In this chapter, I will give my current view of what we have learned about assessment – an important but difficult issue for the value-creating teacher. In our research, we are often drawn into various attempts to further develop teachers’ assessment strategies. Every year we learn more in this complex area, so this may be a bit of a flogiston chapter. The more sophisticated tools and methods described here are, in all honesty, a little difficult to explain in text form. I beg your indulgence if it is sometimes difficult to keep up. Then, just skip ahead to the chapter on value creation pedagogy for sustainable development.

Figure 8.1 shows an overview progression model of how assessment is influenced by value creation pedagogy. In the short term, teachers’ assessment work is not particularly affected by value creation pedagogy. Once the teaching has been slightly adjusted, assessment work can continue much as usual. However, the more extensive the value creation activities become, the greater the demands on teachers to further develop their assessment strategies. More and more focus needs to be put on formative assessment in order to monitor and manage the learning process and to reinforce each student’s learning along the way. IT support of various kinds may need to be used in order to reduce the time spent, so as to not become unmanageable. In the most advanced forms of value creation pedagogy, entirely new and sophisticated tools and methods are needed to ensure that the situation is not perceived as unsustainable for teachers. Thus, a crucial insight we made on our journey is that sophisticated learning journeys require new and sophisticated tools and methods of assessment. The three steps in Figure 8.1 will now be described one by one.

Figure 8.1. Three different levels of complexity in the value-creating learning journey and various associated tools and methods in the assessment work.

The simple learning journey

We start with the simple case when the teaching has grumbled to a little granna. A drop or two of value creation has landed in the ordinary teaching.

As usual but a little better

When value creation pedagogy is applied on a small scale, the impact on assessment work is minimal. On the one hand, the change is so small that no new assessment strategies are needed. This is because value creation is not a learning objective to be assessed, but a means to better achieve the learning objective. Teacher Maria Wiman writes:[1]

I think there is a danger in problematizing the assessment of value creation pedagogy too much. Then you make it more difficult than it should be. […] After all, it is the knowledge and skills in the curriculum that should be assessed, nothing else. In the course of value creation project work, a lot of evidence for assessment will be created.

The strategies already used for assessment can thus continue to be used. One change, however, is that teachers will have a more varied and more comprehensive evidence base on which to assess, as students who work in a value-creation way produce both more and better creations and presentations that can be assessed in the usual way. Teacher Madeléne Polfors writes:[2]

My fears about not reaching the knowledge requirements and not having enough assessment material were not realised. In all the classes I had full responsibility for [… ] I had the easiest time seeing how students achieved the learning outcomes in this class where we worked exclusively with value creation pedagogy. Similarly with assessment materials, I have never had so much assessment material and been so familiar with what each individual student has shown in terms of knowledge and skills.

The increased variety and quantity of assessment evidence can in turn lead to fairer assessment and more students achieving higher grades. Maria Wiman explains:[3]

Above all, everyone has been approved now who wasn’t before. […] I’m sure it’s because they’re motivated […] I feel like I’m judging more fairly now, because everyone gets to show what they know. […] I think I’ve given everyone a chance and it’s paid off, the assessment has gone up.

However, assessment work can be made more difficult if students’ projects are allowed to wander too far beyond the focus of the learning outcomes. In her second book on value creation pedagogy, Maria Wiman writes (2022, s. 158) about how she has sometimes gotten off track when students have enthusiastically wandered off and learned a lot about making video effects for their films on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) but less about the CRC itself. But as long as the teaching is balanced between facts and engagement, assessment is made easier. Maria Wiman also advises to include checkpoints along the way. If students are working on making films about the UN CRC, include a test or text submission somewhere in the middle of the process on the same theme.

Assessment for Motivation (AfM)

A new type of assessment that is added to value creation pedagogy is the assessment that outsiders make of learners when they give them feedback on their attempts to create value for them. This is not an assessment of students’ learning, but of their ability to create value. Such assessment contributes indirectly to students’ learning because it acts as a rocket fuel for their motivation. I think it is a kind of Assessment for Motivation (AfM), with the aim of enhancing students’ motivation. This can be compared to formative assessment or Assessment for Learning (AfL), in order to reinforce learning, and summative assessment, or Assessment of Learning (AoL).

