I have been in the loop from the beginning but have rarely had time to make any contribution plus I also felt somewhat reluctant to be pushing the BEAM project, but I would like to comment on recent discussions about student assessment.
BEAM very consciously adopted a constructivist approach to teaching and learning with a heavy emphasis on the development of higher order thinking skills and this approach and emphasis has permeated everything we have done, our trainings, our learning guides and other learning materials and our approach to the assessment of student learning outcomes. In fact the complete focus of our final summer training last May for teachers, principals and supervisors was classroom based assessment and a comprehensive training package was developed along with a DVD ‘Constructivism in Teaching-Learning and Assessment’. All of these resources are available to everyone via the Acumen website (www.acumen.ph) under the Educators / Assessment / Assessment Training / Assessment Package section (http://davao.acumen.ph/static/Assessment/index-2.html). There are snippets of the DVD integrated into the training materials and you will soon be able to access the full DVD through Acumen when current modifications are completed. We have also completed an e-learning training package on student assessment and this will also be available soon through Acumen which is a repository for all of our learning materials (SBM, teacher inservice training, pre-service, multigrade, special education, distance learning, ALIVE, IP and of course assessment). We are glad that the British Council and SEAMEO Innotech have agreed to join us and place all of their learning materials into Acumen too. We hope to have all of these modifications and additions to Acumen completed by November.
In developing the training materials on assessment and working through all of the relevant DepEd Orders pertaining to student assessment, the need for a DepEd overarching policy on student assessment became obvious. Working with people from the NETRC and the Central Office we drafted policy paper for others to consider as a starting point for further elaboration. Amongst other things the paper endeavors to relate classroom assessment to the BEC and advocated authentic assessment strategies consistent with the philosophy of the BEC. I have attached a copy of that draft paper for your information.
Without trying to draw analogies with the NAT, the RAMSE (Region-wide Assessment in Maths, Science and English) which we have conducted in Regions XI, XII and ARMM each year since 2004, has proved to be a very useful evaluation tool for the system. A sample of more than 22,000 students from Grade 4 and Year 2 have been tested each year with the focus on the BEC competencies and higher order thinking skills. The grade 4 test included Grades 1 to 4 competencies while the Year covered competencies from Grade 4 to Year 2. Every booklet was numbered and collected and about 60% of the items were common each year (anchored items). One of the most significant findings was that the average mean score from the three subjects of the anchored items improved by 22.95% for Grade 4 and 21.12% for Year 2. Admittedly the base line means in 2004 were only in the high 20% but increases of this nature over only 5 years are very considerable. If you are interested in all of the findings of the RAMSE tests, the 2004 to 2007 RAMSE reports are available on the BEAM website (www.beam.org. ph) under BEAM Systems / Evaluation Reports / RAMSE. The 2008 Report is almost finished and will be posted on the website very soon.
It is heartening to read the comments about assessment and to see the obvious interest, I hope DepEd picks up on this area and gives it appropriate and due recognition. After all, what you really value is what you assess so if you are advocating the development of problem solving and other higher order thinking skills (HOTS) then you have to assess whether they are being developed.
(Ian D’Arcy Walsh is Australian Project Director, Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao – BEAM Project)
POSITION ON STUDENT ASSESSMENT
THE BASIC EDUCATION ASSISTANCE FOR MINDANAO (BEAM) PROJECT
This document has drawn on ideas developed in other school systems to describe holistic approaches to student and classroom assessment and the reporting of this information to parents.
In particular segments from the South Australian Policy Statement Assessing and Reporting for Schools (1996), the National Assessment and Reporting Policy of Papua New Guinea Department of Education (2003) and the Background, Rationale and Specifications of the Queensland Curriculum. Assessment and Reporting Framework (2005) have been particularly helpful.
The document has also drawn on key Department of Education documents, particularly DepEd Orders of the Republic of the Philippines.
The overall goal of the BEAM project is to improve the quality of teaching and learning in basic education in Mindanao. Specifically, the project aims to improve and enhance the skills and knowledge of teachers, educational managers and to address other community needs. These needs include basic education for Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICCs) and Madaris. The project covers Regions XI, XII and ARMM.
The project approach to student assessment is driven by the main assumptions of the BEAM approach to student learning. The BEAM approach is designed to be aligned with the requirements of the assessment requirements of the Basic Education Curriculum (BEC), consistent with Dep Ed Order 16 of 2002 relating to Foreign-Assisted Projects.
The BEC was promulgated in 2002 under DepEd Orders 43 (and an earlier Order 25 of 2002).
Order 43 provides guidelines for Elementary and Secondary schools. These guidelines cover, in general terms, the structure of the curriculum, time allotments, grading procedures (adopted from Orders 66 of 1995 and 80 of 1993), the approach to character traits and modified student report formats (DepEd Forms 138). Details of the competencies required in each learning area of the BEC have been distributed and are available from the DepEd website and cover elementary subject areas: English, Science, Filipino, Edukasyong Pangtahanan at Pangkabuhayan, Mathematics, Makabayan and Edukasyong Pagpapakatao.
