Low-tech Assessment

Due to the nature of my work, we don’t often utilize assessment technology. The youth I work with do not receive grades or report cards, and often due to the diverse nature of our youth, engagement is what we “assess”. This is odd, and I am sure every educator does this on some level. A good example of this watch for disengaged behaviour markers such as:

  • Is the youth being overly chatty and not completing their task?
  • Are they distracting others?
  • Are they being weirdly quiet?
  • Are their asking to go to the bathroom multiple times?
  • Are they wandering around the room?
  • Are they distracted by a part/piece of the project?

Often these behaviours are the result of disengaged youth. My work mantra is “no child wakes up in the morning and decides that they are going to be a dick that day. Behaviour is a form of communication“. If we remember this, we can approach behaviour with empathy and kindness and not just assume that our specific troublesome youth finds pleasure is making our hair turn grey. When we note these behaviours, we can intervene and see why the student isn’t engaged. Often they are lost in the steps, reached a point that they need help with, or are just frankly uninterested in the topic at hand. All of these options are Ok!, and can be overcome with a little extra attention and kind intervention. Whether that be partnering them with a pal to work on the harder steps, using an older mentor to help, or giving them a brain break and letting them revisit their challenge in a few minutes.

Following activities, I encourage my team to ask open ended questions like:

  • What would you have done differently?
  • What did you do well?
  • Would you have changed anything about your project

The quality and depth of the answer often gives us an idea of the “buy in” of the activity, and whether or not we should repeat it in the future.

I know these assessment techniques are low tech, but I notice that they do come with a level of individualized quality that is good for team morale. Often, when an activity goes badly the first time my team does is immediately blame themselves. After talking to the kids, more often then not we learn that they just didn’t want to participate in that activity! Which is still a pain, but a good reminder that youth are individual with their own likes and dislikes. Regardless of how much we plan, we can never please everyone. And sometimes it is better to take the loss and move on! This makes informal assessment an important piece to our programming puzzle, so team members can adjust on the fly and provide long term programming feedback.

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