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Assessment in the PYP

Assessment is integral to all parts of teaching and learning. It is not just the simple act of measuring what students have learned, rather it is a ‘state of mind’ which permeates every aspect of teaching and learning. In its simplest form it is everything we do that guides learners by helping them to answer the three most important questions they have as learners ‘Where am I?’, ‘Where do I need to be?’ and ‘How can I close the gap?’. Effective assessment must always be ongoing, varied and purposeful, and it also must be a collaborative process that involves students, families, teachers and our community.

To that end, the strategies of Assessment at NIS fall into three domains, assessment AS learning, Assessment OF learning and Assessment FOR learning. These domains can be understood as follows:

 

ASSESSMENT FOR LEARNING

Assessment FOR learning are the strategies and tools teachers utilize to gather data on student progress for the purpose of helping students to learn. The focus here is not on grading, reporting or judging. Rather, teachers are intently involved in trying to understand exactly how students are interpreting and understanding their work, because it is only by acquiring that understanding that teachers can accurately plan for the next steps in each child’s learning.

Strategies in this domain may include teachers changing the way they teach based on what they find in the following ways:

  • Asking students to complete an assessment at the start of a unit or topic to find out what they already know
  • Examining work in progress to look for evidence of understanding or misunderstanding (portfolios, homework tasks, drafts, etc.)
  • Teachers set up collaborative or active learning groups so that they can circulate, listen to conversations and learn where students are in their understanding
  • Skillful questioning designed to elicit understanding
  • Maximum ‘visible thinking’ strategies to make it clear what students are thinking (e.g. asking students to write answers on whiteboard and hold them up, rather than have students work in their own books)

No grades or final judgments are attached to assessments FOR learning. The soul purpose is to find out where students are so that we can help them move forwards.

 

ASSESSMENT AS LEARNING

In assessment AS learning the focus is on the meaning the student is making from the assessment process. If assessment FOR learning is designed to give data to the teacher, then assessment AS learning is the way in which the student herself benefits from reflecting on assessment. This is how students actually learn THROUGH assessment.

Examples include:

  • Students engage in peer and self assessment and begin to understand what quality work looks like and how they might improve their own work
  • Students become involved in goal-setting, monitoring their own progress, reflecting on the results of their learning and planning for next steps
  • Teachers design rich and rewarding assessment tasks which are of inherent learning value in and of themselves

Assessment AS learning is never graded; its sole purpose is to support students in owning their learning and navigating their personal journey as a learner.

 

ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING

Assessment OF learning is the type of assessment that most parents will think of when hearing the word assessment. This is the measurement of the extent to which students have mastered the learning goals. It is the type of assessment which usually ends up in grades and report card comments. Examples include:

  • Tests, major projects, assignments or any other substantial piece of work on which teachers make a judgment of attainment for the purpose of reporting to parents in a report card comment or grade
  • Collections of evidence over time which are then, at a fixed point in time, judged for the purpose of making a report card comment or grade. For example, a teacher may collect evidence of writing samples over the course of a 6 week unit, and then write a judgment as to the current status of a child’s learning based on all available evidence

 

Reporting: Sharing the Results of Assessment

For parents, accurate and timely reports of student progress is essential. For students, an important part of learning – and an important assessment AS learning strategy - is sharing and expanding on that learning with parents. Therefore, in the NIS elementary program we provide a variety of methods for reporting, and parents are encouraged to participate in the development of their child’s learning through the following methods:

  • Parent Information Day: (Open House) September - Parents gain information about the school from teachers and students regarding the curriculum and classroom routines via this important event.
  • Three-Way Conferences: (Parent/Student/Teacher) November - Parents are invited to sign up for a time to meet with the class teacher and their child to discuss their child's progress. The conference using student work and/or the Student Portfolio will be led by the teacher (see “The Student Portfolio” below). The Student Portfolio will be sent home following the conference to be reviewed at home for one week.
  • The Student Portfolio:  December & April - The Student Portfolio contains evidence of student achievement over time and, as such, is an important part of the PYP evaluation process. Teachers and students work together to decide on the make-up of the portfolio to ensure that it not only constitutes a balanced representation of learning, but also that it is something the child can own with a sense of pride. The Student Portfolio is sent home over the winter break so that parents and children can have time to share in a discussion of the learning that has taken place.  A typical Portfolio will contain: (a.) Examples of student work; (b) Information about the student’s special achievements and extracurricular activities; and (c) any appropriate student reflection or self-evaluation. The Student Portfolio in April will be used as part of the Student Led Conferences (see below)
  • Arts Night:  December & May - The learning in some subject areas is best shared in the form of a presentation in ‘real time’. For that reason, the school hosts regular arts nights at which children can show parents their musical and artistic achievements.
  • Written Reports:  January & June - Parents receive a formal written report of their child's progress first at the mid-year point, and again at the end of the school year.
  • Open Campus, Gr.1-5:  February - We believe it is important for parents to observe learning in progress and welcome parents to our ‘open campus’ month. During this time parents are invited to observe their child in a ‘normal class’ setting and then later have a discussion with the teacher about what they observed. To ensure that learning is not disrupted these operate on a sign-up basis so that no more than a small number of parents are witnessing the class at any one time. Typically open campus occurs during the month of February, when parents are invited to sign up for a morning or afternoon. In addition to the open campus month, parents will of course receive frequent invitations to attend special end-of-unit presentations or learning events in all areas of the curriculum – to include art, music, PE and Japanese.
  • Student-Led Conferences:  April (Gr. K-4) For parents accustomed to the traditional ‘parent-teacher conference’ the ‘student-led conference’ may be a new experience. Nevertheless, these 60-90 minute conferences are an important component of the ‘student-centered’ reporting process at NIS. Student-led conferences empower students to share their learning, so giving parents a ‘child’s eye’ glimpse of life as a learner at NIS. Parents listen and interact as their children read to them, demonstrate experiments, use the computer, play math games, construct stories, discuss their portfolio, read in Japanese and create works of art.
  • The PYP Exhibition (Grade 5):  April - The Exhibition represents the culmination of the IB Primary Years Program. This extended, collaborative inquiry process, conducted under the guidance of teachers and mentors, involves students in synthesizing the essential elements of the PYP. Starting with a central idea (a broad conceptual understanding to be investigated) and working through the lens of the IB learner profile, students work to focus their inquiry, explore the local and global issues it raises, take action to affect change – and then present their work for exhibition. The exhibition is a whole-school event, drawing on students as learners and global citizens, and celebrates the culmination of learning during elementary school and represents a true rite of passage from the PYP to MYP. 
  • Standardized Achievement Tests: October - Standardized assessments are used as a part of the whole school assessment process in an effort to gain as much information as possible about the student as a learner and about the effectiveness of school programs to promote learning. Standardized assessments are specifically used for the following reasons: to inform teaching, to provide information which shows growth over time, to provide comparison with a peer group and to inform decisions about programs

 

The Home / School Relationship

We believe, and studies have shown, that children perform better in school if their parents are involved in their education. Parents and caregivers, therefore, have an important role to play in supporting their children's learning. NIS teachers understand that close links between home and school are essential, and strive to communicate regularly and effectively with parents.

Homework is an important part of the learning experience in schools, and students will be expected to expand on their learning through “homework” after school hours.

Purposes of Homework:

  • To develop a home/school partnership
  • To consolidate and reinforce skills, knowledge and concepts
  • To extend learning that has taken place in school
  • To prepare new learning or to gather information and ideas that will be used in class the next day
  • To develop important habits of self-discipline and organization

Recommended Homework Time (although this may vary depending on your child and the time of the year):

  • Grades 1–2: Approximately 1 hour a week, plus a minimum of 30 min reading every night.
  • Grade 3: Approximately 1.5 hours a week, plus a minimum of 30 min reading every night.
  • Grade 4: Approximately 2 hours a week, plus a minimum of 30 min reading every night.
  • Grade 5: Approximately 2.5 hours a week, plus a minimum of 30 min reading every night.

Note: Primary students are encouraged to read a minimum of 30 minutes each night, in their mother tongue and/or in English. Parents are also encouraged to continue reading to their children and to discuss books being read.