Learning Intelligence (LQ) and the link to Assessment
What does an assessment mean to you?
b) A time of dread
c) A signpost and recognition of achievements
d) A mark or grade and little more
e) A way of helping you to choose where to focus future efforts
f) A way of setting future targets or goals
Before suggesting or considering an answer we need to reflect on John Hattie’s table of effect sizes which claims to answer the question “what has the greatest influence on student learning?”[i] Here are the top 11. An effect size of 0.5 is the equivalent to a one grade increase at GCSE.
|Influence||Effect Size||Source of Influence|
|Student’s prior cognitive ability||1.04||Student|
|Student’s disposition to learn||.61||Student|
|Challenge of Goals||.52||Teacher|
The term feedback is a broad one and includes providing commentary on what they (the learner) have done well and where they need to improve. Importantly, and this is where the link to LQ comes in, Hattie believes students can receive feedback on the process or strategy they have used to complete the task and regulate (the LQ term for which is manage) their own learning.
With this in mind what did you suggest an assessment meant to you? You will recognise, no doubt, the elements of an assessment which are of greatest value link directly to Hattie’s effect table and especially that of the top effect “Feedback”. You will also note that the source of influence for feedback is associated with the teacher. So how do you as a teacher give feedback and how do you get learners to see the importance of the different elements?
Hands up if, when you give back the marked test papers, your students do the following:
1) Look at the overall mark or grade first followed by a question about what is acceptable/a pass/a fail etc.
2) Check your arithmetic in the hope of challenging you on the total or grade given.
3) Check with their friends to see you have given the same mark for a similar answer, just in case they can score a few more points.
4) Check to see what others got to establish either ranking or comfort themselves.
You would be no different to many other teachers if this is how your class of learners respond. How many of these fall into Hattie’s description of feedback? None perhaps! If you are a learner then once again you are probably no different to many other learners who respond in an identical way when they get their papers back.
The challenge is to change the way we respond to assessments, especially the rich source of feedback that is so often overlooked or missed. This is even more of a concern when you think it could make the difference of two grades at GCSE. We are failing to make the most of a valuable resource but why? In part it has something to do with targets and the focus on achieving them. If we know we should get a “B” for example, and we score a B then we are reluctant to dig any deeper. If we get an A then we rejoice and investigate no further. If we get a C or less perhaps we lick our wounds and look to what or who we can blame for the failure. This last course of action is where the most damage is done and a worthy read is Dweck’s work on “attribution theory.” A learner may attribute their success or lack of it on external factors such as luck or decide it was an exceptionally hard test. This type of response does not help in future growth or learning as it suggests the outcome had nothing to do with their efforts.
LQ is a valuable asset in managing the process of feedback for both teachers and learners but both must work co-operatively to achieve the greatest benefit. The simplest and most effective strategy for the teacher is to mark and comment on an assessment but not total the overall score or give a grade. Try it and see where you get for you have just prevented the most common reactions detailed above. So how will the learner respond, well much depends on how much work you have done regarding LQ and in discussing managing the learning environment. If you have done little or nothing then uproar and rebellion may result. There may be a demand to give them the standard results they expected, a grade, or total score, but you must resist. Instead you can now get them to focus on what they did well in, what they need to improve and set their own personal targets for future learning. This is a relatively easy task but requires some preparation and a little bit of colouring in! Here is how you do it.
Decide for each question or assessment task what, in terms of response or score, defines the following:
a) a sound answer demonstrating a good grasp of what is required. The sort of response that suggests mastery or understanding and an ability to apply what has been learnt in an unfamiliar situation. You would consider it unnecessary for the student to spend more time on this topic or material.
b) an answer which shows a developing understanding of what is required. Typically the key concepts or ideas are applied but there may be mistakes or errors that indicate a degree of uncertainty and a need for further practice or revision.
c) An answer which shows a lack of understanding of what is required. This may be characterised by large unanswered sections, the wrong facts or approach used. This would indicate a need for more than just revision but instead re visiting the topic and building understanding from a known point.
In essence this is all you and the student should be interested in. Your next task is to decide what these answers look like in terms of marks or grades if that is how they would normally be marked. For example, out of 10 each category may look like this:
a) 8+ marks,
b) between 5 and 7 marks and
c) anything less than 5 marks.
To help visualise what this means in terms of LQ and quality feedback we can colour code each category of answer or provide smiley faces to ring or delete at the front of the assessment is an ideal way to do this.
If as a teacher we consider the class response in terms of outcomes to the assessment and, if this represents multiple questions, we get a clear direction of where we need to focus and, when considering LQ, how we need to help learners meet the challenges of the learning environment. For example if in the above example of a final assessment all students received a red category (the lowest) in Q6 but the rest were orange and green then we would know we need to address a specific topic or area. It may not be the topic that limited the learning but the resources, teaching style or learning environment in which it is taught. Thinking about these areas will help the teacher provide quality feedback and help in deciding if it would be appropriate to approach a class or a topic in a different way.
What this means for the Teacher
A key principle is when designing assessments is to start with the understanding, knowledge, or skill you wish to assess and work backwards to the method, question or strategy you will use to allow the student to demonstrate what they have learnt and for you to gain your assessment of them.
When administrating assessments take time to explain the purpose is to establish what has been learnt and not to gain a particular mark or grade.
What this means for the learner
If you are presented with a traditional assessment mark or grade try to unpick from your answers what you are a) competent in, b) need to revise and c) need to revisit to gain a better understanding.
Think about your preparation and look for alternative approaches to those things you need to revise or revisit. This is LQ in action, learning to manage your learning environment to meet your needs.
[i] Professor John Hattie’s Table of Effect Sizes can be found at: http://www.teacherstoolbox.co.uk/T_effect_sizes.html