keep students at the center of our assessment practices (2004, p. 5). No matter what the circumstances might be in, there are many instances in which assessment can be very useful for students and teachers alike such as: determining fitness for entry to a programme, obtaining feedback on how our teaching is going and to translate intended learning outcomes into reality (p. 6-7).

Brown, Race and Smith also note that teachers should be intentional about “what [they] are actually committed to [assessing]”, rather than just what is easiest to assess (p.8). It can be tempting for teachers to take the easy road, but by doing that we are not actually giving students opportunities to genuinely grow and develop, nor show all that they may know about something. In conjunction with this idea, the authors mention that assessment should be done in a timely manner, starting at the beginning of a course with a diagnostic assessment. Once you, the teacher, have gauged where all students are at you will have a better idea of what needs to be done to help students experience success. Further assessment is suggested to be done in increments to avoid over-burdening students!

In the second reading required for this weeks’ class author Louis Volante writes in her article entitled “Principles for Effective Classroom Assessment”, that assessments should be student-centered. That is to say that students should be seen as active partners in the assessment process rather than passive ones. According to Dr. Volante, student-centered assessment will allow students to accept responsibility for their learning as well as able teachers to reflect on their teaching and determine who may need more support. Student-centered assessment is also said in this article to increase motivation and learning, which I’m sure all teachers could agree is appealing in terms attempting to further engage students in their own learning (2006, p.136).

Other effective principles of assessment are aligning learning targets to the activities being use in class in hopes of creating authentic assessment experiences. As teachers we need to always make sure that what we are doing is adequately lining up with Saskatchewan curriculum outcomes and indicators and according to Dr. Volante’s work it is another great way to implement successful assessment practices. In addition, the author suggested using multiple methods of assessment practices such as: “selected response, constructed response, performance assessment, portfolio assessment, personal communication, and observational techniques” (p. 138). Using these recommendations made by Volante, I think that teachers would be able to successfully implement assessment practices that allow students to show their variety of skills while engaging in a valid, reliable and unbiased assessment process.

Assessment Philosophy- ECS 410

Assessment is a practice done in teaching exists in many different forms such as diagnostic, formative and summative assessments. It is a process of collecting evidence that allows educators to gauge how well students are learning, comprehending and understanding the content that is being presented to them in class. The aim of assessment, like I have just stated, is to determine how well the student is grasping the concepts that are put before them in class. Assessment is also an awesome tool for educators as it provides opportunities to reflect on their teaching practices and make changes and adaptations if/when they are needed to help students better learn and comprehend learning material. In my opinion, there are strong correlations between assessment, classroom environment and instructional practices as they all permeate and affect one another. The classroom environment provided by the teacher should allow the students to feel safe, supported and comfortable. A positive classroom environment can have the ability to impact the way students engage, listen, participate and actively pursue their learning; similar to how a negative environment can adversely impact a students’ learning. Ultimately, I think that an educators’ teaching practices would contribute to the classroom environment as well and I believe that it is crucial to utilize various types of instructional practices and strategies. In education today, we know that not everybody learns in the same way and differentiating the ways in which you present information to students should allow various types of learners to connect with and hopefully better comprehend course content. It is important to create opportunities for ALL learners in the classroom to experience success and I think that when a positive classroom environment is provided along with effective instructional practices, students may feel more optimistic about assessment. Therefore, when classroom teachers get to know their students’ strengths, they can properly develop them to assist in overcoming their challenges. When this happens, assessment is used to provide students with opportunities to show what they know in a way that best suits them so that they can experience success. I think it is clearly evident that through a ‘ripple’ or ‘domino’ effect, all of these three things: Classroom environment, instructional practices and assessment are a part of a strong bond within the classroom.

I think it is important that when designing assessments, it is important for teachers to be cognizant of this bond. Through assessment, teachers are really testing and evaluating what is taught in the classroom and how well students are picking up on it. Therefore, it is important to know that the classroom environment and their chosen instructional practices will eventually impact how well students do on assessments and being transparent and consistent within all of these areas will help students to perform better. Student-teacher relationships are an important part of designing assessments as well; this way teachers can accurately design assessments that provide students opportunities to show what they know in a way that makes most sense to them. Adaptations like allotting extra time, completion of the assessment with the use of technology (typing and/or voice to text), providing noise cancelling headphones/fidget etc. are all ways in which teachers can help students complete assessments more successfully.