The more advanced learning journey

We will now look at how assessment is affected by more advanced forms of value creation pedagogy.

Technology as the teacher’s extended arm

The more extensive value-creation activities are carried out, the more important various alternative assessment strategies become, see Box 1 below. We have seen more frequent monitoring of different parallel learning processes, more frequent feedback from teachers, students reflecting in writing through so-called exit tickets (written reflection at the end of the lesson), logbooks and various forms of peer assessment.[4] When students feel that school work is really important, peer feedback becomes more spontaneous in the classroom.[5] Much like colleagues in a workplace environment spontaneously seek feedback from each other on tasks that feel important in real life.

Value creation can also be given a clearer structure by having students write down what they intend to do in a plan or working template (Wiman 2019, p. 29). Questions that need to be included in such a plan include what is to be done, how it is to be done, why, resources needed, timetable and who does what. One plan per group is appropriate. The teacher monitors progress against the plan on an ongoing basis.

A challenge with formative assessment is the increased time commitment it usually involves for the teacher.[6] Therefore, various time-saving digital tools become an important element of more advanced forms of value creation pedagogy. Digital tools mentioned in addition to traditional learning platforms are: [7]

  • apps that speed up feedback between teacher and student, in both directions
  • apps that allow students to record audio files during meetings and phone calls
  • apps where documents can be shared between students and teachers and commented on in real time
  • apps that facilitate grouping
  • apps that enable video calls in various forms
  • apps that facilitate group collaboration and communication
  • apps for visualising students’ ideas and thoughts during brainstorming
  • apps for recording different types of video material.

Digital information generated in such tools not only saves time in communication, but in some cases it can also serve as a basis for assessment. An encounter between a group of learners and an external recipient of value can be documented for review by the teacher at a later date for assessment purposes. Since the teacher “can’t be everywhere”, digital technology becomes a kind of “extended arm” (Wiman 2019, p. 54–55).

Now, this is not a book about how teachers can work with digital tools in the classroom, so the above list is far from complete. But the pattern is clear. Many of the challenges that come with more advanced value creation pedagogy can be solved by teachers seeking out and trying different digital tools in school that save time while generating assessment data.

More advanced assessment and IT as inseparable friends

Value-creation teachers who use digital technology to successfully monitor and assess students’ more complex learning journeys makes me think of Célestin Freinet. As early as the 1930s, he needed to use technology such as printing presses, tape recorders, film cameras and hectographs to develop his value creation pedagogy.[8] I am therefore far from the first to conclude that technology is needed in more advanced forms of education. I have increasingly come to see IT and assessment as inseparable friends in value creation pedagogy.

In my research, I have therefore placed great emphasis on the digital dimension. By collaborating with systems scientists and programmers, we have made many breakthroughs in our work that would never have been possible without technology. In the light of what we now know, I hardly understand how it is even possible to research more advanced assessment without everyday access to such expertise.

Philosophy is also crucial. Without a philosophy of learning that guides the search for new insights, the risk is that technological solutions will not help teachers. My household gods are therefore both John Dewey and Célestin Freinet. Equal parts philosophy and technology. The ambition has long been to search for new ways to measure and assess what we value the most – deep learning, student motivation and emotionally powerful learning experiences. What we can make visible through measurement and assessment, we can also get more of.

Box 1: Assessing action-based learning

Value creation pedagogy is essentially a kind of action-based learning. There is much written in the literature about how such learning can be assessed. The methods below can be said to be variants of formative assessment, an umbrella term for assessment carried out primarily to enhance student learning (AfL).

Performance assessment is about having students perform authentic actions and assessing how well they succeed.[9] Teachers give students an assignment that allows them to demonstrate knowledge and skills in practice. Both the process and the “product” that students may create can contribute to the teacher’s assessment. This approach is common in aesthetic subjects and practical vocational training. Challenges include time constraints and subjective judgements.