Complementing the BEC is the revised approach to grading, detailed in DepEd Order 79/2003, that advises the basis on which grades should be calculated, tests designed, and grades reported. From documents explored to date it appears that there is neither a definitive position on student assessment (beyond grading) nor a global DepEd policy on student assessment.
Rationale for this document
The BEAM project promotes a student-centered approach to learning. A fundamental tenet of the approach is that each student ‘constructs’ their own understanding of the world (and of what is taught to them) based on their personal assimilation of information, moderated by their current ‘accumulation’ of information and understandings.
No matter what the teacher hopes, students who do not yet have the background knowledge and skills can neither accommodate what they are told, what they explore nor what they attempt to read, in a meaningful way. A teacher sensitive to the student’s ‘construction’ of learning has a view of the current accumulated learning of each student, and can attempt to ensure that each student engages in the learning process at a level appropriate. This is recognized as very complex for a teacher, with the complexity increasing as the size of the teaching group increases.
The task required of the teacher is made more manageable by approaches to how the learning accumulation for each student is estimated, how it is kept track of and the range of teaching and learning approaches that can be used to assist and motivate the student.
DepEd Order 35/2005 addresses the findings of the monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the BEC in secondary schools, by the Bureau of Secondary Education. In particular, the Order notes that ‘teachers have limited knowledge of constructivism’. The report goes on to indicate that “ ‘learning as a construction process and the learner as a constructor of meaning’ is among the basic concepts of the BEC. ….Although the concept was unfamiliar to many teachers, …. its operationalization was observable in some classes…where problem solving, inquiry or discovery approaches were being used.”
This document outlines the approach of the BEAM project to student assessment, and presumes a ‘constructivist’ view of learning and an interest in promoting high order thinking.
Role of student assessment in Beam
‘Assessment’ can mean different things to different people. BEAM promotes a very broad concept of assessment, consistent with the dictionary definition ‘of fixing the amount of, estimating the value of’ (Oxford Concise). In non-technical use, it can be used interchangeably with ‘evaluation’ but BEAM prefers to use evaluation as the term for a ‘big picture’ assessment; that is analyzing data from a range of sources to evaluate a larger-scale process rather than the learning position of any individual student.
The assessment literature distinguishes between ‘formative’ assessment and ‘summative’ assessment. The former is the concept of making a judgment of a student’s understanding in order to help him/her make further progress, often described as ‘assessment for learning’. The latter is used to summarize, to take a more detailed ‘reading’ after a period of time, at the end of a grading period or year, described as ‘assessment of learning’. The distinction has value for some purposes but BEAM, in promoting a strong emphasis on formative assessment, will normally imply ‘formative’ in its use of the term ‘assessment’.
A ‘student assessment’ is any event in which an observer, directly or through the use of a tool such as a test or a task, estimates what or how much a student knows or understands. For BEAM, assessment is the process of identifying, gathering and interpreting information about the current position of a student’s learning. By relating a current assessment to previous assessments, growth in learning can be observed.
The purposes of assessment, for BEAM, are:
- to improve the learning outcomes of all students,
- to provide specific feedback to students to help them improve their performance,
- to modify instructional strategies to meet individual student needs;
- to provide information about whether the learning goals of the teaching program have been achieved;
- to assist with making decisions about subsequent teaching and learning; and
- to make decisions regarding the effectiveness of instructional programs.
Teachers make assessments of students for much of the time they are in contact with them. Most commonly these assessments are informal observations of student behaviours, responses and interactions. Only infrequently, compared to the rate at which teachers are assessing, are assessments ‘formal’, that is recorded and reported.
Assessments need not be confined to observation of students going about learning, an often mysterious and hidden process. The classroom can be set up for students to regularly provide feedback about their own learning through the use of response techniques such as ‘traffic light cards’ or student initiated signals to let the teacher appreciate the degree to which a student understands a lesson. Under BEAM and BEC the teacher is required to understand each student’s level of achievement and to use this understanding to help each student and thus the practical techniques are required to achieve this.
Formal assessments of student ‘products’ and pencil-and-paper tests are also used to monitor student learning. The results of these formal assessments, as well as informing the teacher and the student, are often used for reporting to other interested parties: parents and carers, and future teachers in higher grade levels for example. If the assessment data can be aggregated and summarized, they can also be used for the principal (and other school leaders) to understand the success of the school in helping students learn, as well as used by divisional, regional or national offices for similar analyses.
Under the requirements of Dep Ed Order 79 of 2003, the approach of teachers to assessment must mesh with grading policies, the reporting of students’ educational achievements to parents. For each of the four grading periods a grade in the form of a percentage must be calculated for each student, on a basis described in the Order. The BEAM approach to assessment de-emphasizes formal grades (summative assessments) and emphasizes the regular formative assessments and observations that help a student (and teacher) appreciate that they are making progress.
Principles of Assessment within BEAM
The following assessment principles underpin the position of BEAM on student assessment.
- Assessment is continual, recorded in a simple fashion when recording is required, and is able to illustrate each individual’s learning improvement over time.
