Trading Live: Appreciating Assessment

Love, laughter and learning!

On the afternoon of Tuesday 26th July, teachers and principals from a range of different secondary schools, gathered together in Ntsika Secondary school for what was promised to be a ‘fun-filled’ workshop on assessment! The aim of the workshop was to share and build on the good work teachers are already doing and to increase the value of that work through inspiring and developing future practice.

The workshop was facilitated by CHERTL - the Centre for Higher Education, Research, Teaching and Learning - as part of the Trading Live initiative of the Community Engagement Division at Rhodes University. Taking up the offer of the workshop, Madeleine Schoeman, principal of Ntsika, extended an invitation to other schools in the area.

Despite teachers expressing feelings of finding assessment ‘tiring’ and ‘time-consuming’, they had come to the workshop in the hope of ‘learning more about it’, ‘learning new strategies’, ‘making it more manageable’ and maybe learning to look at assessment with a ‘fresh perspective’. One of the participants was particularly interested in looking at assessment as a way of connecting with the children and was particularly interested in having fun!

Through an appreciative process of imagining, interrogating, innovating and implementing, the teachers captured and explored their understandings of assessment using pictures and sharing their practice and experience. Expressing the importance of love and interaction in processes of teaching and learning, assessment was recognized as being both important and integral – not just something that happens at the end of a section of work, or term, or year to determine what has been learned, but also very importantly to inform and support future learning.

Pictures of hearts, trees, roads and arrows were used to represent fundamental ideas of love, growth, development, direction and goals. Strategies were shared and ideas were developed. By the end of the workshop each teacher was prepared to commit to ways in which they wanted to go forward in using assessment to support more strongly the learning of their students:

  • offering positive and constructive feedback,
  • encouraging students to build their confidence,
  • asking questions to encourage them to think about what they need to do,
  • giving students space to develop their work in response to this feedback,
  • feeding back as soon as possible to enable more meaningful engagement,
  • making time for one-on-one follow-up,
  • designing assessment which caters for all the students in the class,
  • using feedback to inform planning of future lessons,
  • reflecting on and adapting methods and strategies,
  • using different methods to determine and develop understanding,
  • being more explicit with the students about what we are doing and why,
  • making assessment fun!

At the end of the workshop, Madeleine commented ‘It was actually fun!’ Had she been skeptical?? Other informal comments suggested that not only had the teachers enjoyed the workshop but they were also leaving feeling invigorated and inspired! They had really appreciated having an opportunity to listen to and learn from each other. Assessment, it was recognized, was appreciated as not only a vital part of teaching and learning, but also as an opportunity to have fun!

Drs Sue Southwood & Dina Belluigi

Source:  Drs Sue Southwood and Dina Belluigi

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