By Martine Rioux
One of the best ways to demonstrate students’ progress is to collect evidence of learning. This helps the teacher verify that objectives have been met and to obtain an overview of the skills and abilities developed over time. The more varied and voluminous the evidence, the more accurate this portrait will be.
Why Collect Evidence of Learning?
Most educational policies in Canada have set out guidelines for teachers to collect this evidence. “The gathering of information during classroom activities is usually sufficient to allow the teacher to make the required observations. Significant records of a student’s learning are kept and observations recorded over time so that they are available when needed,” reads the Quebec’s Ministry of Education Policy on the Evaluation of Learning.
In Ontario, a similar document called Growing Success, states that collecting evidence is a necessary tool for teaching practice: “Transparency is achieved when student learning is assessed and evaluated according to the clear standards outlined in the curriculum expectations.” It is further written that “as essential steps in assessment for learning and as learning, teachers need to analyze and interpret evidence of learning.”
Therefore, this should not be used only to fill the students’ portfolios. The evidence becomes an element to be considered when determining the final grade in a given discipline. In contrast, the evaluation of learning should be based on teachers’ professional judgment, one that is gathered from a variety of information. Evidence complements traditional examinations, and can even replace them entirely. Let’s never forget that a result on a single exam is not always an accurate portrait of the student’s performance. In fact, the purpose of the examination should be to validate what has already been observed and marked based on what the student achieved compared to their learning objectives.
Moreover, in order for the evidence to be properly interpreted to establish an accurate portrait of each student, it should contain different types of evidence. This is called triangulation of evidence of learning.
This means that “the teacher collects evidence of student achievement from three different sources: oral expression (including conversations), observation of attitudes and behaviours, and productions (written or otherwise).” This way, they ensure that they have collected a sufficient and diversified quantity of evidence.
What is Evidence of Learning?
Evidence, or proof of learning, is the demonstration of what the student knows, can do and/or can express.
To learn more about triangulation and discover examples of evidence of learning, see our article Triangulate Evidence of Learning and Evaluation.
Why Triangulate Evidence of Learning?
According to Anne Davies (2011), “everything students do, say and create, in the classroom and during their learning, is potential evidence of learning.” These pieces of evidence of learning include products, observations, and conversations (the three elements that make up triangulation).
Moreover, digital tools are gradually used to facilitate this triangulation. By making it possible to create a greater variety of evidence (written, audio, visual, etc.), they provide more options for teachers and students (see the central pages on this subject).
Getting the most complete portrait of each student’s skills makes it possible to understand the manner in which they learn in different contexts. Collecting evidence in only one of the three elements (only written productions, for example) does not make it possible to obtain an accurate portrait of the level of achievement of the skills and knowledge required by the teaching curriculum.
As Davies also argues, “reliably assessing a student’s level cannot be based solely on the score from a multiple-choice test, quiz, or final exam. Several sources of assessment enable teachers to note whether the various pieces of evidence are converging.” This approach also allows for greater pedagogical differentiation.
Furthermore, it is relevant to remember that “the curriculum does not impose a specific form of evidence of learning.” For example, in the high school first-year geography class in Québec, the student must understand several phenomena, such as globalization or even urbanization. It does not mean that they must absolutely choose the correct definition from an array of answers, or even regurgitate the exact definitions on a piece of paper during an exam. On the contrary, they could explain it orally in their own words to a classmate or the teacher. By doing so, they would demonstrate just as reliably (perhaps even more!) that they understand that particular concept.
How to Integrate the Triangulation of Evidence of Learning into Your Teaching Practice
“By triangulating evidence of learning and documenting it, teachers can base their judgment and assessment on real evidence and not just on their memory, feelings and intuition,” Davies also argues in the article A case for a triangulation of evidence of student learning.
However, as in the integration of any other new practice, it requires investing some time to plan properly. Above all, it is not necessary to change everything overnight. Choices then have to be made. To begin, you can consider integrating triangulation for a specific skill or a learning sequence. It is never too late to add more to put it into practice in your annual planning.
The Centre franco-ontarien de ressources pédagogiques (Centre franco) offers some planning ideas for collecting evidence of learning through triangulation. Essentially, it is a matter of proceeding by planning backwards, therefore starting from the objective to be achieved.
- Identify the expectations and learning content to be achieved at the end of a learning sequence or for a given competency.
- Identify the learning skills and work habits related to the targeted expectations.
- Determine the learning outcomes related to each of the elements composing the targeted sequence or competency.
- Identify the appropriate context during the sequence in order to:
- Make observations
- Have conversations
- Collect products
- Identify the appropriate time to engage students in the process of collecting evidence of learning.
- Determine assessment strategies that will elicit evidence of learning.
During this stage of planning, three elements must be kept in mind.
- Ask questions about the relevance of the evidence of learning collected (each piece of evidence must have a purpose).
