In the Secondary School we are moving ahead with our plans of bringing the IB Middle Years Program (MYP) in as our curricular framework for the 2018-19 school year. Next year ISD will be a candidate school for the IB MYP and this means we will begin implementing the MYP with the goal of becoming authorized in October 2019 to fully implement the program.
Next academic year we will move forward with using the MYP assessment framework across grades 6-10. This year two departments (English & French) have undergone a pilot project to prepare for the transition, and these two departments have done well.
Beginning in August, all departments will assess using MYP subject specific criteria and will design and implement assessment tasks in line with this framework. As parents and students it is important to be aware of the differences. Key features of MYP assessment philosophy and practice are as follows:
In MYP assessment each subject, each year, over the course of grades 6 through 10 is assessed against the same four criteria. For example, in English students are assessed against:
Criterion A - Analyzing
Criterion B - Organizing
Criterion C - Producing Text
Criterion D - Using Language
Each assessment that students engage in will focus on one or more criteria and will be designed for that unit of study. Further, as students progress through grades 6-10 the expectations for achievement against each criterion will increase. For example, in grade 6 students may learn to analyze a haiku and write their own poems in that style as part of their unit on poetry. An assessment task could be designed using Criteria A, B, and C. By the time students progress to grade 10 they may engage in another unit on poetry and they may have to compare and contrast several styles of poetry, again producing their own, as well as arguing the ways in which different genre are more/less effective in conveying given ideas. The focus of the unit in grade 6 is similar to the focus in grade 10 - students will learn to analyze text, in this case poetry; however, the expectations increase in complexity.
A key element of MYP criteria referenced assessment is that students come to realize how expectations of their learning within a subject are framed in the same way over time - that is, they come to see how the content, skills, and knowledge within a subject area are consistently framed.
Another key expectation is that the criteria used to assess students are shared at the outset, before learning begins. That is, students come to see how their learning targets are defined before they engage in the learning. By analogy, when playing basketball, kids are informed as to the rules of the game and the measures of success before they start - that is, they know what it takes to do well and then are set off to learn how to improve.
Formative & Summative Assessments
Within the MYP the major, final assessment tasks are shaped at the outset of learning. Students will know what they are working towards from the beginning of a unit, be it an essay, a lab, a test, or another authentic experience through which their learning can be demonstrated. By analogy, students who participate in an Model United Nations (MUN) conference know what will be expected of them in the event ahead of time. This final, major assessment experience is defined as a summative assessment. Over the course of a 4-6 week unit teachers will provide ongoing feedback to propel students to be successful on the summative assessment. This ongoing feedback may come in periodic checks that we call formative assessment - check ins at given points to make sure kids are on the right track.
The key in the formative assessment check ins is to give students information to help them prepare for the summative assessment - that is, formative assessments are designed to improve learning and help ensure students do the best they can. Formative assessments do not need to be graded, and we will encourage teachers not to grade them. The goal is to further learning and prepare students for the end product. Referring back to the preparation for an MUN tournament, feedback over the course of all the after school sessions is there to help students at the MUN conference - the ongoing feedback fuels the learning process.
Assessment as Learning … it is not about the grade
Given the distinction between formative and summative assessment throughout a unit of study students will be given ongoing feedback that will move them forward in their learning. The purpose of formative assessment is singular in terms of improving student learning - therefore a grade is not needed, nor desired. At the end of a unit, students will engage in a summative assessment task that will give an overall picture of student academic achievement against the MYP assessment criteria. Here, a grade will be given to help give an idea of where the student is against broader, more objective criteria; however, when looking to the fact that assessment in the IB is against the same criteria over a multi-year long term period, the feedback on an assessment task in grade 7 becomes formative assessment feedback as a student progresses towards grade 10. At this level, the grade becomes redundant because the goal is for that summative assessment task in grade 7 to fuel future learning. In this sense, all assessment is geared towards improving student learning. This means that we will increasingly de-emphasize grades and increasingly emphasize learning, and more importantly what students need to do differently to improve their learning. A grade does not indicate how a student can improve. We really are not concerned as to a grade - we care about future learning, how to achieve it, and the degree to which a student is realizing her potential. If a student does his best, then the grade that follows will take care of itself. Chasing a grade will never be an effective strategy to improve learning.
Assessment and Riding A Bike .... we will not average
Another distinct feature of the MYP assessment framework is that it looks towards learning in a holistic sense. In learning to ride a bike it doesn’t matter if someone fell on the first attempt, or the fifth attempt. If, after a year of practice, a person comes to ride a bike extremely well, then we say that the person is an excellent bike rider. It would be absurd to suggest the person be considered a mediocre bike rider because they fell several times in the beginning.
In the MYP we will not average grades. If, by the end of the year, a student has shown a given level of proficiency against the subject specific criteria, then they will earn a corresponding grade for that level. We will not punish them through their grades because they initially didn’t know how to factor multivariable equations - we expect students to learn, which means we expect them not to know how to do things initially, else they would not be in class to learn.
Academic Achievement Versus Everything Else
A final way in which assessment is different in the MYP is that the overall level of achievement in class will reflect academic achievement as determined solely by the pre-established academic criteria that are standard for the subjects. Things such as homework completion, or organization, or participation in class are not factored into a grade. Instead, we will look to performance on assessment tasks and assess them against the MYP assessment criteria, like every other IB school globally.
At the same time, homework completion, organization, and participation matter. In fact, in the MYP, they may matter more, as students will be shown to see how such things - such learning dispositions - lead to improved learning and therefore improved academic results. When each homework assignment is marked in and of itself, the homework becomes an end, rather than a means to learn. Students do their homework for that grade and at times the homework is set for generating the grade rather than being purposefully set to lead methodically into the final assessment. We need to shift students away from this and have them engage in ongoing habits of learning in order to fuel learning rather than produce a grade.
Dispositional achievement will also be directly valued in another way - that is, we will report on it separately, and we will endeavour to value dispositional achievement even more than academic achievement, as it is a student’s approach to learning that derives an academic grade. Students who are effective communicators and collaborators, students who are well organized and manage themselves, and students who think critically and creatively learn well, and in turn this is what generates grades. The best a student can do is their best, and we have to find ways to promote and propel students to maximizing their potential; therefore, we have to value this engagement and this process more so than the results, as a student who meets her potential and earns a D is doing far better than a student who is highly underperforming and earning a B.
For a 3 minute overview on MYP assessment, please see this video as drawn from another school with a rich history of success implementing the MYP.