Assessments in Distance Learning

Updated: May 24

Sitting in a meeting about authenticating assessment, my mind wanders to the overall state of education.

Here we are almost 1 year into a pandemic. Our systems have been thrown against a wall and decimated.

Pivoting in a weekend our normal flow of life came to a dead stop. Everything started spinning and it isn’t quite done yet.

Back in March, we had to master our LMS. We found ways to create relationships and maintain the finely tuned cultures that we had created inside the four walls of our classrooms. Our lessons, delivery, assessments…. All of it changed. We were all just surviving.. Living day by day, trying to figure out how to homeschool our own kids, and provide an education for our kids at school.

Through deep reflection I can think of some successes and many more failures. Project based learning saved my sanity as I immediately planned an independent project with coordinated collaboration days. I failed to see my students live as often as I would have liked. I missed the banter and casual conversations in the hall and opportunity to soothe their fears as I wrestled with my own.

At the end of the year there were no answers. No one knew what schools would look like, how they would function or who would be in them. This is where my real journey into agile and eduscrum began.

I dove deep into learning agile and Eduscrum frameworks. Discovering how other amazing minds have used it in education, and uncovering the endless possibilities a cartoonish light popped over my head. This was the new wave of education. More immediately this was going to be the path to save my students’ education and my sanity in the upcoming years of hybrid/distance/virtual learning.

My classroom is split with both in person and virtual students. Students leave for periods of time to quarantine, students come back from optional distance learning. Everything in our lives is in constant flux and the pivoting is exhausting for all of us.

However, having the Eduscrum framework has forced me to scaffold projects that can be done anywhere. The students are connected. Their forging friendships and relationships. They’re highly engaged, learning real world skills and working through content. Their lives are in changing, but they have control of their learning. No one is left out because they are in class or at home. Eduscrum has been the answer to the question that COVID has posed to us.

The journey has been difficult. All of my units have had to be redesigned from bottom up. The learning objectives are the same, but the path to reach them has changed. Assessments are real, but they’re authentic. Small group instruction allows for me to have conversations with each child. The units are designed with writing, reflections and constant application. Occasionally there are formal assessments. Quizzes and tests are open notebook. Their scores reflect the quality of their notes, rather than their ability to memorize. There is no fear of cheating. The loopholes have been closed by the planning of the unit.

What hasn’t been difficult is confirming that real learning is happening. My students are engaged with content and skills, they actively collaborate together and control their own work flow. 

8th grade students have tackled and conquered the Social Contract Theory, the American Revolution and now the Constitution. They’re discovering new ways to use visual thinking, infographic, sketchnotes, game design. They’ve learned how to take notes and study that benefit their learning style. 13 year olds plan their own projects.

These 8th graders, living through COVID, have produced some of the most incredibly creative products that I have ever seen. They constantly ask deep questions and drive the curriculum forward with minor assistance from me. The bar for students can achieve has been knocked from its lower rungs and placed at newer, higher levels by the students themselves.

The role of the teacher has changed as well. Leading the class is a thing of the past. I scaffold and plan. I create pathways that students will pave. Instead of lectures and sage on a stage we do bursts of whole group instruction. Most days I’m having student driven conversations with small groups to address their individual needs.There are no more pre-set scripts, only authentic discussions.

I’m lucky enough to spend my time teaching the content that I love, but addressing the specific needs of my students.

Back in my meeting these thoughts are swirling

Authenticating assessments.

Trying to stop cheating.

If knowledge is “googlable” then what are we grading? We’re past the point of retention and recall. Our new lives are connections and application. You cannot cheat building connections and applications. Best of all each student can show their mastery on their terms….

Wouldn’t this whole problem be solved with project based learning and Eduscrum?

The only remaining question is why aren’t more people implementing this tool in their classrooms?

Why are lectures and worksheets still the first choice when they’re not serving any of our students?

So what is everyone waiting for?

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