Reflective assessment is about allowing students to reflect on their learning in writing or orally, individually or in groups.[10] The focus is often on what happened, how the student thought and felt, what was positive and negative, lessons learned and what could have been done differently.[11] It is easy to get started and the focus becomes on metacognition – awareness of one’s own abilities. Challenges are time commitment and deep reflection.

Peer assessment is about allowing students to assess each other for the purpose of learning and development.[12] It is a student-centred approach that reinforces responsibility for one’s own learning and that of others. Challenges include a lack of reliability and the need for students to practice their assessment skills.

E-assessment is about using digital support in the assessment process.[13] It is a broad category that includes everything from simple self-administered quizzes to advanced multimedia, simulations and e-portfolio systems. E-portfolio is a common application where students can upload their work for the outside world to see, much like a digital CV. [14]

Constructive alignment deals with linking three key aspects of learning – activities, learning outcomes and assessment.[15] Teachers are encouraged to focus assessment on the specific activities students need to do to achieve the learning outcomes, and to express these activities in verb form. One question teachers might ask is: What do students need to do in order to learn what we want them to know?

Assessment based on emotional activities

One assessment strategy I have worked with a lot in my research is to focus the assessment on the activities that generate strong emotions among students. If it is the case that we learn deeply from emotionally powerful events, then it is important to use assessment to ensure that all students are doing exactly what they need to do in order to learn deeply. The strategy is thus based on the principles of constructive alignment, and also on the different emotional learning events in Table 2.1 in Chapter 2.[16]

This is how I usually work with activity-based assessment in practice. Have students do a written reflection after an emotionally powerful event of some kind. For example, the assignment for the student could be written like this:

Conduct a dialogue/pitch/meeting with someone outside the classroom/school, and then reflect in writing on how it went, what feedback you received, what you learned and what you will do differently next time.

Make an attempt to create value for someone outside the classroom/school. How did it feel? What feedback did you get? What did you learn? What will you do differently next time?

When you have experienced something really emotionally strong related to your project, write down what happened and reflect on it. What did you learn? How was your project affected? What will you do differently next time?

Apply some of the core content practically in your project. How did it go? What was the impact of the project? What did you learn?

The texts above may need to be age-adjusted and formulated more specifically according to the value-creating task the students are doing. Each reflection should be individual and written, even if the task is carried out orally and in groups. Deep written reflection is always individual. Two people can never have experienced a situation in exactly the same way and learned exactly the same things. By putting the experiences into words, students also deepen their learning.[17]

Other emotional tasks can be given around activities that take place in the team, such as:

Develop a value proposition as a group and write it down in a canvas template. Then reflect on what you learned.

Make an important decision as a group. Then reflect in writing on how you felt afterwards and what you learned.

Written reflection on emotional activities is a good way to make visible learning events that are otherwise not visible with more traditional assessment strategies. It is also a way to gain insight into what is happening in the learning processes in more detail and to ensure that each student has been involved. It is difficult for students to make a credible reflection without having completed the activity in the assignment. If they try to write something down anyway, there is always the risk that the hoax will be exposed in subsequent dialogue with the teacher.

Tasks of the above kind consist of both acting and reflecting, embedded in the same task text. This is theoretically based on the so-called experiential learning cycle by Kolb (1984), see Figure 8.2. The planning and feeling stages of Kolb’s learning cycle can be included in the mission statement. Just make sure that the whole cycle is included in some form in the assignment text describing what students are expected to do.

Figure 8.2 Designing emotional activities for students supported by the Kolb learning cycle.

A crash into the formative assessment wall

In my own teaching I have experimented a lot with formative and activity-based assessment. Once it got out of hand. In an eight-week course at Chalmers quite a few years ago, I had nine different forms of oral and written assessment, both formative and summative. There were mini-exams, pitches, video submissions, coaching, compulsory workshops, student interaction with an external person, peer assessments via a Facebook group and written reflections via a sadly poor learning platform at Chalmers. Without thinking twice, I had given myself 1,543 assessments to do or follow over the next eight weeks.

There and then I crashed into the formative assessment wall. Never work like this again, I thought. It was hard to realise that a fundamentally positive form of assessment could do so much harm to me as a teacher. Later, I read that other teachers have had this problem as well.[18] To try to understand the situation better, I sat down and did the math. It turned out that formative assessment is relatively simple mathematics. The workload grows linearly with the number of students and the number of assessments per student, see Figure 8.3. Elementary.