- Apply the principles of differentiation regarding the collection of evidence of learning (the evidence must be varied enough to take into account the diversity of the student population).
- Use the student’s profile to support the choice of evidence of learning (evidence does not necessarily have to be the same for all students).
Once the planning has been completed, the Centre franco recommends implementation steps that will engage students in the process. This then requires being transparent with them.
- Communicate expected learning outcomes to students (what they should learn, what they should be able to do and what they should express clearly).
- Draw up a list of possible evidence of learning with students in order to help them become aware of their diversity.
- Establish the evaluation criteria with students (this will lead them to understand why certain evidence will be collected).
- Invite students to choose the type of evidence of learning they will use to demonstrate the achievement of objectives.
- Collect evidence of learning related to learning outcomes and assessment criteria, with student participation.
- Use evidence of learning to:
- Adjust teaching and learning
- Provide feedback
- Invite a student to evaluate another student’s work
- Invite a student to self-assess and set personal learning goals.
Also, according to Davies, collecting evidence of learning “requires being transparent about what is to be learned, about the expectations in terms of the level of quality, and about the potential of evidence of learning.”
How to Collect and Organize Evidence
There can be many types of evidence of learning. One of the challenges is to successfully collect and organize it in a simple and structured way so that you can refer to it as needed. “The evidence must exist and be tangible to be considered; the teachers’ professional judgment must be based on multiple and enduring pieces of evidence,” also writes Davies. Therefore, you must be able to collect the evidence regularly and in the same place, preferably in the form of a digital portfolio (see our article Implementing Digital Portfolios in Preschool and Elementary School). At this stage, students can help set up a system for collecting evidence.
Once the system is defined, they will be able to organize some of their evidence of learning.
With good organization, it becomes easier for the teacher to retrieve pieces of evidence, provide structured feedback to the students, and record their own evidence in the form of evaluation grids, observation sheets or rating scales.
There are a variety of online platforms that can be used to manage evidence of learning. Microsoft has a shared notebook application called OneNote, which can be used alone or integrated into a Teams group. Some Google tools also have attractive possibilities,
OneNote Class Notebook (Microsoft)
Karyne Lachance (@KaryneLachance), a pedagogical consultant with the Service régional du RÉCIT FGA-FP pour la Montérégie, and Dominique Pissard (@erinos2), a pedagogical consultant in arts, cultural and intercultural development with the Centre de services scolaires Marie-Victorin, have developed training designed to help teaching staff learn how to use OneNote for the purpose of using it in Class Notebook with students (as of third grade).
According to them, this cross-platform tool is very versatile and meets many needs. It makes it possible to centralize all the evidence from both students and teachers, while providing interesting possibilities for educational differentiation and accessibility.
Therefore, a page or a section of OneNote may contain the student’s productions, whether written, audio or video. It is even possible to record audio comments or take photos directly from the notebook page, which can be used for artistic creation or to explain a process.
Feedback from the teacher, which can be done in real time, in writing, orally or with video, and additional information, such as another document or an explanatory video, may also be integrated.
For their part, the teacher can create pages in their notebook to record their observations on each student, which will facilitate their task when rendering judgment on their group’s learning.
A few tips for getting started:
- Invest some time getting familiar with the tool (by using it personally).
- Allow time for students to freely discover its features (on a computer, tablet, or other mobile device).
- Begin with a clear educational intention and start with a small task (that will not be evaluated).
- Reuse some previously-designed content adapted for OneNote.
- Always structure the activity page before sharing it with students (avoid the blank page syndrome).
- Carry out the first activities in class in order to be able to model and support students in real time.
- After modelling, work directly in the notebook, in guided practice then in independent practice, either with individual activities or collaborative team activities.
When you become comfortable
- Explore the possibilities of instructional differentiation (plan different assignments according to the needs of students).
- Use the “indicators” to label the work and do research in the Class Notebook afterwards.
- Grant access to your teacher’s space to other specialists (e.g.: a speech therapist) or colleagues to gather comments about students.
The various tools provided by Google also offer many possibilities for collecting evidence of learning by triangulation and for supporting teachers to better organize and evaluate this evidence. In this case, a combination of several tools becomes a winning formula. They are accessible from Google Classroom, Google Drive or individually.
For example, we will use:
- Forms, to produce exit tickets, reading summaries, and self-assessments
- Examples of using forms bit.ly/googleformsideas
- Photos, to document what the student is doing or has done (it is possible to create collages, animations, and even short clips);
- Keep, to build a simple digital portfolio.
For the teacher seeking to acquire their own tool to record evidence, Marie-Andrée Ouimet (@maouimet), tech integration coach, and Laurie Couture (@lauriecouture92), pedagogical consultant at EngagED Learning, recommend using Forms.
