Explorations in Integration
First Nation's ways of knowing and the history of the First Nation's people was woven across the curricula throughout my final practicum in a Grade 4 class.
For Language Arts, we completed a novel study on "The Birchbark House", by Louise Erdrich, which is the first book in a four book series known as The Birchbark series. The story follows the life of Omakayas and her Ojibwe community beginning in 1847 near present-day Lake Superior. The Birchbark House has received rave reviews and was a 1999 National Book Award Finalist for young people’s fiction.
The children completed their choice of final project to demonstrate their learning, which ranged from dioramas to stop motion animation.
We were privileged to attend a Metis cultural day at a neighbouring school, and I was able to document the visit to produce a video for the children on our learning. We discussed what we saw and experienced, and how it was similar or different from what we have learned of the Ojibwe culture.
The Nanaimo Museum was able to attend our school with an excellent presentation on the local First Nation's artifacts and how the settlers changed their way of life. I created a presentation for this learning as well which was posted to Freshgrade for the parents, however it is not able to be shared publicly for privacy reasons.
The Blanket Exercise
Our learnings about First Nation's culture culminated with the Blanket excercise. Together with my Sponsor teacher, we adapted the original KAIROS script to differentiate and engage our young learners. I now have a wonderful script designed for grade 3-4-5 that is able to be presented to younger children to discuss the First Nation's experience with Colonization and Assimilation.
But despite frustration with testing and concerns about letter grades, schools know that measuring and communicating student progress remains as vital as ever – if not more. As the level and complexity of student learning have increased, technology is playing a critical role in improving assessment. Smart ‘adaptive tests’ adjust the difficulty of assessment items as students progress through them for more precise measurement. Other kinds of technology-enhanced questions such as drawing or arranging graphics or text “allow students to demonstrate more complex thinking and share their understanding of material in a way that was previously difficult to assess using traditional means,” notes the U.S. Department of Education. Indeed, future testing may be ‘stealth,’ unnoticed by students as it is integrated into the regular learning process: “The record of a student’s time-on-task, keystrokes and mouse-clicks collected by interactive ebooks, adaptive instructional software, and educational games provides a multitude of data for 7 firstname.lastname@example.org educators to track a student’s learning progress, and offers the potential to blend instruction with both formative and summative assessments into one continuous process that engages the student,” observes former district technologist Gee Kin Chou.
In this context, what will it take to fix assessments and grades? By focusing on the intended purposes of assessment, schools and educators can take concrete steps to reimagine assessment. Those steps could very well lead us not only to better testing but better teaching and better schooling.
Purpose of Assessment
Rather, assessment ought to be an indicator of, and even a means for, mastery of the content and skills that students need to be successful in college, career, and life. Good assessment serves three primary purposes:
Innovative Approaches To Assessment
Redesigning our systems of assessments and creating new, better tests can be daunting – but its effects could be inspiring. Imagine how public education might look and feel different if we approached assessment in this way:
No matter your role in schooling, it is time to move toward a vision of assessments that enhance learning. While the responsibility for shifting policies and practices rests with administrators and school leaders, individual teachers can make a difference. They can craft authentic assessments whose data capture true learning, administering only assessments whose results inform specific actions. Above all, teachers and schools can dissolve the boundaries between assessment and learning, by putting more measurement tools and transparent data directly in the hands of students; in this way, with the informed support of teachers and parents, students can guide their own learning and begin to master their own destinies.
Karina Strong is currently a full time Education student at VIU in the Post Bac program. Her undergraduate degree is in Social Work and Small Business Management. She is a professional Circus performer and owner of Vesta Entertainment, a multifaceted entertainment company on Vancouver Island.