Interlevel and Interdisciplinary Attitudes Working Group
The Attitudes Working Group is a non-profit organisation made up of education professionals and researchers, doing innovation and research activities to improve education practices. The group aims to promote the assessment of student key competences and formative assessment. They base their work on a methodology called the “Attitudinal Style” that has three dimensions: competences, self-regulated learning, and formative assessment. They emphasise inclusion, positive experiences and group work among students to increase motivation for learning. The group has set up a website to share their research and resources for teachers.
zldrawings.com - Zsofi Lang
The policy context
Education in Spain and Europe is moving towards a more competency-based teaching. The experiences and research carried out in Spain also demonstrate the importance of developing formative assessment. The intention with formative assessment is to respond to the individual needs of a class and develop students’ autonomy and self-regulation skills.
The Spanish Ministry of Education and Vocational Education and Training (VET) finds it important for teachers to not only include technology in their daily educational practice but also in the evaluation of the students’ outcomes. Both digital and ‘learning to learn’ competences are core and compulsory.
Teachers in Spain regularly undergo training in the use of free and open-source tools for teaching and assessment. Each region in Spain has its own platforms and conditions for the use of digital resources. Therefore, teachers must be offered something more than platforms or applications to work on common strategies related to assessment.
The Attitudes Working Group is a non-profit organisation established in 2007, made up of education professionals and researchers. Most members have undergone a specific training process including self-regulation, active methodologies, competence development and formative assessment strategies. In addition, a significant proportion of members train teachers as trainers. Another part of the group is responsible for research and scientific and pedagogical publications.
The group has numerous resources on the website related to the assessment of competencies developed through formative assessment. These are shared, free of charge, so that any teacher can use and adapt them freely.
The group has a large bibliography that presents good practices at all educational levels. The group has also developed a competency integration project (in Spanish). This project aims to promote the integration of key competences in the school curricula, based on a sequence of competencies organised according to cycles and courses.
A book they published (in Spanish) called MITAA (an acronym in Spanish for an “An integral model for an active transition towards autonomy”) offers teachers ways to integrate competency-based learning, in which formative assessment plays a central role. The Attitudes Working Group proposes that formative assessment is the first methodological change necessary to involve students more in their learning. In this sense, MITAA is an approach that suggests implementing formative assessment regularly, especially when the aim is to develop key competences such as ‘learning to learn’.
The Attitudinal Style (webpage in Spanish) is a three-dimensional approach (competency development, self-regulation, and formative assessment) defined by the working group. The development of autonomy, based on self-regulation processes, requires two key elements: a) the use of planners that allows students to organise work both in class and at home if the scheduled tasks are not completed, and b) the use of assessment instruments that create autonomy in obtaining information about the activities carried out.
The group proposes that assessment should be participatory, having the teacher and student work together on all aspects of it. Self-assessment, peer-assessment, assessment within a workgroup (intra-group self-assessment), between groups (inter-group peer-assessment) or the teacher assessment, involve all agents in the classroom. The teachers’ assessment should be compared to the students’ self-assessment. The fewer differences between the two, the more adjusted is the students’ ability to make accurate assessments of their own work, which is essential for the effective development of student autonomy.
By making assessment a regular practice, both teachers and students can get better at reflecting on learning as well as giving and receiving feedback that can be used to improve. Finally, the purpose of the Attitudinal Style is to promote inclusion in classes and to ensure all students have positive experiences, which also promotes collaboration among peers.
The workgroup aims to promote the following educational principles:
1) Reduction of the teachers’ authoritative intervention: teachers make fewer explanations, and explanations are always focused on new elements for the students.
2) Responsible participation in learning: students make decisions about aspects relevant to their learning, both related to the organisation and assessment of their tasks.
3) Autonomous planning: students carry out a prior planning of their unit tasks, which they must subsequently complete and evaluate daily using individual work plans.
4) Self-management of homework: students will be able to manage the context in which homework is carried out (at home or in class), thus favouring the reduction of the volume of homework.
5) Self-correction of tasks: different assessment instruments can be used to provide more independence from the teaching staff during the classes, with the teachers’ choice (checklists, verbal scales, assessment scales, etc.).
6) Continuous formative and shared assessment: turning formative assessment into everyday practice helps students understand that assessment can generate and improve learning.
7) Effective time management: perhaps one of the biggest problems in developing autonomy, since students do not usually manage time well. In this way, class time will be used better.
8) Contextualised and individualised learning: each student will receive an assignment of tasks according to their needs and abilities. Learning to use and manage a planner, linked to the selection of compulsory, optional and complementary activities, will allow teachers to adapt to the needs and interests of students.
9) Inclusive treatment of diversity: all professionals who perform supportive functions will be encouraged to stay as long as possible in the classroom. This can encourage student-centred teaching and co-teaching.
10) Providing an autonomous work environment: the necessary materials to carry out the tasks, including assessment instruments, will be available to students from the very first day.