But now I am also an IT geek. So I realised that the quality of the IT support available to teachers determines how many assessments they can do in an eight-week period without crashing. My own limit there and then, with the substandard digital tools we had at the time, was a few hundred assessments. With our 37 students, that meant a maximum limit of between five and eight assessments per student in a course. And that included compulsory attendance as a kind of assessment. Sadly summative if you ask me. So in March 2016, an idea was born about what we’re getting to now – the teacher as jazz conductor with chords that students can improvise to.[19]

Figure 8.3. Formative assessment mathematics showing that when more than 100 assessments need to be made at a time digital support is needed. When more than 500 assessments need to be made, completely new types of digital support are needed and a new assessment philosophy – the “jazz conductor”.

The sophisticated learning journey

Now we come to the most sophisticated form of assessment for value-based learning that we have worked with in our research.

The teacher as jazz conductor

When value creation pedagogy is at its most extensive form, a rather different assessment strategy is required. The teacher’s need for structure and control over the learning process needs to be combined with ample scope for students to improvise and be creative in their value creation attempts. Let us therefore liken it to jazz. If there is any phenomenon where many people together manage to combine structure with creative improvisation, it is jazz, see box 2 below. Value creation pedagogy in its most advanced form is like big band jazz, where teachers take the role of jazz conductor and distribute the initiative to students based on various predetermined themes and “chords”.

At Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship, we have been working as jazz conductors for more than twentyfive years. My students probably think they are leading the process more than they actually do. We have composed and refined a concert arrangement for them so that new virtuosos get to shine with their solos every year. They probably feel that they are performing a unique concert. But we, the composers, hear much the same concert every year. That’s the beauty of being a jazz conductor. When the audience arrives and the concert begins, the jazz conductor’s work is basically done. All we have to do is stand there, a little discreetly, between the audience and the musicians and enjoy. Keeping an eye out for any musician having a problem with a string on the guitar or some mechanical failure on the saxophone or whatever. Or stage fright.

The best jazz conductors in schools are found in vocational education, more specifically in apprenticeship education. Half the time students are apprentices in a workplace creating value, half the time they are at school. All the time the teacher is expected to organise, lead and monitor the learning. I have had the privilege of working with vocational teachers since 2014. They are truly the virtuosos of value creation pedagogy. Everything I am about to tell you about sophisticated assessment strategies I have learned by working closely with these master conductors. I have then tested what we have arrived at in my own teaching at Chalmers. If you want to know more about our research with vocational teachers, read our reports to the Swedish National Agency for Education’s Learning Centre.[20]

New digital support for jazz conductors

Teachers leading sophisticated value creation pedagogy need a type of IT support that was not available anywhere in the world when we started our research journey. We had to spend almost eight years experimenting with a brand new type of digital assessment support tailored for vocational teachers. I had my research tool Loopme to build on. But there were many parts that needed to be redesigned and expanded to support vocational teachers in their assessment work. In the end, I think we succeeded quite well, because today Loopme is used by several thousand vocational teachers around Sweden with nearly 20,000 vocational students. More are being added all the time.

I think this new digital assessment tool for teachers acting as jazz conductors is relevant far beyond vocational education. We have seen here a way of working with assessment of value creation pedagogy that can probably work at all levels of the education system. We just haven’t got so far on our journey yet that the approach has been much disseminated beyond vocational teachers. So let me describe what we came up with in more detail. Perhaps this approach could work for more teachers who want to take on the role of jazz conductor in schools, but who have not yet made it work in practice. First, we need to review some key concepts that emerged from the work.

Fact box 2: Big band jazz

A jazz big band usually consists of ten to twenty musicians, often divided into four sections – saxophone, trumpet, trombone and accompaniment (guitar, piano, bass and drums). The big band is the jazz equivalent of the symphony orchestra.

