Every teacher in South Africa has been frustrated by the prescriptiveness of the CAPS document. While it might be good for standardisation, it is killing any form of innovation.
But there is another side to this coin. We (and I include myself) have a very limited/boring view of what assessments are and we can blame CAPS for that too. But even within the guidelines, there are things you can try. For example in maths, you can create an investigation/project that is more of an independent learning activity than testing learning that already took place. Creating an investigation, however, is a lot harder than setting a test. Incorporating technology has made me look at all our assessments with new eyes.
In my post about creating an Authentic Audience, I have mentioned that teachers often complain kids are only interested in work that is for marks. However, we have created that system. Most assignments are for the teacher’s eyes only and the teacher only look at it to allocate marks. By trying to get my learners more active in the class, I am giving them more assignments/activities. In the beginning, they were confused by the fact that I expect them to do something that is not for marks. The first question they asked is, “Does it count?” The second question is, “Is this just for fun?” It took almost six months for them to get used to the idea that an assignment can be important even though it is not for marks.
The Department of Education is in no way ready for online assessment. I can’t wait for the day I can hand my subject advisor a flash drive with portfolio’s, instead of the usual box full of plastic sleeves, just to see his face. Last year I asked one of the directors in the WCED what would happen if I do that and his answer was quite encouraging, “Please do, until some teacher does that, the subject advisors will not be forced to deal with this reality. “
In one of my previous posts, I discussed why I am not comfortable doing formal assessments online yet. The learners are not ready for that yet. I would hate a learner to test low, because they do not understand the platform. But they will only get comfortable with the technology if we start incorporating it in out informal tasks.
In the mean time I have started to set my assessments with technology in mind. Even though we still do them on paper, it will be fairly easy to change some of them to technology once we feel reach that point.
Nothing happens overnight, but by planning for change, I will be prepared when the time comes.