The MYP eAssessment is a logical next step for our school. We shifted to a conceptual curriculum three years ago, realizing that learning through a spiraling conceptual curriculum would allow our students to transfer knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes more easily across a range of open-ended problems to solve. The eAssessment requires this sort of transfer and allows the knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes to manifest in its process toward successful completion.
Last December, half of our Year 4s piloted an eAssessment that we constructed in-house. We had viewed a video from the IB introducing the MYP eAssessments and observed how the platform might behave, how our students needed to behave, and thought about what it might take to successfully complete this innovative type of assessment. Then, we designed an approximation of an eAssessment, which would simulate the platform and require the sorts of behaviors needed for successful completion.
Observing the experience and obtaining feedback from students rounded out the pilot. Here is what we learned.
The eAssessment Platform
In considering the design of the platform for the assessment, we investigated a wiki, an HTML standalone site, or a Google Site. The wiki was crossed off immediately because it is linear to the user; the items inside it are added one after another, and a lot of scrolling would have to happen to move back and forth between stimulus materials and problems.
The Google Site would have been more preferable since it can be designed in frames; a frame could hold stimulus material, and we could add a window wherein students could write responses. In a Google-subscribed school, students can find their responses in a Google Doc if the Google Site is designed with a Google Form, and these are easily accessed through their Gmail accounts. The issues with the Google Site were that there were several steps to take to access each document and that it required an internet connection. First, when responses are written on the form, an extra click on Google Docs had to happen before the student could see what they had produced. The form responses and the site with the stimulus materials were also on different tabs, preventing real-time visual reference of both elements by the student. Second, the internet connection is not a facility in the MYP eAssessment since all stimulus materials are already in the platform; this was something we did not need to provide in the structure of the eAssessment.
The HTML site, although the best option, required the teacher designing the eAssessment to spend hours coding. At the time of our pilot, this was prohibitive.
So we designed a simple platform for the eAssessment using static, hyperlinked slides and Word documents. The slides held the instructions, embedded stimulus materials, and the open-ended problem. All materials were uploaded into the desktops in a single folder which included a folder for saving work. Students could then write responses on a Word document and save it directly into the eAssessment folder.
It was important for students to be able to see stimulus materials and problem in the slides and their work in progress simultaneously, so we used 21″ iMacs for the eAssessment. The students could place the exam materials and their response document side by side on the large screen. We also froze the internet connection for the machines used as connectivity was not important. With individual headphones connected to each iMac, students could access material and record responses on an eAssessment that was as close we could get to the platform we had observed in the IB eAssessment introduction video.
Approaches to Learning
ATL skills students have internalized are key in any performance assessment, including an eAssessment. In a paper-based assessment, at least four categories of ATL skills are drawn from as the student progresses through their problem solving.
In an electronic format, students need to recognize the need for and use a wide range of ATL skills from the skills categories, including thinking critically about previously unseen stimulus materials, thinking creatively to form solutions to the open-ended problem; research skills from citing a video versus citing a print text from the materials to keeping organized notes on what they are learning from the materials to reference as they responded; self-management skills were in high demand during the two hour assessment, as students had to keep organized and manage time and tasks, as well as manage their affect, for instance, through practicing focus and concentration and avoiding distraction.
Observations and Feedback
Most students were comfortable with the electronic platform. Most students concurred with a student’s opinion that “I’m used to typing and do that faster than writing with a pen.” (Only one student found “typing a challenge. I didn’t type a lot in my previous school, so I felt slow with my typing skills.”) Accessing information was “easier with the video and visuals,” and “the extracts were easy to read.” All students reported having their own headphone set was “good for focusing, I didn’t have to pay attention to anything else.”
The challenges expressed in the student interviews highlighted the ATL skills that students need to have internalized to use during this independent performance in a controlled environment. One student had difficulty following instructions in written format without teacher support. Two students found it challenging to keep track of their time and tasks independently.
It was clear to us how important an articulated focus on approaches to learning presented so that in Year 5 our students might easily evaluate the need for approaches to use and easily perform the skills necessary to persist through a problem-solving situation. In this trial, our essential understanding was that ATL skills needed to be internalized so that students could just get to the heart of problem-solving in their culminating assessment.