How does an overriding concern for student learning shape our assessment practices?
Teaching is important, but learning is primary. Our assessment practices should signal that we are primarily concerned with what and how well students are learning, not just with what we taught. If we are committed to helping every student grow, we will seek information prior to planning and implementation about what our students already know and can do in relation to the area they will study, as well as what they feel and believe about it. And during learning, we will gather a wide range of data to assess progress toward learning targets and use that data to modify instruction and learning activities. The important assumption is that we must be intentional about using the information we uncover to modify our teaching and learning plans while the learning is taking place so all students can be as successful as they can and choose to be. How are our assessment practices designed to further learning? Can we show each other how we use the information we gathered prior to and while teaching to modify our learning plans so every student grows? Do our lesson plans indicate that we made adjustments based on the information we gathered? Have we updated our curriculum maps to capture important instruction and assessment strategies that we employed to help the struggling learner as well as the learner who is well on the way?
How do our assessment practices give students a prominent role in assessing their own learning?
It is the learner’s responsibility to learn. To foster a sense of competency, self-confidence, and anticipation of growth, we need to allow our students to take an active role in assessing their own learning. Self-assessment encourages growth in self-monitoring and self-management and makes student thinking visible, open to examination and redirection. When students are becoming true partners in assessment and, therefore in their learning, they will be able to describe in their own words the purpose of their work, how it connects to prior work, how they will demonstrate their learning and the criteria they and the teacher will use to evaluate the work. Assessment as learning reminds us that students are important educational decision makers in the classroom, perhaps the most important.[i] They are always thinking and deciding. That thinking and those decisions could be naïve or sophisticated, constructive or destructive, on track or misdirected. To maximize the learning of each student, we need to find a way to make that thinking and deciding visible long before the summative assessment. Can we provide evidence that we truly honor and respect student efforts to assess their own learning and that we are helping them to grow in that ability? Are our students setting goals for their learning based on their self-assessment? Can we identify the benefits of on-going self-assessment? Do our curriculum maps show a spiraling, increasingly sophisticated approach to self-assessment as students progress through our programs?
elaine brouwer, Director of Alta Vista
[i] Stiggins, Richard J., Arter, Judith A., Chappuis, Jan, and Chappuis, Stephen. (2012). Classroom Assessment for Student Learning: doing it well-using it right, 2nd edition. Portland, OR: Educational Testing Service. P. 8.