By Angela Brassington
Are we risk-takers? Implementing eAssessments for our students at Munich International School (MIS) was an exciting new challenge. Both students and parents very quickly understood that these assessments tested the student’s ability to apply understanding, rather than just memorising facts. Many were excited to be involved.
Onscreen exams support inclusion and the features for enabling extra time work effectively. The technology was reliable, and any minor issues were quickly resolved.
In my opinion ePortfolios and onscreen exams offer a broader perspective of the real skill set of students at this age. It is not just a snapshot of what they remember to regurgitate on an exam paper on that day. – Parent of MYP year 5 student
How did the eAssessments effect teaching and learning?
Importantly, the quality of the teaching and learning improved. The assessments were inquiry based and challenging, and the students approached the tasks more seriously. Because the students engage with the global context across all subject groups, this deepens their contextual understanding. All subject group teachers agree that the unit planners should be sent to schools earlier in the year – this would ensure more effective collaborative planning and ensure the teaching and learning is in context with the rest of the school year.
Teachers and students understood that the onscreen exams would draw from the topic lists, relate to the global context and assess disciplinary knowledge and the application of skills or processes. Despite this, there was still a level of anxiety about the actual content that would be on the exam.
MIS students reiterated what other schools experienced with the mathematics exam and feel that the questions were not aligned with the mathematics framework. For all other exams, students felt well prepared and even confident in their ability to answer the questions. Onscreen exams are designed to be part of the learning continuum. Feedback from students reflects that they actually experienced the exams as a continuation of their classroom learning.
An MYP year 5 student told us that the integrated science examination was quite intriguing. He explained that all concepts explored in class were touched upon throughout the exam. Whether these were conceptual questions, factual questions or creative questions, all content was discussed and they were able to integrate the global context easily. He also explained that [the language and literature onscreen exam] offered a wide variety of both factual and creative work. Students were able to demonstrate IB skills obtained throughout the past year – short stories, answering questions, reading conceptual texts, etc. He felt fortunate to take the history exam because it was a fairly simple process and had an understandable and thorough structure. An essay was included for the last question, which reflected skills obtained in this years curriculum. The relation to the global context was understandable, students were able to answer the question correctly while creatively integrating the concepts. A significant individual in history was frequently explored throughout the exam.
The eAssessments have had a positive impact on my daughter as it has given her vital exam preparation for the Diploma Programme (DP) and it gave her a focus for her studies. Much better than GCSEs! – Parent of MYP year 5 student
We overcame some challenges
Change on this scale is bound to create some problems. Initially, it was important to inform the parents and students about eAssessment. Teachers understood the conceptual shift but needed time and support to adapt their units and internally standardize the ePortfolio work.
It is fair to say that some teachers were concerned about which topics might be on the exams and whether students were adequately prepared. Others initially felt confronted by the idea of being involved in the interdisciplinary exam. However, they rose to the challenge and clearly succeeded.
[…] The interdisciplinary exam was excellent too. The teachers definitely prepared us well enough, so that we were able to coherently relate certain aspects to the global contexts. – MYP year 5 student
The IT logistics require a team of capable people who can problem solve and find solutions to suit the school context. This year we used flash drives to deliver the exam file to students’ laptops, but it was labour intensive. A more sustainable solution needs to be found.
Accepting change takes time so recognizing this fact alone helps overcome the challenges that will inevitably arise.
Our top five recommendations for other MYP schools that may be considering the implementation of MYP eAssessments
1 Support your teachers
Teachers will need access to information about eAssessments and time to process these new ideas. They will need time for collaborative planning. They may need to develop new resources etc. Importantly, they also need feedback and encouragement.
2 Inform your school community
‘Fear of the unknown’ drove some parents and students to withdraw of eAssessment, which is why, in my opinion, it is essential to become familiar with the eAssessments together with your child. Once you do this, everything makes sense. Generally, the content is accessible to children of all cultures and abilities as well as captivating, relevant, thought provoking and stimulating for its teenage candidates. Most assessments reflect the learning our students have experienced and mirror the way in which our kids are encouraged to think. – Parent of an MYP year 5 student and an MIS PYP teacher
Provide parents with access to as much information about eAssessment, especially the onscreen exams, as possible. Offer an information evening or afternoon, where you demonstrate eAssessment. We used our learning platform to provide parents with access to the specimen exams and information about how to help students prepare. Many parents were highly engaged and appreciative that the IB are providing innovative learning opportunities for students.
3 Plan IT solutions
The onscreen exams were stable and reliable. However, each school, depending on the situation, will have different challenges. Support your IT team.
4 Information and planning
The MYP Coordinator needs to read all the information carefully and work with the leadership team to create an implementation plan for your school context. Create a deadline calendar. If you have questions, IB Answers is efficient and helpful.
5 Be a risk-taker!
Maybe I should not say this before seeing the student results but having gone through the experience I would recommend eAssessments to any interested school and MIS will continue to offer eAssessments.
Our students grow up surrounded by the IB Learner Profile. Every year, our children have the opportunity to win both athletic and sporting awards … if the children could win a learner profile award … this year it would have been those who did the eAssessments … the ‘Risk Taker Award 2016.’ – Parent of MYP year 5 student and an MIS PYP teacher
Angela Brassington is the MYP Coordinator at Munich International School, Starnberg, Germany.