It is then a matter of creating forms with fields corresponding to the elements to be validated. These forms become anecdotal sheets, rating scales, observation grids or checklists for the teacher. In a learning context, they can simply fill out the form as they observe steps taken towards achieving the objective. Form responses are saved in a spreadsheet. The teacher can then consult them, sort them and even share them with colleagues or parents (either through a complete file or a line corresponding to a student). Choose the ” Read-only ” sharing mode to prevent having documents accidentally deleted!
It is also possible to create the same type of form and summary table of responses with the Numbers application, installed by default on the iPad, as well as with the Microsoft Forms tool.
A few tips for getting started:
When creating the form:
- Create a field to collect the student’s name, as a drop-down list
- Aim for one or two objectives per form.
- Begin by creating a general form, which can be used in different situations.
- Integrate conditional formatting in the spreadsheet to get an overview of the group.
- Always use the same color of measurement (e.g. red, orange, green) to indicate whether a skill has been acquired.
When using the form:
- Send it to yourself by email and open it on your mobile device so that you can complete it while circulating in the classroom.
- Check the option “Send another answer” to quickly switch from one student to another.
- Target and plan the observation times (avoid Friday afternoons!).
For those who are more advanced
- Install the Autocrat add-on, which enables direct email, i.e. the sharing of responses (in whole or in part) to third parties (e.g. colleaguesor parents).
- Install the docAppender add-on, which allows data collected using Forms to be transferred to another predetermined document.
How to Evaluate Evidence
Once the students have produced evidence, the teacher must be able to collect and examine it in order to determine whether the expected results have been achieved. Many teachers have developed their own systems, grids, or sheets for this purpose, in accordance with previously-established evaluation criteria. Some are featured in this issue of the magazine.
There is no perfect model, and everyone will adjust their method to become more efficient and skilful over time. This kind of tool is usually built through trial and error. It frequently takes the form of spreadsheets or various tables, evolves as evidence is collected, and generally allows elements of feedback to be shared with students (and sometimes even with parents), always with a transparency purpose.
In addition, continuously throughout a learning sequence, feedback is facilitated. Thanks to the recorded observations, the teacher can clearly explain to the students what still has to be learned in relation to the final expectations and guide them in their progress according to the various possible evidence of learning to be produced. Here again, several digital tools become interesting feedback tools, such as Flip, Talk&Comment and the native features of the various platforms.
Triangulation then “allows teachers to say that everything a student does, says or creates is potential evidence of their learning,” and this, in different aspects (products, observations, conversations) (Davies, 2011). In this sense, triangulation becomes more of a demonstration of skill development, not knowledge retention.
In Québec, in accordance with the second orientation of the Policy on the Evaluation of Learning – Evaluation of learning must be based on the teacher’s professional judgment – and with section 19 of the Education Act, the teacher “is entitled to select the means of evaluating” to examine and assess continually and periodically the progress and achievement of objectives of every student.
This way of working necessarily requires taking a step back from traditional evaluation. Since the teacher’s findings do not represent a grade on an exam, how can they be transformed into grades? As when recording traces, the majority of teachers will develop their own way of operating, allowing them to exercise their professional judgment.
Evaluation is and will remain a delicate subject. Findings on the methods and their effectiveness are constantly changing. The emotional aspect related to evaluation easily comes into play, both for the teachers and the students and their parents. The goal is not necessarily to change everything or simply to continue doing what we have always done. Rather, it is a matter of questioning and adapting one’s practices so that what each student brings home and carries in their school bag is coherent and faithful to their real skills, and this, in a multitude of fields.
- RÉCIT Campus. Assessing Digitally, 3.3 Triangulating Evidence of Distance Learning. https://campus.recit.qc.ca/mod/tab/view.php?id=10765#tab493
- RÉCIT Campus. Organize and keep track with OneNote. https://campus.recit.qc.ca/course/view.php?id=279
- Center franco-ontarien de ressources pédagogiques. (2013). Evidence of Learning, Booklet 3. https://equinoxe.cepeo.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2018/08/fascicule3-1.pdf
- Davies, A., Herbst, S. and Augusta, B. (2020). Making the case for triangulating evidence of student learning. Administration & Education, 165, 241-247. https://doi.org/10.3917/admed.165.0241
- Davies A. (2011). Making classroom assessment work. 3rd Ed. Connections Publishing.
- Ministry of Education of Ontario (2010). Growing success, assessment, evaluation, and reporting in Ontario schools. Covering grades 1 to 12. www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/growSuccess.pdf (in English)
- Quebec Ministry of Education (2003). Policy on the evaluation of learning. www.education.gouv.qc.ca/fileadmin/site_web/documents/dpse/evaluation/13-4602.pdf
- TÉLUQ. (2021). Collecting evidence of learning through triangulation. I teach remotely. https://jenseigneadistance.teluq.ca/mod/page/view.php?id=617