There is no doubting that Literacy and Numeracy in Education has been placed at centre stage in recent of months. This drive for improvement in standards is here to stay and yet I as a teacher am not sure where to begin. Circular 0056/2011 describes the initial steps to be taken by schools from January 2012 onwards.
One aspect of action to be taken is in the area of assessment. School management are requested to review their assessment policies and practices in light of the NCCA publication; Assessment in the Primary School: Guidelines for Schools and the requirements in the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy.
Schools are now required to take action as to how they assess their pupils school-wide. A balance of Assessment for Learning (AfL) and Assessment of Learning (AoL) is required to inform teachers’ planning and highlight areas where children need further help. Teachers can involve children in their own assessments in AfL. This is also known as formative assessment as it happens during the learning. On the NCCA Action website there are numerous demonstrations of AfL in “action”. These follow the usual smiley face, traffic light and thumbs up approaches. These undoubtedly are effective methods of AfL . However, teachers are always looking for new ideas!
One video is entitled “Using an e-portfolio to support self assessment (Junior Infants)”. The teacher describes how she uses a digital camera and Photostory to document a child’s learning progression in a subject area. This collection of work samples is called the pupil’s e-portfolio. I liked this method myself because it is configurable to the needs of even the youngest children and for the special needs child. The child can then self-assess their own work and use peer assessment to further inform their learning. Teachers can share childrens’ work with the class on a regular basis. This is an enjoyable and visually stimulating way of assessing work samples and pupils’ progression.
In my own classroom I regularly photograph the children’s work particularly in the area of Visual Arts. The pupils really enjoy seeing their work up on the interactive whiteboard. I never however put a slideshow up based on the work of just one child over a period of time. Children can be involved at every step from the taking of the photographs to the design of their Photostory. Using e-portfolios has the potential to be a very powerful use of AfL across all subjects and could be focused on Literacy and Numeracy specifically.
This may be a good starting point for schools who are reviewing their assessment policies in the coming months. Literacy and Numeracy can be assessed formatively whilst also developing the childrens’ digital literacy and 21st Century skills.