Working Inside the Black Box: 5 Ways to Enhance Classroom Learning

6 June 2016

The article presents three main problems in the assessment of students: first, the assessment methods that teachers use are not effective in promoting good learning; second, grading practices tend to emphasize competition rather than personal improvement; and third, assessment feedback often has a negative impact, particularly on low-achieving students, who are led to believe that they lack “ability” and so are not able to learn (Black et al., 2004).

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As a solution to these problems, the notion of Assessment for Learning is introduced.  Assessment for learning is defined as “any assessment for which the first priority in its design and practice is to serve the purpose of promoting students’ learning” (Black et al., 2004).

Because the previous grading system is widely used and firmly established, the King’s-Medway-Oxfordshire Formative Assessment Project (KMOFAP) was established to explore the application of assessment for learning.  Several means were devised in order to facilitate the change needed in current assessment methods.

One technique is to increase wait time for answering questions asked in class, enabling the students to think more reflectively before responding.  By feedback through grading, students are given comments to help them improve their work and focus.  Related to this is peer-assessment and self-assessment, wherein the students are to think of their work as a set of goals, and their peers can give comments and suggestions that are more easily accepted than those given by professors.

And through the formative use of summative tests, students are asked to traffic light subjects taken up according to how secure they feel their knowledge of it is.

These different methods aim to refocus assessment on actual learning, involving the cooperation of the students, teachers, and administrations, to review school policies and establish formative assessment methods which truly promote learning, through planning and exploration.

Reference List:

Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., Marshall, B., William, D. (2004 September). Working inside the black box: assessment for learning in the classroom. Phi Delta Kappan, 86 (1), 8-21.

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