- Assessment is related to clear expectations of what is to be achieved for any student, based on clear criteria (BEC competencies as a possible example) described in a form that shows empirically established ‘increasing difficulty to learn’ sequences. Establishing approximately where a student is positioned in such a sequence (that is what outcomes have been achieved) can be used as a measure of student progress.
- Within a spiral curriculum (key skills, ideas regularly revisited, with each new visit establishing a deeper and richer understanding), assessment of achievements can be related to the understandings and skill levels appropriate to the cycle of the spiral and thus illustrate the student’s improvement.
- Assessments are sufficiently sensitive to help students understand that they are making progress in their learning, and what they next need to learn next.
- Assessments help teachers appreciate where students are in their development of skills, knowledge and concepts, and thus inform teachers where modification of their teaching strategies is needed to ensure the student is engaged within their zone of proximal development (ZPD).
- Assessments are based on a deep belief that all students can succeed in their learning, given appropriate time and support.
- Assessment methods and strategies are appropriate to the age and stage of development of students and are as varied and unobtrusive as possible.
- Students are exposed to a wide range of assessment methods and as a result, understand and are prepared for any assessment approach they might be exposed to, in advance of that exposure; that is, students develop strategies to deal with any required testing or examination process.
- Assessment in BEAM encourages a commitment by teachers to being personally accountable for student improvement over time, that is for student learning growth. Good performance in school is strongly influenced by student ‘entry’ skill levels and home/economic background. A teacher lucky enough to get students who already understand the material being taught, or from ‘achievement rich’ home backgrounds, is not necessarily an effective teacher. The effective teacher is the one who achieves learning growth for all students. True measures of learning should focus on growth in knowledge and skills and not just reflect the student’s inherent aptitude.
- Assessment processes used by a teacher for each student are sensitive to individual differences in student development, confidence, learning styles, motivation and need to consider the implication of multiple intelligences.
- Teachers are expected to use their ‘on-balance’ judgment of a range of sources of information to assess students’ progress. Teachers must be supported in the development of these assessment approaches through peer moderation, within and across schools. Test moderation of teacher judgments, that is comparing teacher and test assessments to improve the ability of teachers to mimic the scales of the tests, should also be considered.
- Assessments are, and are seen to be, valid and reliable. However, a consequence of lessened reliability for increased validity should be accepted when teachers exercise their professional judgment for assessing students through observation and mixed methods.
Assessment as a connected process
From a BEAM perspective assessment is but one phase of a recurring cycle of steps. In the metaphor of a journey, these steps include:
- Teaching -or setting the path, encouraging and preparing students for discoveries and helping them read the map of the journey.
- Assessing-or finding who is lost (off the path), tired (stopped), who is almost there, etc.; that is to estimate where each person is and updating this assessment as new information is obtained.
- Recording- or keeping notes on who is where so you can help them get back onto the right path.
- Reporting -or letting other appropriate interested parties (mainly the students themselves) know where the student is and where they have been.
- Evaluation- or reflecting on the whole trip and deciding if taking the same path in the future would be desirable.
Assessment cannot be developed as a separate process, independent of its relationship and impact on the other recurring phases of learning.
Issues for further consideration
This document describes the position adopted on student assessment within the BEAM project, which is understood to be consistent with approaches to assessment and evaluation within the Basic Education Curriculum. Exemplar lesson plans included in the English Philippine Elementary Learning Competencies (PELC), include sample ‘evaluations’ that are consistent with the BEAM approach.
DepEd Order 79/2003, along with implementing guidelines for the Secondary Education DepEd 37/2003, advise the position on a significant aspect of student assessment, reporting to parents and students, through grades and the structure of reports. By implication, this Order sets the tone for all other aspects of student assessment. That tone may be discordant with the view of student assessment taken by BEAM and by key evaluators of BEC (Bureau of Secondary Education and the Bureau of Elementary Education).
The framework is however open to a broad interpretation that allows, among other matters, for
- the use of non-traditional assessment approaches
- the general promotion of rubrics
- the use of quizzes, recitations/interactions, behaviour observation, homework, projects, themes/experiments, and other performance outputs.
Both Orders provide very specific advice about how grades are to be calculated which might be seen as a constraint to some of the assessment strategies considered appropriate by BEAM.
However, the general assessment principles of BEAM have been developed in a way that is consistent with the prime orders. The approaches to assessment promoted by BEAM can be seen to fit within the broad categories of the grading system, perhaps with expanded definitions (possibly needing DepEd approval) for the major categories, viz
- Periodical tests
The gradings require significant contributions from each of the 5 categories; three can contribute up to 25% each depending on the subject in secondary. This requires that a variety of assessment approaches are to be encouraged. A revised description of classroom assessment strategies and their link to the broad categories above might be an initial strategy for enhanced approaches to classroom assessment.
The hope of the BEAM project is that by attempting to articulate the broad vision for student assessment adopted in the BEAM approach to learning, discussions can occur among key policy planners in DepEd to develop additional statements of policy on student classroom assessment. These Dep Ed statements could then guide refinements to BEC, BEAM and related department activities, such as the National Educational and Testing Research Center and a new order to update 79/2003.