Academic Profile Assessment Tool

A key focus of my student records is trying to make the process as seamless as possible from assessment to reporting to parents. Over the last few years, I’ve developed my assessment process, and this year, adapted it to the Australian Curriculum.

I start each year with the student reports from the year before.  The WA Department of Education guidelines stipulate that a “C” grade is awarded when a student achieves all outcomes for their year level.  A “B” grade is awarded when a student also shows evidence of achieving outcomes from the year level above. An “A” grade is awarded when a student achieves all outcomes from the the year level above.  Based on this feedback, I am able to make a start on filling in a student’s academic profile.


Science Academic Profile
English Academic Profile
History Academic Profile

Through the course of the year, each time a student demonstrates an outcome, I place a tick in the box, and when I have seen enough evidence, stamp the outcome “Completed”.

As I prepare for semester and end-of-year reports, a quick glance at the stamps and ticks allows me to make a quick assessment of a student’s grade.  I also use the academic profiles during student-teacher conferences when discussing with students the outcomes they have achieved, and areas that require more evidence.

Microsoft Word DOCX versions (with Mailmerge XLS file with class list to print a class set of profiles), and OSX Numbers electronic versions are available on request.

feature image source: DaveCrosby @ flickr

Australian Curriculum Musings

The Australian Curriculum is beginning to be implemented in schools across Australia.  At the start of 2011, I made the decision to dive straight in and begin unpacking the curriculum to use in my classroom with my students.  For the first semester, I used the English, Mathematics, Science outcomes, and fortunately, the History outcomes (as our school’s Schedule A had Time, Continuity and Change from the older WA Outcomes and Standards Framework (WA OSF) as the main focus).

As the year progresses, more and more resources are coming out – both from the various education departments around Australia, and from educational publishing houses – that are directly referencing these outcomes. My first impressions of the Australian Curriculum are that they are easier to understand than the existing WA OSF and K-10 Syllabus, with clearer, specific outcomes, and that the students also are having less trouble understanding the “teacher-speak” in them.  The greatest benefit is that publishing houses and education departments around the country will be able to focus all of their attention and resources into one set of standards, meaning a greater, deeper range of learning experiences that can be shared with students.

In the spirit of sharing, I’ll be posting all of the resources I’ve adapted to meet the Australian Curriculum.  Initially, I did a lot of re-writing of the curricula in order to get my head around it, and experiment with different ways my programming could be mapped out.  My programming and assessment paperwork has been an ongoing evolution for ten years now, and I can’t see myself settling until I find the “perfect” way!

Student-Led eFolios

Improving student assessment

Through my reflections, I’ve identified that my assessment is an area that could be improved upon.

That’s not to say I don’t assess; some at my school would say that my assessment records are even over the top!  However, reading through the Level 3 Teacher competencies, I can’t help but feel that I’ve become pigeon-holed in the range of assessment types I offer to my students.  With the advent of all the technology in my room, such as the TurningPoint system, and the use of Google Doc forms, a lot of my assessment has become test-driven, rather than opportunities through rich tasks.

Competency 2: Employ  consistent exemplary practice in developing and implementing student assessment and reporting processes.

Digging further into this competency are two key points:

1. Uses a range of appropriate assessment strategies: Provides a range of planed, meaningful opportunities for students to demonstrate progress and autonomous and consistent achievement of outcomes, using valid and reliable assessment methodology.

2. Provides explicit information about student assessment: Negotiates explicit criteria with students for assessment, based on intended learning outcomes and provides formative information to enhance student and teacher reflection.

Thus the idea of an eFolio appeals to me on a number of levels – one, it should encourage me to plan for a wider variety of assessment forms; two, it will give my students a greater opportunity to take control of their own self-evaluations.

What are the eFolio options?

I’m very familiar with the WordPress platform, and my initial thought was to use that… but would that be too much extra work?  Would the extra time spent using it in class mean better outcomes for my students?  So I made a short-list of possible options for student folios:

  • WordPress
  • traditional display folder/scrapbook
  • PowerPoint
  • Publisher
  • Word
  • Google Documents

My wife is an early-childhood  teacher, and I’ve seen the hours and hours of extra work that goes into producing “traditional” paper-style portfolios… usually by the teacher (especially in PrePrimary)! I also don’t want the students’ folios to be simply work sample books – I want them to show continuity, reflection and growth – and be truly student-centred pieces, and I’m worried that by going this route, student work sample books is what we may well end up with.

The Microsoft Office and Google Documents options also did not appeal… the file would become cumbersome over a year, and would not allow the flexibility of adding video or audio easily into the files (and keep the file size minimal!).

The Shanghai American School approach

WordPress appears to be the best option.  But have any other educators had success in using WordPress? How do they use it?  One of the first blogs I came across was The Thinking Stick, by Jeff Utecht.  His article, True eFolios for students, outlined how he drove a whole-school approach toward each student having a wordpress-based eFolio, at Shanghai American School.  A student example can be found here.

