Why Teachers Should Digitally Document Evidence Of Learning

contributed by Shelley Hudson

For early elementary teachers, measuring student learning is especially challenging.

Because educators don’t assign traditional grades to young learners, they have to take unique approaches to track student progress. Early elementary teachers assess student learning through 1:1 conversations, student artwork and more.

Seeking benefits of technology-driven assessment and reporting, kindergarten teachers at Greater Essex County District School Board approached the administration with a desire to digitally capture evidence of learning. By implementing a new system purpose-built to gather evidence of learning for early years, these teachers have now been able to better organize assessment practices, while bolstering communication to parents.

A New Path to Gathering Evidence Of Learning

Collecting and organizing evidence of learning with digital tools leads to multiple benefits for teachers, students and parents. Teachers are able to house a large collection of evidence in one online space, which can spur the following results.

1. Done well, it can save teachers time.

Christine Jeffery, a kindergarten teacher at Margaret D. Bennie Public School, says, “When I record evidence of learning, I can use a wide range of media, including pictures, conversations, audio clips, and written observations. Using a digital system saves me time because I do not have to re-enter the same information repeatedly. When reviewing the evidence, I can easily organize it in ways that are most beneficial to me. For example, I can look at it by date or the standard I’m assessing across the classroom.”

2. It can streamline data sharing–and more crucially the response to data.

With a technology-based system, teachers can align evidence with curriculum expectations as the school year progresses, making the reporting process easier on the back end. All of the documentation is in one spot—even if contributed to by multiple teachers, as is often the case in early elementary years—and doesn’t require shuffling through multiple papers to assess student progress.

3. It can bridge the gap from home to school.

An additional benefit of gathering evidence of learning on a digital platform is building a stronger home-to-school connection. Parents can stay up to date on what’s going on in the classroom, and discuss classroom projects with students based on teacher feedback that is already recorded in the system. There’s also the potential for mobile access, leveling out the playing field for families who may only have internet access through a tablet or smartphone.

How To Begin To Digitally Document Evidence Of Learning

1. Build your digital toolbox.

Half of the challenge of creating an effective program to capture evidence of learning is building your digital toolbox. For GECDSB, our district’s learning management system, Edsby, recently provided new functionalities to execute the new method of assessment.

We worked with Edsby to pilot its new evidence of learning capture and reporting capabilities and provided feedback that helped shape the product. In conjunction with the LMS, our teachers use tools such as Twitter, Kidblog, Explain Everything and Knowledgehook to track student growth in learning.  When reviewing the tools that will best fit your district’s needs, make sure that teachers can upload a wide range of multimedia assets, and have a user-friendly way to track progress towards curricular standards.

 2. Focus on training and professional development

The second half of your program implementation will be professional development.

Hold introductory training sessions to expose teachers to how evidence tracking will work in their classroom. Then, select classrooms that will pilot the program. The pilot program will smooth out initial hiccups, and identify go-to experts for teachers to come to when they first start the program.

At GECDSB, the first phase of our new program consisted of eight kindergarten classrooms at six schools. A key aspect of the success of the new system has been encouraging collaboration among the pilot educators to determine best practices. With additional feedback from these teachers, the program will continue to expand throughout the district.

3. Connect it to other efforts.

While this method of assessment works well for young learners who do not participate in more traditional methods of assessments, evidence of learning can also benefit students ranging from grades 1-12. As K-12 schools continue to focus on 21st-century teaching and learning, qualitative analysis of student learning will become increasingly important in assessing student abilities to create, collaborate and solve problems.

Shelley Hudson is a supervisor of IT at Greater Essex County District School Board, a district of 35,000 students. She has worked with the district for 28 years and specializes in project management, information management, data analysis and privacy.

Why Teachers Should Digitally Document Evidence Of Learning