Problems with assessment
Involving students in their learning through assessment is essential, but several conditions are required:
- The instruments must clearly describe what is to be assessed and what must be achieved as a maximum and minimum in each assessed aspect.
- The instruments (e.g., rubrics) must be adjusted to the level of demand of the cycle or course at hand.
- The students must have these instruments at their disposal from the beginning of the activity to carry out self-assessment and peer assessment regularly.
If there are competencies and transversal activities assessed in multiple subjects, the assessment instruments should be consistent in how they describe these. Otherwise, there will be incoherence across assessments made by different teachers for similar activities.
Research – Self, peer, and expert assessments
According to Panadero et al. (2013)’s review of the literature, rubrics provide transparency to students about the way they are assessed, which helps to reduce their anxiety and build self-efficacy. Students also use rubrics as a tool of self-regulation. For instance, they plan and then review their own work before submitting it or before giving feedback to their peers.
The capacity to regulate one’s own learning is crucial to success in online learning environments. Effective self-regulation includes: 1) the ability to set goals; 2) monitoring of one’s learning processes and strategies; 3) feedback; and, 4) self-assessment (Steffens, 2006). The use of rubrics can help to develop self-regulation also in online environments.
Peer assessment is also important, but as Barber et al. (2015) suggest, novice assessors need to develop skills for providing meaningful feedback, with specific suggestions for improvement. Teachers’ feedback and suggestions on next steps for learning, reference to exemplars, structured peer assessment (e.g., using rubrics and checklists) may all support learners as they develop skills for self-regulated learning.
Rubrics are useful because they provide students with clear descriptions of the aspects achieved and those that can be improved. However, when the rubric is used for grading and qualitative criteria are adapted to quantitative values, the result is often unrealistic. The working group’s experience in teacher training helped them realise that many teachers, when they grade achievement levels (descriptors that identify students’ achievement), come up with a numerical assessment that does not correspond to what they would have valued globally. They have admitted to changing the previously graded achievement levels so that the assessment ends up being as fitting as possible.
This indicates that the instrument does not meet teachers’ needs. Therefore, the workgroup has developed two alternatives to rubrics: Assessment Scales and Graded Scales. To illustrate how these rubrics and scales look like, see an example about video tutorials and an example about rope tension.
The assessment scale (article in Spanish) offers more precision in defining the criteria/aspects and the levels of achievement for each criterion. It basically allows a teacher to allocate different weights to each criterion (each can make up a different proportion of the total grade). Each criterion is descriptively subdivided into as many achievement levels as possible to identify said achievement. In addition, minimum performance requirements can be established for a positive assessment, which is very useful to determine what has been achieved and what remains to be achieved. The Attitudes website shows examples of how to apply rubrics to teachers (in Spanish).
In other cases, a certain degree of flexibility is required to assess student work with a creativity or originality factor without losing objectivity. In these cases, trying to numerically value these aspects seems inappropriate and, in general, they should not surpass the more technical and objective aspects.
In the graded scale (article in Spanish), the description of the performance levels remains the same as in the rubrics, but these are organised into sections. Accordingly, it solves the problem of a lack of precision in the identification of some aspects. It also gives the ability to prioritise a certain student when their academic improvement is just beginning (with some students, it may be important to have this flexibility without “lying” about the grades). When the student has improved a lot (especially in terms of motivation), this can be a perfect instrument to motivate him/her. It is also useful when the student’s activity has a creative aspect that should be recognised.
The website has long surpassed 400,000 visits from more than 50 countries. Studies show that the Attitudinal Style can increase the autonomy of students. Teachers who use self-regulatory learning processes associated with formative assessment claim that students' work becomes much more effective, and it is possible to make better use of time in the classroom. Furthermore, it allows teachers to give more individual attention to students who need it the most.
A recent research conducted by the Network of Educational Dialogue (REDE) on 10,000 participants (teachers and families) has revealed that self-regulation is not sufficiently addressed in the curriculum. However, more and more teachers have been integrating the proposals of the Attitudes Work Group in their daily tasks.
Parents who were involved in the working group’s projects reported that there are obvious improvements in their children, not only at an academic level, but at a behavioural level as well. Students become more responsible, organised, aware of the factors that contribute to learning, and even use self-initiated study strategies in a home context.
The planning and assessment instruments help families to closely monitor their children's performance while spending less time on it, due to the improvement in the students’ ability to work autonomously. The plans and instruments provide very useful information for families to know in which aspects each child should improve and, therefore, help better guide them in their efforts.
An interdisciplinary organisation such as the Attitudes Working Group can have many benefits for education policy. Firstly, it can promote dialogue between all education stakeholders, bringing together students, parents, researchers, policymakers and teachers. Secondly, it can facilitate bringing evidence-based good practices to practitioners (teachers and teacher trainers). Finally, it can facilitate the exchange of ideas between multiple research and training institutions and promote innovation.