Post By: Matthew Bennett – BSN Senior School, Assistant Head, Learning and Teaching
Recently I read Daisy Christodoulou’s latest publication, “Making good progress? The future of Assessment for Learning”. Daisy is a popular but at times divisive figure in education and having read her last book “Seven Myths in Education” and heard her speak at ReserachEd Amsterdam in March, I was interested to read this book. Although I do not agree with everything she says, (I need to read far more to fully understand the role and place of comparative judgement in secondary education) I find the basis of her assessment arguments often valid and have found some real practical applications of the suggestions she makes in this book.
As explained in an earlier blog, The BSN has introduced a new 1-2-1 EdTech device in the Senior School to coincide with the implementation of our new Edtech strategy. Having previously blogged about the benefits these changes are making to my work life balance here, I am now seeing more and more of the educational benefits this offers to my pedagogy.
What I found most interesting in this book was how the suggestions Christodoulou makes about good AFL practice can be directly implemented through our EdTech use and strategy at The BSN. Christodoulou spends considerable time in the book highlighting how the use of quick answer, multiple choice questions can be a highly effective AFL technique to gauge what students can recall from previous learning, highlight any areas of misconception and indicate potential gaps in student knowledge.
Multiple choice questions are often viewed as the poor cousin to other questioning types but I value their place. Firstly, many of the criticisms often presented (the ease of answering, the ability to guess answers, the inability to probe for deep understanding, the lack of relevance for essay based subjects) can be addressed through careful consideration of the question and answers being provided. Christodoulou addresses these issues in the book but for a quicker read of these issues see the following blog by @Joe_Kirby here. Secondly, the GCSE subject I teach includes 8 multiple choice questions as part of the exam, so it is equally important students experience answering them.
Using AFL techniques to snapshot learning is not a new suggestion to pedagogical practice. Entrance and exit surveys, hinge questions and the use of student whiteboards are all excellent tools to enable teachers to gain insight into class understanding. The difference between these techniques and those offered through combining our VLE and Edtech strategy is the speed at which the teacher can elicit this information. Although paper based multiple choice questions are quick to answer, they still require time, either yours or the students. Furthermore, seeing trends across the class in subject knowledge or common misconceptions requires analysis between papers which again takes time.
However, through Canvas (our school VLE platform) a 1-2-1 device that meets the learning needs of students and an upskilling of my EdTech pedagogy, I have an excellent tool that significantly speeds up this process. Providing real time AFL feedback to inform my planning and next step teaching.
Using our VLE I can quickly create a series of multiple choice questions that revisit topics from the previous lesson, as seen here:
With a traditional paper quiz or student whiteboard, I would now mark the questions myself or use student self-marking or peer marking. Great for telling me about individuals scores, but time consuming and not so useful in highlighting whole class misconceptions or learning.
However through the quiz analysis tool in Canvas, I receive real time updates as students complete the questions. Not only their own specific answers, but trends in the class per question. This instant feedback as students complete the questions, is hugely beneficial in helping me ascertain if a topic or idea is well learnt and does not require more time spent on it, as in this case:
Or something I clearly need to revisit this lesson, as in this case looking at the answers provided to the question above:
Here the quiz analysis function quickly indicates that of my 13 students, 5 answered incorrectly, with 4 of the 5 making the same mistake. Clearly something to revisit in this lesson.
Could I have gained this information from other assessment techniques? Yes. Could I have gained it in the time taken between the students finishing the quiz and opening their text books? No.
Knowing when to move on and when to pause and revisit learning is a fundamental part of good pedagogy. Our school VLE, Edtech strategy and use of 1-2-1 devices provides the opportunity to do this quickly therefore informing my next step teaching more effectively.