By David and Michele Mindorff
We survived! We just completed the inaugural session for eAssessment in the Middle Years Programme (MYP) here at Lyford Cay International School in the Bahamas. If you’re a leader or educator at an IB World School, and you’re wondering what all the hype is about, here’s an insight into our experience.
Taking part in something so new and innovative takes a lot of effort, collaboration, time, confidence, optimism and energy. We needed to ensure that our 21 students and 9 teachers felt prepared. We had some challenges to overcome and, overall, we’re pleased that we made the decision to choose on-screen MYP exams for our students.
Why we chose MYP eAssessment
We have always been a school where students pursued the MYP certificate – a moderation process that ensured we had a bank of quality assessments that lead to good educational outcomes. We had confidence that our MYP programme effectively prepared our students for the Diploma Programme. Additionally, our school community values the MYP certificate as a qualification. So when the eAssessments were introduced, we made the decision to pursue that option so that our students could continue to earn the certificate.
Some of the component parts
We found the ePortfolio component familiar in terms of the administrative aspects because it is similar to how moderation worked in the past. With the unit planner framework, we found that having it issued each year means that our language acquisition and arts teachers have to leave a gap in their written curriculum as they await the publication of the partially completed unit planner. The frameworks were well designed and led to good standard units, although we did find them time-consuming at a hectic time of year. The reduction of the six phases to three levels also added an extra level of challenge for our language acquisition teachers.
How our teachers prepared
Back in May 2015, we participated in the pilot for eAssessment for the English, history, mathematics and the interdisciplinary eAssessments. Through the pilot experience, we recognized that we had to do a better job of preparing students. In particular, students had insufficient experience of the expectations of the interdisciplinary criteria. We therefore invested considerably more resources into engaging with the interdisciplinary pre-release material for the live exam than we did with the pilot. Further, we had our departments conduct an audit to ensure that all topic elements were being addressed sufficiently.
To prepare our students, we conducted mock assessments in April using the specimen material, and we introduced a revision period and mock assessments which consumed class time. Teachers also experimented with applications that would support onscreen assessment like Google Forms, Equation Editor, EdPuzzle, Geometer Sketch Pad and Quick Time. Our mathematics teacher purchased the same calculators for classroom use that were emulated on the onscreen exams.
Traditionally, we have internal mid-year exams in December. Most of our MYP 5 teachers decided to carry out these exams on-screen to give more practice for May. We did notice some curriculum contraction. Now that the eAssessment session has finished we are left with a short period of time to the end of the school year in June to begin a further unit. We have decided to use this time to focus on the MYP skills that best prepare students for the DP internal assessments in each of the courses.
We also decided to implement the TiNspire graphic calculator as a requirement in grade nine, in part because it clicks, scrolls and saves like a computer and gets the students accustomed to typing math. We will also broaden the use of onscreen explorations, especially those that have been part of the specimen, pilot, and live eAssessments.
What our students thought
The students experienced glitches in the pilots and specimen mock assessments, so they were a little too quick to see flaws in the live exams that weren’t there. In this May’s implementation, we had no significant technical challenges. Our tech team and two of our MYP design teachers were invaluable in facilitating the testing. The MYP tech support team at the IB was also very responsive and prompt in answering questions.
When we surveyed our students, they were generally positive about eAssessments, asserting that it made sense to be assessed in a way that was consistent with how they work in classrooms on a day-to-day basis. This was especially true for writing and working with interactive simulations. A number of students remarked that using mathematic type slowed them down. Others indicated a strong preference for doing mathematics on paper rather than on screen.
We have been a ‘laptop school’ for ten years. In some classes, this has so far amounted to little more than adding a layer of expensive tools on top of a curriculum that does not need them. However, the eAssessments are pushing us further to tap into the possibilities that a technology-pervasive environment affords.
Upon reflection, we recognize that our approach to teaching and learning has to change to align with both our goal of technology-supported transformative learning and our goal of successfully implementing eAssessments. We had some challenges that we will overcome as a school and others that we have alerted the IB about as they continue to develop this new approach to assessment. We would like to see the release of the authoring tools used by the IB to create the eAssessments so we can create our own tasks that not only align with the criteria but allow us to leverage the technology tools we have available at our school. We have already planned to incorporate some of the activities found in the pilot, specimen and live eAssessments into our units because they are interesting and well designed.
We are adapting to the new way of things and will work to ensure that class-time doesn’t get consumed by revision and mock assessments. There are things that the IB can improve to make it smoother, and we are giving them plenty of feedback.
It’s new, and it takes effort, but we feel confident in saying that the effort is definitely worth it.
David Mindorff is Head of School (Academics), Head of Secondary and Michèle Mindorff is Coordinator for both MYP and DP at Lyford Cay International School in the Bahamas.