Nanaimo District Secondary School SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

School Name: Nanaimo District Secondary School

School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Inquiry Team Members: Beverly Long:,
Melissa Woodcock:, Roxanne Pitre:, Danielle Ashworth Clarke:, Steve Holmberg:, Martha Parker:, Jean Kloppenburg:, Geoff Steel (Principle):

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

Grade Levels: Secondary (8-12)

Curricular Area(s): Applied Design, skills & Technology, Arts Education, Career Education, Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading, Language Arts – Writing

Focus Addressed: Aboriginal understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Community-based learning, Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Differentiated instruction, Experiential learning, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Flexible learning, Formative assessment, Growth mindset, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Inquiry-based learning, Social and emotional learning, Universal design for learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? The Nanaimo District Secondary School NOIIE team piloted the implementation of FreshGrade as an electronic method for Ongoing Communication of Student Learning (OCSL) reporting for grades 8 and 9 in order to meet the new BC Ministry Reporting Guidelines for informal communication about student learning.

Scanning: Over the study period, we scanned our students and parents using the spiral of inquiry four questions for feedback at end of fall, term one 2018, and in term three of spring, 2019. The first scan provided a base line for the FreshGrade team to get a sense of to what extent students feel connected and supported in the areas of achievement expectations, learning environment, and school. We put a focus on student and parent assessment expectations as it relates to the new standards based performance scale (Emerging, Developing, Proficient, Extending). By seeking student feedback, we were able to gain perspective into student perceptions of their learning success in relation to the new curriculum assessment scale. In response to feedback received, we were surprised to notice that many students indicated that they were satisfied with a Developing and Proficient on the competency scale. Once again in the spring, the team used Survey Monkey to scan students and parents about performance expectations, achievement and the assessment scale. We noticed a marked increase in student expectations about achievement with many more students expressing their goal in obtaining Proficient and Extending as a measure of their achievement. We gained insight about the correlation between timely reporting and student perceptions of their achievement potential. We also received feedback from students and parents to indicate that they felt more connected to the learning, the course, and the teacher using FreshGrade for on-going communication of their learning. We used the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) principles of learning and the First People’s Principles of Learning (FPPOL) as demonstrated in our use of the FreshGrade model of open communication about student learning and in offering an inclusive voice to students and their families for their feedback and consideration. In using the electronic format of Survey Monkey for the second scanning, we were able to extend the survey via email to reach families who may not have been able to attend the regular parent-student-teacher interview process. In addition to the usual mode of communication, we used FreshGrade to invite parents and guardians to be partners in their child’s learning process by giving them a vehicle to guide constructive responses and contribute comments and dialogue as validation.

Focus: The previous mode of OCSL reporting involved paper templates to informally update parents and students about learning. The paper format put the onus on student self assessment for the majority of the main content of the report and allowed teachers to communicate anecdotally about student strengths, areas for improvement, and next steps. In using this model, the team observed that students were, in some cases, not ready to report, rushed to report, or disengaged in reporting about their learning. Approximately every fifteen days, as a matter of consistency, this informal report coincided with the conclusion of the course, which was not always lined up with significant measures of authentic learning, and thus, the quality of student responses in some cases were superficial, disconnected to learning, or incomplete. As well, other problems persisted; Reports did not include student voice if a child was missing because of absenteeism, and still, in other cases, these reports were unreliable in reaching the parent. The FreshGrade format of student communication of learning provided ease of electronic text and uploading of image samples, video, and/or audio samples of student work as evidence of learning. This model was observed to be more inclusive and expressive for an authentic student voice and for timely and reliable delivery of formative feedback about student learning connected to the core competencies. The added feature of parent and teacher voice encouraged supportive dialogue about learning, provided resources and announcements, clearly stated the curricular and core competencies, and reported updates about events, expectations, due dates, and instructions. Assessment as and for learning was greatly enhanced and enriched through our use of FreshGrade as a communication tool.

Hunch: The implementation of the Ongoing Communication of Student learning, initiated as part of the new BC Ministry curriculum and reporting guidelines for formative assessment, brought about an OCSL template and rubric for secondary school teachers to complete with students. This informal document meant to be a ‘snap shot’ of authentic and individualized student learning, revealed problems of practice and deficiencies in the assessment and reporting process. For example, in moving to a standards and competency based ‘proficiency’ scale, inconsistencies and confusion emerged around the terms, emerging, developing, proficient, and extending. Assessment became the key in configuring a best approach to implementing new curriculum architecture and the assessment design. This continued an examination and harmonization of terms that created discussion. The ‘Big Ideas,’ curricular competencies, learning standards, and core competencies (all new constructs for teachers) necessitated interpretation, an understanding of curriculum design and innovation, and its alignment to pedagogy, resources, and methodology. Concepts that include differentiated instruction, community based learning, aboriginal ways of knowing, experiential learning, flexible learning, growth mindset, inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, social and emotional learning, universal design for learning, and growth mindset are all considerations for the new reflective and reflexive teaching practices, authentic standards, competency based assessment, and reporting that teachers are designing and crafting into their professional practice. All of which can be honed in on with FreshGrade. Educators at all levels are now challenged to change instructional and assessment practices, and to establish new routes to learning through inquiry and innovation practices for pedagogy to harness 21st century learning ideals. Since students are becoming the leaders of the change system by practicing a growth mindset, developing the ability to take risks, finding their place, exercising resilience, and by encouraging and supporting their peers, we, as educators are supporting and guiding them in this direction. The NDSS FreshGrade team recognized the need to provide timely, clear, concise on-going communication and discussion about student learning to provide achievable and tailored steps for success. Included in authentic communication is validation of community, purpose for learning, voice of stakeholders, defined criteria, and engagement of relevant tools and skills for task completion, meaningful reflection on process, feedback, and next steps. These methods of communication, facilitated by the ease and user friendliness of FreshGrade, are crucial in supporting students to be at the center of their learning and to be pioneers of learning in the 21st century. “Where deep learning is accelerating, we see the system playing a vital role.” Fullan, Michael 2018, Deep Learning, Engage the World Change the World.