In summary, Utecht approach towards this was that:

  • every middle-school student had a blog that was visible to the whole Internet;
  • by making the blogs public, it gave students a powerful sense of writing for an audience;
  • blogs run in chronological order, following the school year, making it a perfect vehicle;
  • students set up categories in subject areas, allowing for quick reference to specific areas;
  • students used a “Student-Led Conference” category to refine a range of posts that they could  use at parent meetings.

Adapting the ideas to my classroom

On balance, I wholeheartedly agree with the Shanghai American School approach – the concept of students being able to quickly pull a reflection from three years earlier, and compare it to a current one is brilliant – what better way for students to measure their own growth?  In my classroom, students should be able to do the same thing, even if only over the course of the single school year, before they move on to high school.

I would happily dedicate sections of the school day or week to students reflecting in-class.  The opportunity for students to record themselves reading in Term One, and again in Term Three, and reflect themselves on improvements in fluency and understanding of the texts they are reading have the potential to be extremely powerful.

My only reservation is the public nature of the eFolios.  The Department of Education has clear guidelines and expectations around student images and the like on the public domain, which would have the potential to severely impinge the types of information that could be posted.  I would also think twice about feedback I wrote on the blog, in the form of comments.  On the other hand, I also agree that a degree of “writing for an audience” is essential to maintaining enthusiasm and vision.  It would be a wonderful experience if students got into the habit of being able to go home each evening and log onto their eFolio to show their parents how they were going at school.

This is a question that needs to be tackled in conjunction with the parents and administration.  I feel we can get past the issue by individually password-protecting the blogs – allowing students to share a password with people they trust (i.e. family members), but keeping the general public out of information that is potentially confidential.  It would also require clear explanation to the parent group to get permission to go ahead with the project.

If the general feeling within the school is that it is too much a risk to student privacy, then the next option would be hosting the WordPress sites on the school Intranet, thereby restricting students’ ability to reflect out of school hours, but ensuring student privacy.

In summary

I believe student-led eFolios have the potential to truly enrich my students’ learning.  Half of my class (whom I will teach again next year), are already familiar with WordPress, which will make the upskilling a combination of teacher-led learning and peer tutoring.

Down the track, I believe it also has the potential for students to drive their own learning – by looking back on the outcomes they have covered so far, and identifying the outcomes that they would like to focus on next, and then through teacher-student conferences, develop activities and rich tasks that will help them achieve those outcomes… but let’s get the whole thing off the ground first, eh!?!

Feature image source: wikipedia

The Flipped Classroom

Recently I read the term “Flipped Classroom” when exploring on the net, and decided to find out more.
The traditional classroom sees students learn lessons from the teacher during class time – it may be a “chalk and talk” lesson, or the explanation of a concept or idea. The students then have set homework to do at home based on this. The Flipped Classroom model sees the homework aspect as the “chalk and talk” lesson, completed via on-line vodcasts that students watch and observe. The in-class time is then dedicated to small group work and extension of the understandings learnt at home, allowing the teacher to complete a lot more one-on-one time with students.

A sample of sites I found

Over the past few months, I’ve been toying with online tutorials for my students (a few examples can be found here), but more as an opportunity for them to revise what they have already heard in class.  The models espoused in the above webpages certainly lend themselves to a high school setting, where each teacher only has to focus on one learning area, but what of the primary school teacher?  Is it realistic to expect my Year 6 and 7 students to watch enough online tutorials each evening to cover all eight learning areas? My first impression is no.

So, on reflection, how can I use this – theoretically excellent – idea in my classroom?  Well, I certainly wouldn’t expect students to watch my tutorials for homework; firstly, not all of my students have access to the Internet; secondly, I’d like to be present to answer immediate questions, rather than have students write them down, and ask them the next morning.

However, I would certainly use tutorials as an independent or small-group learning tool.  I can see real value in subject areas where students are all working at varying speeds and levels (such as our English programme, consisting of spelling skills, comprehension, and conventions), where students can use the tutorials at their leisure, ask for immediate assistance and feedback, and then work on their enrichment tasks.

So, my professional challenge for Term 4 will be to use an in-class “Flipped Classroom” style model for my spelling and grammar programme.

Challenge: Adapting “Flipped Classroom” approach to Spelling

Reason: My students are beginning a new “style” of spelling for Term 4 anyway, where they take a more individualized, independent approach.

Curriculum:The new Australian Curriculum has been used heavily to guide the structure and content of the programme, namely English: Writing: Language.

Question to Consider:Will using self-led tutorials be of greater benefit to the students’ learning than traditional face-to-face teaching? Gauge success through student interviews and feedback forms based along the line of “Did you prefer to use the on-line tutorial, or have Mr Hinchliffe teach the class each new learning point?”
Competency 1: Use innovative and/or exemplary teaching strategies and techniques to more effectively meet the learning needs of individual students, groups and/or classes of students.
Uses a range of meaningful and relevant learning and teaching strategies. 

feature image source: wikimedia