Posts tagged ‘Formative assessment’

January 25, 2013

Teachers should harness technology to find gaps in student knowledge

by Grace

So do we all agree with edX president Anant Agarwal that technology might be the “single biggest innovation in education” in the last 200 years?  It certainly seems possible.

Technology ‘will topple many ideas about how we teach’.

Because education is economically important yet appears inefficient and static with respect to technology, it’s often cited (along with health care) as the next industry ripe for a major “disruption.” This belief has been promoted by Clayton Christensen, the influential Harvard Business School professor who coined the term “disruptive technology.” In two books on education, he laid a blueprint for online learning: it will continue to spread and get better, and eventually it will topple many ideas about how we teach—and possibly some institutions as well.

My observation as a parent is that technology is unlikely to make human teachers obsolete any time soon, but the opportunity for schools to use data more efficiently screams out as a way to improve human teachers.

Technology will define where online education goes next. All those millions of students clicking online can have their progress tracked, logged, studied, and probably influenced, too. Talk to Khan or anyone behind the MOOCs (which largely sprang from university departments interested in computer intelligence) and they’ll all say their eventual goal isn’t to stream videos but to perfect education through the scientific use of data. Just imagine, they say, software that maps an individual’s knowledge and offers a lesson plan unique to him or her. Will they succeed and create something truly different? If they do, we’ll have the answer to our question: online learning will be the most important innovation in education in the last 200 years.

Teachers should harness technology to find gaps in student knowledge.

I recently heard a local high school teacher claim he did not have time to conduct formative assessments*.  Part of the school’s explanation for this was that excessive mandatory testing requirements left no time for teachers to find student’s gaps in knowledge.  I’m not buying this, because Khan Academy and other sources offer “software that maps an individual’s knowledge”.  I’ve had a brief glimpse of education software used in our public schools that also does this, generating data similar to that provided by KA.


Personalized data like this would enable a teacher to use his time more efficiently, even making differentiated instruction more feasible.  But instead, a school that claims it is teaching 21st century skills is letting its instructors rely on clunky data-gathering methods that shortchange its students.  Unfortunately, it’s going to take a little while for technology to disrupt this school’s hold on teaching methods.

* Formative assessment or diagnostic testing is a range of formal and informal assessment procedures employed by teachers during the learning process in order to modify teaching and learning activities to improve student attainment.[1] It typically involves qualitative feedback (rather than scores) for both student and teacher that focuses on the details of content and performance.[2] It is commonly contrasted with summative assessment, which seeks to monitor educational outcomes, often for purposes of external accountability.[3]

December 19, 2012

Quick Links – gift registry for college tuition; School of One; focus on short term for your career

by Grace

»»»  Have you heard about GiveCollege or Instagrad?  They’re like wedding registries for college tuition.

The Instagrad fees look high, about 8-9% of contribution amounts, while GiveCollege fees range from about 4-6% depending on the gift amount.

GiveCollege lists occasions where you can invite “friends and family to contribute to your 529 college savings plan instead of buying a traditional gift”.

  • Baby showers
  • Christenings
  • Communions
  • Bar or bat mitzvahs
  • Birthdays
  • Holidays
  • Graduations

School of One offers personalized math instruction that could increase classroom productivity

In elementary school, John Perez was left in the dust if he hadn’t mastered a concept by the teacher’s second or third explanation. The whole class would move onto something else.

Now in sixth grade at Middle School 88 in Brooklyn, John doesn’t feel that way any longer. A computer algorithm tracks his progress through daily quizzes and adjusts his schedule based on which skills he’s mastered. Each day, he is grouped with students learning at his skill level.

“You’re always learning at your own pace,” said John, 11 years old. “You’re never behind.”

John’s school is one of four in the city to adopt this year a highly touted program known as School of One, which offers the type of personalization that officials see as the future of the nation’s largest school system. Five city public schools now use the program, which has been launched under a different name in Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

So far the mixed results from the School of One pilot program in New York City could be attributed to any number of factors, including significant staff turnover at one school.

A more efficient way to handle formative assessment
Having been told some teachers have no time to perform formative assessments that would help diagnose and address individual learning issues among their students, I see School of One as a possible solution to that problem.  This would seem to help dispel the argument that schools cannot significantly increase productivity.  One problem is that innovations to increase productivity are often politically controversial.

»»»  Indian entrepreneur advises young people to ‘pick a career that excites you at the moment’

Unlike the typical middle-aged manager in the US, “Indians long ago accepted jumping from one role to another in shorter time frames”.  Entrepeneur Rajendra Singh Pawar’s advice to young Indians that they should focus on the short term makes sense, given the nature of today’s ever-changing workplace.

The good news is that youngsters these days are very footloose. They can move from event management to software development to marketing. You get in but you don’t stay there. This is a marked difference not just in India from before but from the whole world.

Today I am more inclined to tell you to pick the career which excites you at the moment. An underlying change is happening in India. While BPO [business process outsourcing, such as call centers and medical transcription] will continue to grow, there are areas that are small now but with high growth percentages.

Pawar points out that a willingness to be flexible and mobile makes it easier for India to “build a transient work force”.  That appears to be our future – a “transient workforce”.

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