3 Ingredients for Growing Assessment Capability
Levi Allison
5 min read

Reflections from the Toddle Recess Duty Takeover with Levi Allison

For the last two years, I have been working on developing assessment capability in my classroom. As a specialist teacher, I work with over 300 students and have spent this year trying to answer the guiding question, ‘How can I assess 300 students across multiple grades effectively while supporting agency?’. I had a chance to sit down with Cindy Blackburn on my podcast, Recess Duty, and reflect on my progress towards this goal.

In this blog, I will share with you three ingredients that have helped me grow assessment capability:

  • identifying clear success criteria
  • encouraging self-regulation
  • modeling vulnerability

If you’d like to listen to my conversation with Cindy, head over to my podcast, Recess Duty.

Identifying Clear Success Criteria

The first major change I made in my classroom was to become much clearer with success criteria. As guided inquiry educators, we should have a clear picture of what students should know, understand, and be able to do as a result of the learning. While we hold the primary responsibility of defining the scope of an inquiry and addressing our curriculum standards, there is immense value in sharing and unpacking what success looks like with students. I have made a few small but significant shifts that have had a profound impact on the learning in my classroom:

Lead with why: The primary function of success criteria is to connect the class on why we are learning about music. In the early stages of our unit, we discuss the learning outcomes and share as a class why this learning is relevant in our lives.

Along with my students, I explored what it means to be a musician and why musicians are important in our lives. We dived into what it means to be artful and how we might use these skills in our everyday lives, as John Feiriband says, “to be artful, tuneful, and beat-ful”. These three goals helped us ground the why behind studying music and we unpacked this together to develop personal whys. We then looked at how our standards, concepts, and engagements help support our whys.

From Linear to Circular: Another major shift when designing success criteria was to change how we visualised it in the classroom- from a linear model to a circular model. With a linear approach, I often found students feeling ashamed of being “beginners.” Therefore, a lot of our work this year has focused on building the confidence to recognise our own areas of growth. By shifting to a circular model, we have identified that all learners will eventually be beginners at something. I often share this learning cycle with my students and provide the central success criteria. As a class we discuss being a beginner or an expert in that skill looks like. Then, students place themselves on the circle and identify next steps.

Want to use this template with your students? Download it here.

Encouraging Self-regulation

Once we have clearly defined success criteria (the why) and brainstormed potential goals and milestones (how), the what is up to students! In the past, I felt the need to assign students work and manage their use of time. Now, I give increasing ownership to students of how they spend their time in pursuit of their goals. Students create their own learning plan for the day as they steadily work towards their goals, and my role shifts towards being both a facilitator and mentor. This shift has given me a significant amount of time to confer 1-on-1 with students and provide specific and timely feedback. This wouldn’t have been possible in a specialist setting without the use of co-created stations. But I knew co-creating stations was just the beginning.

When I asked students what they enjoyed in music, most students said singing, a few said performing and some simply said they enjoyed listening to music as a way to relax, unwind, and study. After discussing what students enjoyed we started to draft activities that were available for students.

We then moved on to creating stations within music based on different songs. We had several songs based on difficulty and through discussion, we worked on identifying each student’s ‘just right’ zone- a song that was neither too simple nor too hard but challenging enough to help them grow.

They took this challenge and flew! I am now constantly identifying new songs for them as they are eager to continue growing and challenging themselves musically. They may sing, perform, or simply analyse the musical patterns by listening, and they take ownership of how they share the various musical concepts.

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