Digital Learning Story

My learning video explains my questions about curriculum before I started ECS 210 and what I thought curriculum was before I started this course. It then goes on to explain the ways in which I think about, interact with and interpret curriculum now that our class is over! It also goes into some of the uncomfortable, disheartening, and angering experiences I had while learning about and critiquing the curriculum. Even though these uncomfortable aspects of curriculum exist, it is still my job as a future educator to teach the content of the curriculum while actively working towards strengthening some of its’ weaknesses.

I hope you enjoy my video as much as I’ve enjoyed making it. The link to my Youtube video can be found here: youtube.com/watch

Thanks,

Rilynn 🙂

Inuit vs. Eurocentric mathematics

When remembering my experience with learning math, there is no concrete examples that I can provide in terms of explicitly oppressive and/or discriminating content to myself or other students. However, while reading the work entitled Jagged Worldviews Colliding by author Leroy Little Bear, I can recognize that the math I learnt did not take into consideration nor did it sacredly value the unity and interconnectedness amongst all things on Earth and the energy and agency that all of these things hold. I can also recognize that the teaching of math, in my experience has never involved storytelling, whereas in Indigenous culture “[s]torytelling is a very important part of the educational process” (p.81) Little Bear says. I can identify more so with the type of learning that is “singular, static and objective” that Little Bear refers to as Eurocentric, in my experience with learning math (p. 82). So, I guess you could say that in my opinion, the oppression and discrimination present in my math learnings was more subtle over all rather than outright blatancy.

According to the Louise Poirier article Teaching Mathematics and the Inuit Community, three ways that Inuit mathematics challenge Eurocentric ideas include:

  • Oral numeration always has to do with context. Figure 2 shows some of the different contexts an individual could refer to a number such as: three inside, three objects, group of three (p. 59). This idea differs from Eurocentric mathematics because in European math styles, there is no context involved… only numbers.
  • Measuring length is done by using body parts such as the finger or feet. This method is used in very practical and crucial processes such as making warm parkas or boots. This is very different from the Eurocentric ways of measuring as we would never say a pair of pants needs to be five hand lengths long or anything like that, but instead we would just take a measuring tape and get exact numbers.
  • Sense of space was really interesting to read about. Sense of space for the Inuit people has to do with the building and spatial relation to inuksuit. For thousands of years these people have relied on inuksuit to help them recognize where they are in space. Figure 3, which explains the many ways that someone could expresses their relative position of an inukshuk was really mind boggling to me. Eurocentric math would never use this type of language of relative description- but rather use directions of North, East, South or West and left and right and even go as far as giving exact coordinates of longitude and latitude.

 

The Poirier article really brings more support to the fact that mathematics in a majority of schools today in Canada shift more towards the “singular, static, and objective” side of the pendulum in comparison to Inuktitut math which I would say is more holistic and dependant on the interconnectedness to the world around people. I can see Leroy Little Bears’ definition of colonialism come to life in the dichotomy of these two mathematical systems as Eurocentric math is the standard in schools across Canada and deemed necessary for students to learn and the suppression of the Inuit worldview is ever present especially to students after grade three in the Inuit community. When it comes to truth and reconciliation I think that this way of life that has existed for so long and sustained a group of people in harsh weather conditions, should be celebrated and held as sacred and also necessary for students to learn and connect with.

My Single Story

My “single story” blossomed from the separation of my parents when I was five. My mom moved us out of my biological fathers’ house and we then lived full-time with her, only seeing our father a few times a year. My mom worked two jobs to make ends meet and sometimes once all the bills were paid, groceries were bought, hockey and dance were paid for among other monthly expenses… my mom would have no more than 9 or 10 dollars in the bank account. We lived in low-income housing for a very long time until my mom saved up enough money to buy her own house when I was going into grade 9. I watched my mom hustle HARD my whole entire life and I knew that the world was extra hard for my small family. When I was in elementary school, I brought the bias that told me that my family and I are the only ones struggling. Lots of kids in my class had both moms and dads under one roof and were wealthy compared to me. Despite the struggles that my family faced, school always gave me hope. I was a good student who always got good marks and felt like school was my second home- I still feel this way in university. My mother raised us to believe that we could do whatever we wanted in life, no matter what. We could be doctors, lawyers, famous celebrities if we so desired and all we had to do was “dream big” as she would say. This saying drove me to further pursue school and getting good marks as I knew if I could succeed in school, then I could maybe succeed in other things too and hopefully not have to struggle in the same way my mom did. Now, as an adult and a future teacher I know that everyone struggles in one form or another. I hope as a teacher that I can create a space for students to feel adequate and like they are enough, no matter their socio-economic class. I also hope that being honest with my students and sharing my personal experiences will give hope to some of them.