Music form. Big band jazz is a free form of music based on chords. A chord consists of three or more notes sounded simultaneously, forming a happy (major chord) or more melancholy (minor chord) base for the melody. In jazz, the melody is improvised by the solo musicians as they go along, using different chords in an often predetermined chord progression. This gives the musicians more freedom to decide for themselves how it will sound. This can be compared to the symphony orchestra where the musicians follow detailed notes written down in advance, note by note, second by second.

Pieces of music. A jazz song usually consists of a theme and a chord progression from which the musicians can improvise. The more people in the orchestra, the more structured it needs to be. The musicians are given free rein, but within a framework set by the composer. This is a freedom that requires a lot of preparation and practice. For each song, the musicians have around four to six pages of notes with both chord progressions and detailed melodies, differently distributed depending on the role of the musician in the orchestra. The whole set of notes for all the musicians is called an arrangement or a score.

Leadership. Leading jazz musicians who improvise the music is a kind of inherent leadership paradox. Who actually leads the work? The jazz conductor or the solo musicians? Many jazz orchestras don’t even have a conductor leading the concert. Instead, one of the section leaders steps up from time to time and leads the orchestra through key passages. Other times, especially in larger orchestras, there is a jazz conductor who distributes the initiative to different musicians when it’s time to improvise. In many cases, the conductor has done most of his or her work before the concert begins, through planning, rehearsals and briefings months before the audience comes to listen.

A new semantics for assessing value creation pedagogy

To facilitate the assessment of value creation pedagogy, we have developed a new semantics consisting of five key concepts – tasks, tags, content package, emotional assessment and comment thread. These five concepts are briefly described below.[21] The concepts require a partially digitally supported assessment strategy, otherwise there is probably a high risk of crash.

Task – a description of a concrete action with associated reflection that is intended to lead to learning for the students.

A good learning task is action-oriented and describes simply and concretely what students need to do to learn what they need to know in a particular subject. A task description consists of a title of a maximum of eight words and a short description of a few sentences of what is to be done. The description also needs to show how students are expected to reflect in writing after completing the task, focusing on what was done, how it went, what the student learned and how the completion of the task can be improved next time. Asking the student to link to theory and literature is also useful, if it works with age. Some tasks need to be completed several times for the student to learn the lesson and for the teacher to grade. Although tasks are described, communicated and reflected upon via an IT tool, the completion of the task is completely decoupled from the IT tool. All action takes place “offline”. It is only when it is time to reflect that the work takes place “online” in the IT tool. Tasks are usually compulsory and need to be completed for the student to pass. They are thus an important piece of the puzzle in the teacher’s summative assessment work. A task is like a chord or a sequence of notes for a jazz musician to use as a starting point for creative work.

Tag – short phrase of maximum four to five words that summarises effects, experiences or behaviours of interest in the learning process and that can be displayed on a digital “button”.

A tag allows learners to quickly and easily describe the learning, effects and experiences they are having. However, it requires that what is being referred to can be described succinctly enough to fit each phrase on a small “button” in an IT tool and that learners can easily understand what learning, effects and experiences are being referred to. Each button pressed then means that the learner considers that he/she has learned or experienced what is described on the button. Typically, learners select around two to six tags each time a task has been completed and reflected upon. The teacher decides in advance which tags students can choose from.

Content package – a ready-made set of three to twenty tasks and ten to twenty-five matching tags that teachers can choose from and give to a group of students to carry out over an extended period of time.

The content packages have have become an understandable and useful form for disseminating, discussing, analysing, developing and testing a particular educational design in a wider circle than just in one’s own school or classroom. The packages have been brought together in a digital repository called the Loopme Library, which was designed and technically built in the research process together with professional teachers and the Swedish National Agency for Education’s Apprenticeship Centre. A large number of content packages have then been developed by teachers around Sweden. It has been clear that many teachers are waiting to get started with the new assessment strategy described here until there is a ready-made content package to start from that has been designed by another teacher. So it seems to be easier for teachers to be jazz conductors than jazz composers. A content package is like an arrangement for a whole orchestra (think whole class of students). It can be exchanged between orchestras and played in concert halls all over the country.

Emotional assessment – the student makes a choice from five possible emotional states, from strongly negative to strongly positive, via a simple button press by the student and linked to each written reflection.

