Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Thoughts about Classroom Assessment

"When teachers assess they are gathering information about student learning that informs their teaching and helps students learn more."
Anne Davies, Sandra Herbst-Luedtke, and Beth Parrott Reynolds in Leading the Way to making Classroom Assessment Work (Connections Publishing, Inc. 2008, p. 1)

Have you ever thought about the purpose of assessment? In your school(s) is the common thought that assessment is for determining grades? Stop for a minute, think, and really ask yourself..."What is the predominant thought about assessment in my building? I was once in a discussion with an excellent teacher who nearly caused me to stumble and fall when he said that assessment is not about learning. ( I at least almost revisited my lunch.) We had been talking about instructional issues in the building and this came up. Wow! Really? He could not have been further from the truth...which explained some of the issues we were having.

Assessment is about learning. Unfortunately, too many educators confuse it with evaluation. They see it as a pathway to a grade instead of using the information generated by the student to provide descriptive feedback to assist in helping the student with her areas of strength and weakness.

How many of you had a professor in college who said at the beginning of the semester, " There are 75 of you in here today, in two months there will be 25" ? Anyone? I did. Unfortunately, his goal was to weed out students. A teacher at any level in public school should not have this attitude. Instead they should be looking for ways to use formative assessment to gather information about student knowledge to provide instructional feedback. They should be looking for the data to assist in helping them adjust their instruction to address the personal needs of the children. Only in this manner will the classroom teacher start seeing all students achieve at high levels.

 In Anne Davies work, Leading the Way, she listed a few questions that a school leader should ask about assessment in their building.

1. How are teachers checking to see what has been learned and what needs to be learned next?
2. How are teachers ensuring that students have access to specific and descriptive feedback, in relation to criteria that is focused on improvement?
3. How are teachers finding ways to reduce evaluative feedback?
4. How are teachers involving the student-the person most able to improve learning-deeply in the assessment process?
(p. 13)

I hope that you will take some time to consider these questions. High levels of achievement do not occur without seeing and using assessment as a key to learning.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Good feedback causes thinking...
Dylan Wiliam

How often do you provide feedback to your students? If you provide feedback, how much of it is ego centered (judgmental) versus instructional commentary? Do you say good job, best you have ever done, needs work, etc or do you share specific information that lets the student know why she did a good job or why the work needed more focus? Feedback needs to be often, timely, and instructional. Without it a student does not know how she is doing nor why she was or was not successful. Without the feedback, a teacher does not know how a student is or is not progressing. Take time to analyze your opportunities for feedback to students. Is it purposeful? Is it planned? Is it timely? Is it instructional?

Here are some quality books on feedback to assist:
How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students by Susan M. Brookhart and Checking for Understanding: Formative Assessment Techniques for Your Classroom by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey.

Take time to watch this short clip of Dylan Wiliam talking about feedback in the classroom.