For students and teachers, the value of feedback early and often in the learning cycle is well understood. As Bill Ferriter of the Center for Teaching Quality writes, “In fact, the conclusions [Bob Marzano]’s drawn in What Works in Schools suggest that providing students with timely and specific feedback on their levels of mastery can account for percentile gains of anywhere from 21 to 41 points—higher than gains caused by other school-based achievement factors including parent and community involvement, safe and orderly environments, and collegiality in the schoolhouse.”
However, the widespread availability of such feedback has been elusive, especially in the public school system. With the increasing number of students each teacher has to handle, and other time sinks, teachers find it a challenge to simply grade work, typically from well over hundred kids each. There is simply not enough time to give students sufficient feedback, or get a good picture of how students are learning.
At Edcite, we’re strong believers in the old saw about hearing, seeing and doing, and that it’s the doing that promotes understanding. We see the practice of giving students small and frequent assignments that have them doing work and getting immediate feedback, as an effective way to learn. We believe online assignments with automatic grading, can ease the teachers burden, and give them frequent reports on how students are doing. Which enables better teaching to ensure students are learning at the desired level.
Common Core is only a Tool
The arrival of new Common Core standards and new assessments has introduced another level of challenge to teachers and students alike. Faced with new and unfamiliar tests that seem to benefit only the testing companies, it’s little wonder that there is a lot of concern among teachers. Many teachers, once they start teaching the new standards, do attest to the benefits of the higher levels of rigor and understanding they promote. But there is a lot of concern about their implementation and how students will adapt to the change.
The new assessments allow a wider range of evaluation of a students knowledge and skills. They also give students a more varied interactive experience that requires them to think more broadly. However, these new kinds of assessments are only a tool, and need to be used properly to bring out their benefits without making learning outcomes worse. If used properly, they enable students to do more to build their skills, and let teachers better understand how students are learning.
Avoiding the Perils of Standardized Testing
Teachers and other who have seen the ills of standardized testing, such as limitations of the tests, teaching to the test, and other efforts to game the system, are rightly concerned about the potential issues with this latest standards push. The new kinds of assessments have the ability to test students in a multitude of ways, and we’d be back in the same teaching to the test quagmire if we relied on one set of tests to assess all students.
We see many pitfalls to mandating one set of Common Core assessments across all schools. While the new higher standards bring a much-needed boost in learning goals, there needs to be a variety of ways the new standards are taught and assessed. This would include teaching and testing concepts in many different ways to suit individual learners and stretch students thinking beyond a narrow set of tests. Such a variety of teaching and assessment approaches is essential to success serve a large and diverse student population.
Online Assignments and Student Learning
At Edcite, we realize students learn in a multitude of ways and what works well for one student does not work for another. Some methods are more effective than others and serve more students. One method we think works well is the flipped classroom approach of making the classroom an interactive experience where students do much more than passive learning. Teachers need tools to ensure students do not get left behind when novel methods of teaching are used. Small and frequent online assignments, whether in class or as homework, allow teachers to ensure students are learning, as well as let students quickly know when they’ve learned the material.
We hope Edcite’s teacher tools will help teachers and students get better feedback in the learning process, and help improve outcomes. I’m thrilled to write on behalf of the Edcite Team as we gear up to developing the best tools for teachers, and develop a tight-knit community to bring dedicated educators together. It would mean a lot to us if you introduced Edcite to your teacher friends.