This information is displayed to teachers in connection with each reflection from a student. The emotional assessment helps teachers to quickly capture things students do not express in text, mainly around well-being and motivation. The student may not even be aware that well-being has started to decline. The teacher can often see that the emotional state is starting to decline and can then arrange an extra meeting. The reason for the drop in mood usually surfaces in such a meeting. The emotional assessment can be likened to the jazz conductor maintaining constant eye contact with the orchestra during the concert.

Comment thread – a digital formative dialogue that can follow each reflection if the teacher chooses to write a comment on the student’s submitted reflection.

This type of task-linked digital formative dialogue has become an integral part of value-creation teachers’ formative assessment work. Many schools have even begun to define it as teaching time when the teacher sits and digitally comments on student reflections. This work serves an important purpose in affirming, challenging and motivating students in their learning. It also leads to higher quality as the teacher’s control over value creation-based learning is strengthened. It also helps to maintain the frequency of students’ written reflection which in turn enhances learning. A doing becomes a learning only when the student has reflected on it.[22]

Features of a digital assessment tool

Let us now look at some key features of a digital assessment tool for value creation pedagogy that have emerged from our research. The top priority for vocational teachers was speed of communication, simply to save time and get students and tutors on board. Therefore, we drew inspiration from social media. Students were allowed to reflect on their mobiles via a user interface that was extremely easy to use. They were also given the opportunity to attach pictures and videos to each reflection. Teachers were then presented with a social feed of students’ reflections on a web page where they could quickly and easily comment and view images. Similar to Facebook, but with a feed just for teachers and fully tailored to the jazz conductors of learning. This saved a lot of time in assessment work and also facilitated the all-important documentation. Here it was the students themselves who documented their learnings.

For research purposes, we had already built tagging and emotion estimation functions into our IT tool. For vocational teachers this became a way to let students quickly and easily describe what they were feeling and what they had learned. A kind of self-assessment of learning. It gave teachers invaluable information in both formative and summative assessment work, and again saved a lot of time.

It also became clear quite soon that a task, or mission, logic was needed to guide and focus the students’ reflections. Students needed to be allowed to act and reflect on the basis of specific activities and related reflection questions composed for them by the teachers. Just as the jazz musician needs a chord progression to improvise from. The assignments are often quite general and broad (think chords), so that students can improvise based on what each specific situation allows (think improvisation solos).

Six different levels of digital assessment jazz

In our work with vocational teachers, we have seen many different ways of working digitally to assess value-added learners. Figure 8.4 illustrates six typical assessment strategies. Let’s review them briefly here.

Figure 8.4. Six different levels of assessment of value creation pedagogy.

Reflection. The most basic strategy is to allow students to reflect in a digital logbook. This can be compared to loose jazz trudelutes by individual jazz musicians. Free reflection allows a lot of room for improvisation but is not very structured or coordinated. Such an assessment strategy is easy to get started with but does not support the assessment of more sophisticated learning journeys. It also requires a lot of teacher time to interpret large amounts of unstructured text when it is time to set a grade.

Portfolio thinking. To assess students’ competence by examining their creations has a long tradition in aesthetic-practical subjects and is called portfolio assessment. Creations are often linked to experiences and abilities through reflection, so-called portfolio thinking.[23] This makes students active co-creators of formative assessment rather than passive recipients of grades. Combinations of text, images and video provide good opportunities for such assessment in digital form. We can see this approach as a kind of pre-recorded solo jazz sent to the teacher. It allows for a wide range of performances and also enables a clear structure for teachers. However, it does not provide very good support in what students need to do in order to learn how to create different works.

Activity-based assessment. At the third level, the learning journey is more clearly described through series of action-oriented tasks. Here we begin to see the benefits of structure combined with improvisation. With a set of different tasks, relatively sophisticated learning journeys can be described in action form. This is the first step where we see greater time savings in assessment work. Here the teacher becomes a kind of jazz conductor with a pre-planned arrangement the whole class follows. Each action-oriented task is a kind of chord the student can improvise from and then reflect upon with a combination of text, tags, images and video. The chords are put together in arrangements (content packages) that the student is expected to improvise from over slightly longer periods of time, often a course, a semester or a whole year.

