What does assessment really mean? How do students know if they’re learning?

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Since the beginning of the new semester, I had the privileged to collaborate with education officers with the Ministry of Education – Student Achievement Branch with the goal to document student learning as it pertains to media literacy. The goal of the video series it to support teachers and provide them with a context that allows for critical literacy to be enriched with viable digital production; recognizing that as 21st century learners, students must be engaged in learning that activates transferable skills. It’s been a humbling experience to have my classroom efforts recognized while also applauding all of my students for their maturity, talent and willingness to learn.

The video series will document elements of the classroom experience – real world content – connecting with expert voice via social media – students creating – and culminating with the experiential experience of a student showcase in a public forum (Yorkdale Silver City). As the video series evolves, I have already grown from this experience; looking not merely at the end result of students producing short films for the big screen or other media artefacts such as posters, magazines, websites and more, but importantly, examining how my students learn and how they know if they’re learning.

That really is an eye opener as an educator: How do we know if our students are learning?

With this, the focus is not memorization or answers on quizzes, but the true understanding of material that allows for self-directed and life long learning.

How do we know and how do students then know or own their own learning.

This, has made me slow down in my teaching. Although I have always been committed to the experiential experience, I want to make sure that students have an opportunity to truly self-regulate; examine how they learn, potential next steps, etc. Finding a formal way is a work in progress but leveraging the practice of providing descriptive feedback (looking at assessment is learning), seems to be working.

For example, a student today asked if I could help him “figure out” Adobe Premiere, an editing software. As this student and his peers edit an original genre trailer they’re currently producing (students need to show their understanding of a respective genre’s cultural meaning and aesthetic tropes in the production), he recognized that his learning was limited. Rather than demising him with “you’ll learn by doing,” although this is very true, I asked what would help. He expressed that a video tutorial or a particular task to complete would help him learn – he needs to “see things” layed out for him. As such, serving him as a learner means that I will now create an editing challenge, supported with a video tutorial that I will create, which will allow him to learn (and hopefully ignite a curiosity to be self-directed).

In this case, the student recognized that his learning was limited and asked for the supports needed.

Looking beyond production, my deepest concern is growing media literacy as cultural literacy; can students be autonomous thinkers outside of the classroom content?   Can they actually think on their own – go deeper and make cultural connections?

Here’s a video that looks at how students learn. This video was shot on location at a theatre, when taking my students to see Black Panther. The video highlights both student critical literacy but how they own their learning – how learning grows outside of the classroom. I hope you enjoy the video – more to come.

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