New Professional Learning: The NOIIE group formed a Professional Learning Collaboration (PLC) team to undertake regular weekly check-ins, to collaborate and share information, construct surveys, and compare ideas and thoughts of various ways to use FreshGrade to improve student learning across the curricula. Student voice for authentic and timely ongoing communication of student learning, empowered through the use of FreshGrade as an e-communication platform, quickly became the focus of our group. We discovered that it could be used to provide evidence of learning by giving students the opportunity and a place to post their learning reflections as comments for sharing and celebrating learning with parents, teachers, and other invited guests. The challenge of having students meaningfully engage in reflecting on their learning and communicate progress in a timely and open manner was a focus for the NOIIE/PLC team. We referred to the OECD’s principles of learning and FPPOL to take into consideration key elements of this construct, such as involving self, family, the community, the land, the spirits, and the ancestors, and the idea that learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and rational, and it requires the exploration of one’s identity, as well as, patience and time. We also explored our options and direction through professional readings such as, Deep Learning, Engage the World Change the World, (Fullan, 2018), and Growth Mindset, (Carol Dweck, 2017). Additionally, we involved SD68 Technology Coordinator, Steve Holmberg to assist us in navigating FreshGrade for our secondary school application, in addition to helping us launch our pilot and troubleshoot technical issues with the FreshGrade implementation process. Steve was able to make first hand recommendations to the FreshGrade development team for adapting and improving the program to fit our needs.

Taking Action: As a PLC group the NDSS NOIIE team met regularly to discuss and formulate a plan for the spiral of inquiry. We obtained access to the FreshGrade platform, engaged our district coordinator to help us navigate class set ups, scanned students, made hunches, and implemented action to get students on-board and on-line. We began the process of tailoring each subject class, learning the tools of the program, and inviting students to FreshGrade. We requested iPads for student use through our school resource request process, got students who were familiar with the FreshGrade program to lead learning for less familiar peers, and subsequently, brought our student sample classes back to the team for further discussion and trouble shooting. We built community in learning both in the classrooms, as well as, between colleagues. Our team consisted of a cross curricular group of educators who applied the technology uniquely to their own discipline area. Findings were compared as we tracked the pros and cons to establish next steps for refinement and revision. We applied for grant release days from our local teacher’s association to further collaborate and prepare presentations to share with colleagues and district teams. Two scanning surveys, as book ends, were conducted to determine student and parent responses to the new, on-line, FreshGrade method for ongoing communication of student learning. As a team, we assessed the data and moved forward with new considerations to take back to our ‘spiral of inquiry’ framework as hunches to be further explored.

Checking: The findings of our FreshGrade Team were both quantitative and qualitative in the following ways: It was observed that students more fully engaged in the assessment process, made deeper, meaningful, reflective comments about learning, and applied their understanding of the core competencies to active aspects of their learning achievement in more than one curricular area. This communication involved reciprocity of process in the ongoing collaboration between student posts of evidence of learning, teacher comments, parent comments, and student’s supplementary responses. Assessment for and as learning were greatly enhanced by the e-format because students could focus actively on the language of learning, the criteria, the content language, and the vocabulary consistent with their level of achievement. As a quantitative measure, 73% of parents surveyed preferred the FreshGrade format for its direct and unambiguous communication about their child’s learning performance and learning style. One parent commented on FreshGrade , “straight forward layout, direct communication with the class teacher, and email notification when responses or new notifications are posted.” The ongoing focus on formative assessment allowed parents to be involved while student work was in progress. This enabled parents to be more actively engaged in, as one parent stated, “support of my child’s education.” Consistency and reliability in reporting made this approach to informal reporting communicative and reciprocal, with the option for stakeholders to see sample work and make timely adjustments and for teachers to make adaptations for student learning. Students surveyed, following using FreshGrade, were able to articulate the language of the core competencies to identify areas of strength, areas of growth, and areas in need of further development. More students indicated a higher standard of achievement was possible, and they felt more in control of their own learning and better able to anticipate outcomes for themselves, after using the FreshGrade platform for communication about their learning. They also stated that people were interested and cared about their learning and their future. Students were also able to share their learning journey reflexively with parents and family through posts and in photographs on-line. Ideas and concepts were more readily expressed and shared to inspire authentic feelings of inclusion and belonging. As well, students could also receive feedback from various stakeholders, including their teacher and other students, and build on their peer leadership opportunities and the mentoring modeled by family; thus, increasing the number of people involved in their community of learning. Fullan (2018) describes reciprocity through digital technology (feedback and dialogue) as a 21st Century method of assessment that can ignite learning;
“Passion, purpose, and new pedagogy are natural winners because they tap into and activate what is human—doing something intrinsically meaningful and of value to oneself, one’s peers, and the world at large.”

Reflections/Advice: The team presented a power point with other NOIIE Teams at our Nanaimo District 68 Showcase in early June, which gave us the opportunity to share the inquiry focus and plan the next steps in the ongoing spiral of inquiry. We would like to see teachers, beginning at grades 8 and 9 level, use FreshGrade as a universal approach to ‘informal reporting’ and formative assessment practice. This, in turn, would hone in on the potential for students to build e-portfolios of their learning journey through out grades 8 to 12. In this way, students can build an authentic record of their learning as a personal profile by grade 12 through authentic evidence of learning, preserved over time, with applied language of learning to express unique learning strengths, celebrate learning achievement milestones with family and community, build capacity, and plan a viable and exciting career for their futures.

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