How we work differently now

In what ways do we work differently now, when it comes to differentiation, organization and carrying out learning and assessment activities?

Through working with the project, we have been involving students in discussing and defining assessment criteria more systematically than before. For example, one example of an assessment criteria was given to the students by the teacher (“use the APA citation and referencing style”), and they were to discuss and suggest other relevant assessment criteria for the specific assignment given. The discussions and suggestions of assessment criteria were based on the task given and the relevant competence aims in the course plan (“emneplan”).

The project led to students systematically providing and working with feedback by ensuring that we set aside time for planning. We had to be more aware than before when it comes to how the feedback is provided, how it is going to be worked on, how the assessment criteria are developed etc. We spent more time on peer assessment, where students provided feedback to peers on written texts in class. This was done as part of the assignment requirements. Furthermore, compared to before, we had to make sure that we talked about the writing process with the students. They had lectures on formative assessment and formative feedback, and they were made more aware of what it means to write through drafting, editing and revising.

Throughout the semester, the students wrote systematic reflection notes, where we gave them six questions regarding reflections on their writing, the feedback received, the follow-up of feedback and the use of OneNote to work with formative assessment. The reflection notes were written both in and out of class.

In general, the project has led to awareness raising about formative assessment, contributing to back-engineering the English courses. In addition to planning we usually do, like planning forward in time, we needed to take into consideration the whole process from the beginning of assessment work, assessment criteria, development work, reporting to NUV, research project, conferences, assignments, feedback, follow-up of feedback, reflection notes – until the product, being the student presentation portfolios.

Institutional support is important

What institutional factors have been significant for project implementation?

Institutional support is a crucial factor for successful implementation of any educational innovation. The significant role that digitalization plays in the institution’s policy documents makes projects such as these valued and welcomed at the institutional level. What structures need to be in place to support the staff in implementing new digital practices?  IT support seems crucial, especially on matters that relate to local network and services.  Clearer routines, a good overview of the services offered, a help/troubleshooting center for implementation of digital tools in teaching and an arena for sharing the best-practice examples and tips are certainly assets to any institution that has digitalization as its aim.

When it comes to assessment practices, any implementation of innovation in requires support from the leadership and the administrative services. The current project is being conducted at the time when teacher education is undergoing significant changes, moving to a 5-year Master education. As a consequence of this reform, the institution has encouraged revision of the course plans and reassessment of examination practices which opens up for innovations of this kind. Still, many obstacles arise along the way. As this project focuses on formative assessment, we have had a considerable amount of freedom in implementing different ways of assessing student learning throughout the course.  However, the project has also heavily centered on obligatory assignments that the students must complete in the course of the term, which are in the end included in the final assessment portfolio. Obligatory coursework and the final examinations are subject to various regulations at the national and the institutional level. Navigating through relevant guidelines and policy documents can at times been challenging and the institutions might want to consider how these could be made more accessible to the teaching staff. It is also important to ensure that the guidelines are flexible enough and formulated in a way that opens up for different assessment practices and encourages the teaching staff to explore new ways of assessing student learning. Efforts to standardize assessment and evaluation practices across campuses and institutions, though potentially having many positive aspects, can at the same time be felt as obstacles to innovation. Based on our experiences so far, we cannot but conclude that determination, effort, and good-will  is needed from all the parties involved to successfully implement new assessment practices that relate to exams and/or obligatory coursework. At the same time, we have learned that there are many small changes that one can make in one’s own teaching to promote classroom assessment practices that will hopefully improve student learning.