Three-party collaboration. In the fourth step, a key person from outside the school is added and becomes part of the digital assessment work. This step is common in vocational education and training with supervisors at the workplace who also read the students’ reflections. However, I believe that also many other teachers and even pedagogical concept designers who want to invest in value creation pedagogy could find people who fill this third role in a good way. Perhaps by defining supporting roles for outside partners for whom learners create value. As in jazz, the audience has an active role to play here by providing inspiring feedback, what I call here assessment for motivation (AfM). Achieving time-efficient three-party collaboration in everyday life has proven to be almost impossible without digital support tailored for the purpose.[24]

Community of Practice. In the fifth step, teachers start exchanging content packages with each other. This facilitates the dissemination and testing of more sophisticated learning journeys. It is more difficult to compose a unique learning journey yourself than to be a conductor based on an existing learning journey that someone else has composed. Therefore, teachers benefit greatly from being able to share activity-based content with each other.

We have been working with content packages together with vocational teachers since 2019, an approach that has quickly gained wide acceptance. Today, there are around 80 different content packages developed for all 12 national vocational programmes in Sweden. My guess is that in a few years we could see a wide spread of different content packages for value creation pedagogy as well. Perhaps based on some of the many examples of value creation pedagogy in this book? Anyone is free to create such a content package.

Scientific teachers. The most sophisticated approach we have seen is when teachers not only exchange content packages with each other, but also analyse all students’ reflections and tags from the digital tool using scientific analysis methodology. The aim is to gain insight into which different activities have which effects on student learning. My earlier book – The Scientific Teacher – is about this very approach.[25] You are welcome to read the details in that book. But based on our focus here, this approach is about teachers working together scientifically to build up locally produced evidence about the effects of different kinds of value-creating activities. I write more about this in the epilogue at the end of the book.

Some final advice for aspiring jazz conductors

After quite a few years of working with activity-based assessment, we have accumulated some tips for conductors of value creation pedagogy. Try to have a pace of reflection that is comfortable for both teachers and learners. Some vocational teachers have students reflecting every day when they are on placement. Others work more on a weekly basis. Personally, I have moved towards more infrequent than that, as I work part-time as a teacher. Right now, my students reflect once or twice a month. But they also have reflection assignments for their other teachers, so for them the pace is about three to four reflections a month. Whatever pace you choose, try to keep the pace. Time as a pace-setter creates security.

Also the scale can be experimented with. In recent years, I have started to have more and more extensive Kolbian learning cycles in each task. It can be quite a lot of work for my students before it’s time to write a reflection to me. It also makes the reading more interesting for me. Every time I receive a reflection from a student, I can be sure that something interesting has been done.

In addition to the paced reflections, I also often have assignments that are not time dependent, beyond the end of the semester. Indeed, some activities cannot be predicted when they can be completed. For example, being involved in an emotional event, taking an initiative, successfully creating value for an outsider, taking an important decision or acting on an unexpected opportunity. Then it becomes a kind of retrofit reflective assessment. Students are left to judge for themselves when the opportunity to carry out the task arises. Towards the end of a term, I have a conversation with those who have not yet managed to find a good opportunity. It’s a structured way of assessing things that otherwise don’t get assessed so easily.

Another variant of backward assessment is to look at students’ chosen tags at the individual level. If teachers allow students to choose from tags that represent important learning outcomes and skills to practice, at the end of a term the teacher can go in and analyse which of the students have learned them, according to themselves. I usually have a conversation with those who have not yet chosen to use a particular tag. Maybe I have an alternative assessment strategy that can capture that particular learning for that particular student. Or maybe something is missing and needs to be added to the learning process.

A summary of jazz as an assessment strategy

Figure 8.5 provides a visual summary of the jazz conductor’s activity-basede assessment strategy.

In step one, students complete various action-oriented tasks. Teachers summatively assess each assignment, but without setting a grade. The important thing is that each student tries to complete the activity, not how it goes. It is the attempt that counts. The digital support shows an activity matrix of which students have attempted which tasks.