It was powerful to watch the TED Talk by Chimamanda Adichie when she brings up the idea of ‘nkali’. Nkali, she says is the idea of being better than someone else and I think the influence that teachers have on young students’ minds and thoughts can in some ways be corrupted by the power that comes from our political, economic and societal climate. The world we live in right now is guided by mass-media, big corporations and in many cases corrupt leaders who get to call the shots as to what is popular and what is not. The power that these people and organizations hold allow them to continue to be in a place of power and delegate which stories are cared about and told to the world. In my case, I grew up in Prince Albert which is in Treaty 6 Territory and has a high population of Indigenous people- and I won’t lie, a good part of their peoples’ population is poor, drug addicts involved in gang activity. That being said, I think back to Adichie’s part of her TED talk where she says something like: tell people who they are, over and over again and that is who they become. I think this is especially true in Prince Albert… Indigenous people have been held at a place of inferiority for so long now and heard the same negative story about their people one too many times, that they perhaps have given up and fell into the mold that has been pre-destined for them due to the shots being called by White, Western people in power. Now being an adult, I can look back to my upbringing and recognize that it was in fact these same people whose truth mattered most, despite it not being accurate truths at all.

Curriculum: Its’ Creation and Implementation

While reading the work titled Curriculum Policy and The Politics of What Should Be Learned in Schools by author Ben Levin, we learn that curricula is developed and implemented during a long, drawn out process that involves many people and often depends on governance systems that are in place at the time. Curriculum creation happens when a group of people come together to develop and/or renew certain curricula. The group in session usually consists of heads of post-secondary institutions, expert teachers, principals and/or senior admin personal, and some government officials such as people from the ministry of education. These people will look at the curriculum that already exists, collect some data and discuss what should be done in terms of a new curriculum. In some cases, there are piloted trials done for new curricula which will come back into the hands of the creators for suggestions or revision and in other cases the new courses are simply released freely for teachers to begin teaching.

I found it very surprising that this process can sometimes take several years to be complete. It seems interesting that it takes such a lengthy amount of time as some of the issues that are brought up in the first place, may be totally different than the issues facing teachers or the curriculum by the time it is all over and done with. In this context, I think of the History 30: Canadian Studies curriculum which is twenty-two years old and my professor of ESST 300, Heather Findlay, says that she has heard of a renewal of this curriculum for about five years now and it still hasn’t happened. The world is constantly changing, and so is the way that teachers teach… so why shouldn’t what teachers are teaching change and develop with the rest of the world too? I’m not suggesting that curriculum be looked at every year or two, I know that is an unattainable goal. However, I think that there should be attention given to making sure that curriculum is relevant to the students of today and maybe that means curriculum creators meet every five or seven years to check on curriculum and its’ implementation.

I also found the reading engaged me when the author brought up fact that teachers who are experts in some subjects are part of designing curriculum and yet it is only those few teachers may be the only ones in the province who can successfully teach it. I think that there should be some data and research done on what kind of supports teachers need to implement curriculum in their classrooms and that information should be taken into direct account when creating or renewing curriculum. If majority of teachers- excluding the experts on that subject- cannot properly teach the content simply because they don’t have the expert knowledge that is needed, then the education is doing a disservice to both teachers AND students. There has to be some sort of way to include necessary content and an effective way to teach it that is relatable to the majority of teachers so that the curriculum can be instructed properly.

When looking at the Saskatchewan Treaty Education Document I can see all of the key players that were involved in the developing process. Those individuals include Indigenous elders, post-secondary representatives, members of FSIN, federal government officials and Ministry of Education personal. I can imagine that since this was a brand-new concept and only introduced in 2007, that there may have been some tensions among the people of the public asking why this is important for their children to learn. I would even go as far as to say there was possibly even some backlash from teachers who were questioning how or why they had to teach this when there is already so much on their plates.

There is no doubt that curriculum development and implementation is a hefty process that is complex in many different ways!

Teaching Treaty Ed: It’s More Than Just ‘Building Tipis’

While working a summer job in 2018, I had one of my co-workers (who is white) tell me that they were thinking of transferring their children from one school to another. When I asked why, they said: “Well, because all they do at this school is build tipis”. At the time, I knew that this comment was wrong on so many levels- however I did not feel as if I were in a position to respond. This person was a superior of mine in the workplace and who was I, a summer student, to come in and start a conversation that would surely rock the boat?

