Before we get into an in-depth discussion of the four A’s – alignment between assessment, guided activities, and access skills – I’m assuming that you’re already comfortable with constructive alignment as an idea, and with the Bloom’s and STRIP learning taxonomies as they are used in Compass.
Assessment and class activities both involve the student doing something, they are verbs/actions/doing words, and we can arrange them according to Bloom’s and our reinterpreted STRIP taxonomies. For example:
|Assessment instruction||Bloom’s level||STRIP level|
|Name the muscles of the body on a diagram||Knowledge, because it relies on memory and familiarity.||Unistructural, because there is only one fundamental aspect which needs considering, or one skill to use|
|Write an essay explaining the theory of how electrical current makes a lightbulb work||Understanding, because it involves reinterpreting knowledge but not adding to it||Multi-structural, because two pieces of understanding (filaments and electrical currents) are needed|
|Form a prediction about what would happen if the tax on solar panels was removed||Analysis, because it relies on understanding of subject matter as well as application of theories to investigate possible outcomes||Extended abstract, because the student must hypothesise or extrapolate into unknown areas|
|Write a computer program to store your friends’ names and addresses||Synthesis, because something new is being designed and created from existing knowledge and understanding||Unistructural, because it deals with only one function at a time (the storage of data)|
It should be noted that these two taxonomies are treated as independent axes; that is, they do not overlap, and an assessment at a certain level in one taxonomy does not imply its level in the other. For example, we can ask students to engage in the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy (synthesis) for a simple unistructural problem, as in the computer program example above.
Students need time and guidance to develop the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to perform well in any assessment, and giving them appropriate practice time and experience is the purpose of learning activities. But in order to engage fully with activities and assessments, students also need soft skills or access skills. The class activities support assessments, and should ideally also provide space to develop and refine the access skills too. For example:
|Assessment||Supporting activities||Access skills required|
|Name the muscles of the body on a diagram||flashcards, colouring in diagrams, creating acronyms and mnemonics, dissection labs|
|Write an essay explaining the theory of how electrical current makes a lightbulb work||write a short paragraph explaining electrical current, critique an anonymised essay against a rubric, perform a lab experiment with current and lightbulbs||essay writing skills|
|Give a public presentation predicting what would happen to the electricity market if the tax on solar panels was removed||read literature and past analyses detailing history of other taxes and their effects, use modelling software to investigate the relationships between supply and demand in a lab, give a one minute presentation in small groups explaining the idea in lay language, write an outline and have it critiqued by a partner for structure||public speaking skills, research and reading skills|
|Write a computer program to store your friends’ names and addresses||explore data structures for storage and searching in a lab exercise,
write pseudocode for the operations needed, critique a similar exercise against a rubric
It’s clear that in order to give a public presentation the students will need to have some presentation skills, which is why one of the activities in class involves a small amount of public speaking. Activities should thus support the development of the disciplinary subject matter appropriately, but also need to support the development of the access skills as well.
Compass keeps a database of ideas for assessments, activities, and access skills, as well as the relationships between them. This is used to drive the paper planning toolkit for teachers, as well as providing the chance for planners to suggest activities to the teachers using the milestones. Planners can see where access skills are needed on the final tab of the programme planning toolkit, and can use this information to make sure that students get appropriate support. Contributions to the database of ideas for assessments, activities and skills are welcome – please see the information for contributors and contact us if you need help setting up these permissions.