In step two, students are formatively assessed by teachers (BfL) and possibly also by tutors (BfL + BfM). Student reflection, tagging and emotional state are read and commented by the teacher and sometimes also by the tutor. This forms a digital tripartite dialogue in a comment thread.

In step three, the teacher translates the first two steps into course or curriculum logic, which facilitates grading (In parallel to the three steps, the value created by the students is assessed by the potential recipients of value (BfM).

Figure 8.5. Three steps in emotional activity-based assessment for learning, grades and motivation.

Taken together, this makes for an assessment strategy that represents a fine-grained mix of formative and summative assessment. This is contrary to what some researchers recommend,[26] but I have come to be convinced that such blending is absolutely crucial for the value-creation teacher. There are also other researchers who advocate such blending.[27]

A few final words on the assessment society

We live in a measurement society. Everything must be monitored, measured, documented and evaluated. What we can measure, we get more of, precisely because then it becomes visible. Conversely, if we find it difficult to measure something, we will get less of it. The effect will be that we value mainly what is easy to assess, rather than trying to assess what we value highly.[28] This is a challenge for value creation-based learning, as many of the student outcomes are difficult to monitor and assess via traditional exams. In this chapter, I have therefore outlined some alternative ways forward for teachers who want to assess and make visible the effects of value creation on student learning.

Teachers’ assessment strategies guide students’ focus in school work. The effect is called backwash – students adjusting effort and focus to what is on the exam.[29] The effect is so powerful that it’s hardly even worth fighting. Instead, researcher John Biggs recommends that teachers focus assessment on what students need to do in order to learn what we want them to learn, known as constructive alignment. I see this as a small step away from the usual focus on knowledge requirements and learning outcomes. More focus is then put on the concrete doing required of students. Could this be a better way to manage students’ value-creation based learning? Assessing them also on the things they need to do in order to learn? Not just assessing them on what they need to know according to the curriculum documents? I think so. But it requires well-tested assessment methods, digital support tools and teachers who don’t bow down to the New Public Management movement.

[1] The quote is from a comment by Maria Wiman on a post I made on 14/6-2016 in the Facebook group “Value creation pedagogy in theory and practice”.

[2] See Polfors (2020, p. 27).

[3] Quotes from impact study for the Swedish National Agency for Education by Lackéus and Sävetun (2016, p. 40–41).

[4] See for example Wiman (2019) and Jenssen et al. (2020).

[5] An example of this is given by Wiman (2019, p. 61).

[6] See Lundahl et al. (2011).

[7] Which apps are good and popular at any given time changes quickly, but some apps that have been mentioned are Google Classroom, Google Docs, Garageband, Menti, Socrative, Padlet, Showbie, Toolie, Whatsapp, Facebook.

[8] Read more about this in Freinet (2018).

[9] See Isaacs et al. (2013).

[10] See Bond, Evans and Ellis (2011).

[11] See Gibbs (1988).

[12] See Dochy, Segers and Sluijsmans (1999).

[13] See Supporting mountains (2012).

[14] See Ferns and Comfort (2014).

[15] See Biggs and Tang (2011).

[16] Read more about this assessment strategy in Lackéus and Williams Middleton (2018).

[17] See Moon (2004).

[18] See Jonsson, Lundahl and Holmgren (2015).

[19] The idea was first described in a video I made about summative qualitative formative assessment. Search on Youtube for “Social learning media Lackéus” and you will find it.

[20] See Lackéus and Sävetun (2019b, 2021).

[21] They are also described in more detail in Lackéus and Sävetun (2021).

[22] This is often described in the literature on experiential learning, see for example Aprea and Cattaneo (2019, p. 378), Roberts (2012) or Boud, Keogh and Walker (1985).

[23] See Impedovo, Ligorio and McLay (2018, p. 754).

[24] See Lackéus and Sävetun (2021).

[25] See Lackeus (2021).

[26] See Lundahl (2011, p. 157).

[27] See Brookhart (2010).

[28] See Biesta (2009).

[29] See Biggs and Tang (2011) and Panadero and Jönsson (2020).


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