Assessment is a strategy for teachers to locate a child's starting point, or their current location, on a continuous journey towards the learning context.
When employing formative assessment strategies in primary school to determine a child's ICT capability it is no different.
As the key elements of ICT capability are practical, it is important for you to realise that the finished product will only provide partial or very limited evidence of their ICT capabilities.
There are sub-skills, some of which are more sophisticated and/or efficient than others, that a finished product may not reveal with the methods unknown to you.
If you want to assess children's ICT capabilities, the best approach is to give them something interesting and then monitor the approaches they use.
Researchers such as Bennett (1997, p.68) believe that there are various ways to assess capabilities in ICT:
- Identify what you want the children to learn in terms of routines, ICT techniques, concepts, higher order skills.
- Decide what evidence is needed - at the planning stage you will need to consider how the children will produce evidence of their learning.
- Gather the evidence through either informal or structured observations, photographic evidence or printing and saving documents.
- Recording the evidence - tracking student progress.
- Use this evidence to plan target and focus.
Such formative assessment strategies combined complete the assessment cycle in ICT capability.
Issues with assessing ICT Capability
The integration of ICT across the curriculum can motivate and engage students tremendously in their learning experiences. For you as a teacher this is fantastic news and is clearly evident in your teaching practices. However, there are also a number of issues to do with formative assessment strategies which you may have already experienced and been stuck for ideas about how to overcome these obstacles.
You may have already experienced issues such as:
- Possible conflict between ICT objectives and subject learning;
- Determining individual achievement when they work collaboratively;
- Overcoming technical problems;
- Challenging students with ICT;
- Avoiding putting students without computers at home at a disadvantage;
- Deciding what the student has done and what the computer has done for them.
Here is what some of my online students had to say:
Sound familiar to you?
Assessment is essential part of your planning process and as a teacher, you know how this can impact on your teaching. Below is a list of issues you may have faced and the solution for you to implement in order to overcome them.
Conflict between ICT objectives and subject learning
Solution: When you develop student ICT capability alongside subject learning, you should aim to keep the technology ‘transparent’. Students should be so focused on using the ICT as a tool that they hardly notice they are using technology themselves. The ICT routines and techniques should be part of their unconscious actions. This should be your goal as a primary teacher - equipping the children with sufficient experience to enable them to use ICT without having to stop and think.
Another method is provide them with a need and then to be on hand to show them what to do when they are engaged in a problem. Constantly monitor the way students are solving the problems and doing the tasks so that you are able to show them new or more efficient ways of using ICT to achieve the learning outcomes.
Determining individual achievement in a collaborative effort
Solution: Computer-based activities promotes collaborative work between students. Unequal sharing of responsibility or effort may arise. You can try one of these strategies instead:
- Give the students specific roles or tasks when engaged in an activity;
- Clear observations of work;
- Signal changeovers regularly during a lesson;
- Appropriate teacher intervention – should be supportive and formative in manner;
- Train the students in paired working – inexperienced students can be supported through peer tutoring;
- Prepare on-computer and off-computer tasks during the ICT lesson.
Solution: Always assume the worst and encourage students to save their work as it progresses to ensure that they have a previous version they can return to. Remember that students don’t need to be sitting at the computer in order to develop their ICT capability. By improving your own capabilities in ICT, you will be able to demonstrate the higher order skills involved in the activity such as planning, evaluating and reflecting. You can have a back-up plan ready where you will start a group or whole class discussion about processes and enhance their decision making with in-depth questioning.
Putting children without computers at home at a disadvantage
Solution: Allow students to continue to work on ICT activities for homework and give them access to the computers outside of school hours. For an assessment, you will need to distinguish between the extent a child has had help from a parent or sibling. In these circumstances, ask the child to demonstrate the methods she or he used to complete the activity.
Determining what the child has done and what the computer has done for them
Solution: Your first choice of method would be observation, but in addition to this you can ask the children to write a reflective report about the approach they used to complete the ICT activity whether it be a project or homework task. You could also use student self-assessment sheets for projects to encourage them to reflect on the extent to which they have developed knowledge and skills. Furthermore, this could be used as basis for discussions in your lessons.
These are just some of the issues that you may have experienced. In either case, your aim should be to enable students to reach the stage where the technology they are using becomes sufficiently transparent.
Other issues would include using formative assessment methods in order to pitch your teaching appropriately, sharing information with other teachers and reporting to parents. To learn more about these you will need to enrol in our accredited online course in relation to assessment for learning. Learn from your peers and colleagues like Amanda did. Read what she had to say.
Reporting on Student Progress in ICT Capability
The effective assessment of student ICT capability can improve the quality of the information provided to parents in reports.
Annual reports needs to be written in a way that considers the needs of the parents.
There also must be a balance between being informative and being brief. Here are some other factors to consider when writing a report on student ICT capability.
- What can the child do? Set this in the context of the experiences that the student has had over a period of time.
- Are there any special accomplishments and what difficulties have been encountered?
- What is the level of attainment in terms of the National Curriculum? It is a good idea to discuss the student’s level in relation to other students of the same age group throughout the country rather than their position within the class. It is important that if this comparison is to be meaningful, you need to have background information about the overall ability of the class itself.
- Identify how the student can improve making reference to future topics and activities as well as more specific advice on ways in which the child could be assisted to improve.
- Never place pressure on parents to spend money on software or a computer for example, in order the student to improve their expertise.
- Rephrase your information as you would with teachers for parents to understand.
- Keep information about the student’s ICT capability, in some sense related to the attainment level descriptions, if they do not actually a level to a student.
- For each student, review your task based assessments and refer to the complete folder of the student’s work.
- Summarise the comments made about the student’s ICT capability during the term/semester/year.
One last point to remember and that is the key to progression and continuity in student ICT capability is effective development. From this you can proficiently write on their capabilities and this information is then great to use for future planning.