A Parent's Perspective on Data-Driven Learning
This article was contributed by YCIS Shanghai parent Ms Hannah Zheng.
When you hear the word ‘assessment’, what do you think of? Formal written exams followed by a grade? The must-be-done-but-no-one-wants-to-do part of learning? At YCIS Shanghai, assessment is so much more than that!
There are many reasons why we use a wide range of assessments at school. Assessment is an important part of learning, helping teachers determine whether educational goals are being met, and if not, why not. However, assessment is only useful when follow-up action is taken to identify areas of growth and challenge. Studying for a test only to forget all about it a week later is not a good use of time for students or teachers!
Some parents choose YCIS Shanghai because they know that we do not use assessment to rank students. Instead, our experienced teachers know each student as an individual, are aware of both their strengths and areas for development, and can, therefore, nurture their potential. Assessments are not undertaken to judge or criticise students, but to identify areas of growth to ensure that teachers are best supporting each child on their own learning journey. This keeps students inspired and challenged.
So, what does the school year look like?
Assessment is an ongoing process, taking place during every unit of study in every subject, every week of the school year, during every lesson—even if the children are not aware of it. At the start of the year, students undertake assessments so that teachers have a baseline from which to measure their progress. Teachers observe students and their responses during lessons throughout the year, liaising with parents where necessary. ‘Cold tasks’ are quick assessments undertaken at the start of a new unit of study, before new material has been taught. The same assessment is repeated at the end of the unit, then called a ‘hot task’, enabling teachers to confirm that the student’s understanding has developed and any gaps in knowledge have been addressed.
What do we do with assessments?
Using ongoing data effectively helps ensure that resources, planning, and curriculum at YCIS Shanghai are well suited to all students. Teachers and school leaders discuss assessment data together, using it to identify needs for further development or further extension for students. This could take place at the level of the individual student, or across groups, such as those in one skill area, one class, or one year level.
Assessment data helps identify the need for additional support, whether in the form of resources or extra staff to further support students in a small group environment or at an individual level. We continually monitor and reassess all students throughout the unit of study to ensure that these measures enable students to meet their full potential.
In Primary, Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) assessments help us measure a student’s potential. They have been used for over 30 years in over 70 countries and enable us to compare our data against the expected achievement of an average child for each age group. CEM assessments identify the highest performing 25% of students in each year level, the middle 50%, and the lowest-performing 25%. Most of all, it helps our Primary teachers to respond to individual educational needs. This focus on meaningful assessment ultimately leads to outstanding IB results and university successes.
Of course, no student performs to the best of their ability on every assessment, or at every opportunity on every day. That’s why it’s crucially important to look at achievement across a range of assessment types over the course of time to get an overall picture of how each student is progressing on their own unique learning journey.
At YCIS Shanghai, our experienced teachers support students at all levels of their journey and are always happy to talk to parents about their children, be it online, over the phone, or in person — all they need to do is reach out! And when they do reach out, it will be wonderful to learn from the teacher some of the things they did not know about their child!