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Assessment for learning in practice in a year 11 classroom – a teacher's story

Ben Keyte, sole-charge physical education teacher at Excellere College, tells how the use of fundamental assessment for learning strategies in his classroom helped his year 11 students with NCEA success.

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We were working on the hardest unit, biomechanics, and this class was really struggling.

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I had planned a small formative test for the class earlier, but was not expecting the lesson to go where it did. After the students had taken the test, we went through and marked it together. It had taken several months for students to feel comfortable to state in front of the class that they had got questions wrong, but they had now reached that stage knowing that they would not be ridiculed or “told off”.

Key points:

  • Frequent, informal testing allows teacher and students to monitor progress.
  • The teacher had worked hard to establish a learning relationship in the classroom where students were unafraid to say that they’d made a mistake.

So in this lesson we went over the answers, as we normally do, but then I did something different. I wrote the number of questions on the board, and we went through as a class to find out how many people got each question wrong. This was a very basic test, aimed at the “achieved” level and included information that all students needed to understand to be able to pass. Out of 12 questions most were correctly answered, but we discovered there were three questions that almost the whole class could not do. When I saw this data I changed the lesson plan so that learning this information become our learning intention. I then clearly went over the relevant information with the students, equipping them with the knowledge they needed.

Key points:

  • The students were involved in the analysis of the test data.
  • The teacher changed the lesson plan to cater for student needs, based on the test data.
  • The teacher made sure that students had the specific information they needed for understanding.
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I then allowed them to learn it in whatever way worked best for them. What the students did next blew me away.

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They obviously understood the importance of this, which I was happy to see, as they all started to learn the information, but learn it in their own unique ways. Those who learned best individually were doing it. Those who learned best by writing things down numerous times were doing it, and those who learn best verbally were teaching each other outside the classroom.

Key points:

  • Students realised the importance of learning this because the teacher had involved them in the analysis of the data.
  • The students were given the opportunity to learn the information in ways best suited to them.
  • The teacher understood that students need to understand their own learning dispositions if they are to take control and manage that learning both now and in the future.

I have found this learning process to be very beneficial, and have seen the results in my students’ work. In a class of sixteen, two gained Excellence, seven gained Merit, and six gained Achieved, with only one Not Achieved. Out of eight target students (those at risk of not achieving) one gained Excellence, five gained Merit, one gained Achieved, and only one was Not Achieved.

Read more:

This story, Clarity about the learning gives students confidence and NCEA success, tells how Ben's inquiry into his teaching practices improved the learning in his classroom.