After consuming all of the information for this blog- Claire’s work, Dwayne’s’ lecture and the reading I think there is significant importance in teaching Treaty Ed in terms of creating a space for First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples voices to hold power and be heard, even if there is an absence of those bodies in the classroom. I liked when Claire pointed out that this is not an issue for Indigenous people, this is an issue for white people and somehow white people still project onto people of colour. The purpose for teaching Treaty Ed is to educate the young people of today so that they can make beneficial change for ALL Canadians in the future. Being honest and sharing the facts, just like Claire does will never hinder a student’s learning but rather help it to grow and develop into deeper understandings of other perspectives. Personally, I would tell this intern that despite how the kids react or what your coop teacher says, continue to teach about Treaty Ed in an honest and respectful way because it is our duty as teachers… and like Mike said if we aren’t doing this, then we’re not actually doing our job. The curriculum documents will back you up and serves as evidence as to why you are teaching this. Acknowledging that “we are all treaty people” means that we in fact are all in this together and it involves people of different races coming together to unite in hopes of creating a better world. It is safe to say that teaching Treaty Ed means more than just “building tipis” but honouring the relationship between Indigenous and European settler people for what it was in the past and for what it has the potential to be in the future.  Everyone has to recognize this relationship like Dwayne said, and honour it through constant work and effort- that’s where our jobs as teachers comes into play. I don’t doubt that it is challenging, maybe sometimes uncomfortable and tedious work… but it has to be done. I honestly found it a bit relieving to see a teacher like Claire doing this work with such truth and love in her practice, and I hope that someday I can do that too.

Learning from place: Honouring ways of knowing and ‘cultural landscapes’

In the article titled Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing written by Jean-Paul Restoule, Shelia Gruner and Edmund Metatawabin I can see the process of reinhabitation and decolonization as soon as the researchers start to develop relationships and communicate with the Mushkegowuk Cree community about what they would like the framework of the project to look like. The researchers were starting by interacting with this Cree community and acknowledging things that they had to say.

I then thought there were other examples of this when the authors explained that both elders and youth would be put on this project together; what better way to preserve knowledge than to have elders teach it to the next generation. The activity too (creating radio documentaries) which I related with the traditional practice of oral story telling was, in my opinion, was a good way to honour this knowledge.

Another key part to the reinhabitation and decolonization efforts made by this project was the river excursion. This allowed for elders and youth to physically be on and connect with the land; a type of hands on learning that does more than just develop a student academically- focusing more on connecting to spirituality and the land. Accompanying this river excursion were lessons taught by the elders to the youth about how to live off the land and allowed students to investigate “…history, language, issues of governance, and land management…” (p. 75). Throughout this excursion and the project, elders also placed significant emphasis on traditional Cree language and the improper use of words used mostly by the younger generation. It was pointed out that colonization and residential schools played a crucial role in this language-loss and that young people using the ‘correct’ traditional language can support strengthening their abilities to form linguistic connections to traditional lands.

This project allowed people of both older and younger generations to come together to learn about, practice and celebrate their culture by sharing and learning knowledge from one another within their cultural circle. The ways of knowing that are essential parts of their being, were held at the forefront of this project, and a safe space to ask questions, seek answers and interact with the environment as well as each other was provided. This safe space enabled participants of both generations to further develop their ways of knowing. “The river trip helped members of the community share linguistic, cultural, historical, and geographical knowledge” (p.81), was said in the text and it can be observed that there was more than just one area of growth.

While reading this article I thought of an Indigenous studies 236 class I took last year (I think it was 236… not one hundred percent certain though. The professor was Andrew Miller and I 10/10 highly recommend this class). The class was about Indigenous environments, ecology and economies and we had discussed throughout the course this idea of ‘cultural landscapes’ meaning that First Nations people have a way of looking at the landscape and seeing, feeling and connecting to it in a way that Western society has never been able to. They are able to look at a river, for example, and see more than just a body of water. They see a force that has agency and is able to both give and take away life. It can be a mode of transport and communication with other communities (p.81). The river is also appreciated for being a home for many animals who sacrifice their lives to feed the humans such as waterfowl, fish, or beaver. They recognize and connect to the river and its’ landscape on a deeper level than people of European ancestry have ever been able to comprehend, and it is important to remember that just because we cannot see something, does not mean that it isn’t there. We, as future educators, need to remember to honour the ways of knowing that Indigenous peoples possess and to incorporate it into our lessons as often as we can- this is just one small step int he gigantic act of attempting to reinhabiting/decolonizing society.