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Who Has Time to Innovate? Part 3 of 5

[fa icon="calendar"] December, 2016 / by Dr. Stuart Kahl

Dr. Stuart Kahl

How do you find time to improve education and assessment?

The innovation in assessment encouraged by the ESSA passed in late 2015 sounds great, but we hear from educators that time is short at every level—from state personnel who are responsible for accountability assessments to local administrators and teachers who are responsible for most of the testing students experience. “How can we find time to create and evaluate new possibilities,” they ask, “much less devote time to trying new things in our schools?”

We’ve identified 10 sources of time pressure that might create roadblocks to innovation.

Top 10 Time Issues

Over Testing: Too Many Tests

Time to Innovate in the Classroom

Over Testing: Tests Too Long

Data Overload—Time to Process Information

Turnaround Time for Test Results

Time for Teachers to Collaborate in School

Time to Personalize Instruction

Time to Collaborate beyond School

Time for Students to Reflect

Initiative Fatigue—Time to Prepare to Innovate

We’ll cover these topics in a series of 5 blogs over the next few months, explaining the issues and offering suggestions to mitigate the time crunch and information to inform the discussion. In this post, we’ll cover

  • time for students to reflect,
  • time to innovate in the classroom, and
  • data overload—time to process information.

Time for Students to Reflect

What’s the problem?

“Mass production” instructional approaches do not allow time for many students to reflect on their learning.

What can we do?

As mentioned in an earlier post, the multi-step process of formative assessment offers the solution. Followed with fidelity, it involves student self-evaluation and places high value on metacognition.

Time to Innovate in the Classroom

What’s the problem?

Teachers’ days are already filled up. There’s no time for taking on additional projects.

What can we do?

  • When students take more responsibility for their learning and use their peers as resources, teachers gain time.
  • Innovative activities shouldn’t be thought of as “add-ons.” They should be “instead of.”
  • Don’t try to overhaul in one fell swoop; take small steps. If you’re moving to project-based learning, try one or two projects the first year, increasing the number in subsequent years.

Data Overload—Time to Process Information

What’s the problem?

  • The amount of recorded data on students can be overwhelming. The data include scores on external summative and interim assessments as well as scores on teacher-made classroom tests.
  • Some have mistakenly viewed formative assessment as frequent testing or quizzing, with all the scores flooding electronic grade books. 

What can we do?

  • As mentioned in the earlier post on “Too Many Tests,” duplicative or poorly aligned tests should be eliminated.
  • Most formative assessment evidence shouldn’t be graded at all, but rather should lead to rich descriptive feedback during instruction. Also, teachers don’t need to do everything the same for all students. More extensive personal attention from the teacher can be focused on students most in need.
  • Over time, low-pressure, formative evidence-gathering activities will give students confidence that what they are seeing in those activities will be what they see in later summative measures. And once students start taking more responsibility for their own learning in preparation for the graded tests, teachers will find that they need far fewer graded, summative classroom measures.
  • This model is better preparation for college where course grades may be based on just a few measures and students can’t get extra credit or retake tests. Research has shown that many common grading practices actually inhibit learning.

In Blog #4 of the series, we’ll cover:

  • Time for Teachers to Collaborate in School
  • Time to Collaborate beyond School

Topics: Assessment Literacy, Formative Assessment, Accountability, Connecting Teaching and Learning

Dr. Stuart Kahl

Written by Dr. Stuart Kahl

As founder of Measured Progress, Dr. Stuart Kahl contributes regularly to the thought leadership of the assessment community. In recent years, his particular interests have included formative assessment, curriculum-embedded performance assessment, and new models for accountability assessment programs. The Association of Test Publishers (ATP) awarded Dr.Kahl the 2010 ATP Award for Professional Contributions and Service to Testing. He regularly publishes research papers and commentaries introducing and analyzing current issues and trends in education, and as a frequent speaker at industry conferences, Dr. Kahl also serves as a technical consultant to various education agencies.