Planning a lesson and designing instruction can be an exciting process. Delivering that lesson and interacting with students as they make your abstract ideas come to life is energizing. Assessment is a different story, often weighed down by myths and misunderstandings.
We know that assessment is critical in order to effectively plan lessons, set meaningful learning goals for students, improve your teaching practice, and make informed decisions for your classroom or district. However, strategically planning student assessment and then digging into the data can be a tedious and time-consuming process — but it doesn’t have to be.
If you take a little time to study the purpose, types, and methods of assessment, you’ll soon know exactly what you want your students to learn and how to design the path to get them there. Start with these ideas:
I’d be very surprised to find a teacher that has fallen asleep at night thinking, “In what ways can I bore my students tomorrow?” However, school is changing — and with it, so are the roles of teachers and students.
Rows of individual student desks with a teacher in the front of the room are becoming a thing of the past. Collaborative and flexible workspaces with multiple teachers and support educators are the new norm.
The way we consume information has also changed, and teachers are no longer the sole sources of information with a duty to impart knowledge to our students. Students are consuming media and information every day — from the time they wake up until the time they fall asleep. They ask Google a question to be met with an instant response.
How might we adapt our roles as educators to facilitate learning and thinking in an impactful, purposeful way in this new learning environment?
“What gets measured is what gets done.”
I hear this mantra often in the educational world. While some people might read it and sigh, thinking about all the testing our kids have to go through, I see it differently.
Why accept the current frame, that assessment is a tool merely for evaluation? What if assessment were a process that is fulfilling for students and teachers instead of draining?
How might we rethink “What gets measured is what gets done,” and shift our focus toward documenting students’ potential instead of merely passing a test?
One approach I find effective for this work is digital portfolio assessment.
Walking around the classroom, clipboard in hand, I moved as quickly as possible, diligently checking for homework completion, assigning five points to those who had it done, two-and-a-half to those who had it partially done, and zero to those who didn’t do it. It was super scientific and truly measured learning… (he says sarcastically).
Luckily for my students, since then I’ve grown quite a bit in my understanding of assessment practices, and as I look back at them over the past 14 years, it’s not with disgust (although that would be justified at times), but with hope — and the knowledge that change is possible. I author this piece not to judge current practices, but in the hopes that some of the ideas below might shed new light on ways to take a fresh approach to assessment, and improve learning for all students.
As educators, we all know how important it is to assess student learning. Often, formative assessment strategies focus on student understanding of content learning. But what about language learning?
Whether or not you have ELLs in your classroom, our students are always improving their language skills. Why not try a formative assessment strategy that checks in on both language and content?
Here are four ways you can assess all students for content and language learning in your classroom:
Do your students meet your test announcements with an audible groan?
You probably want to be more creative, but there’s just so much content you have to explore with your students and so little time. It may seem impossible to break away from those boring but efficient paper-and-pencil tests. But what if I told you that creativity and efficient, effective assessment are not mutually exclusive?
There are many creative and exciting ways to assess student learning and measure applied proficiency beyond the traditional paper-and-pencil tests.
Take some of these great ideas for a spin in your classroom sometime soon.
Popular culture often presents school assessment in the narrowest possible fashion. Based on what we see in films and television, it would seem that assessment in schools is restricted to a narrow range of tests: How often do we watch students in fictional classes being told they have a pop quiz tomorrow or see them practicing fill-in-the-bubble SAT questions?
This might be a stereotype of teacher practice, but it speaks to a deeper issue that teachers face: It can be difficult to see the full range of options open to us when we’re trying to find the best way to assess our students.
Testing itself represents just one small subset of assessment practice, but it’s a good example of the broader problem. There are a lot of different ways to use tests to assess your students, but in the hubbub of a busy classroom, it’s easy to default to the same one or two test types and use them in the same old way.
The best way to avoid this trap is having some alternative testing strategies in your toolkit to widen your options.
When we think of assessment, we often think about tests. But good assessment is much more than tests — it’s a chance to discover what our students understand so that we can help them learn and grow.
Just like with everything else, assessment looks a little different for young students. Our squirrelliest little ones are not likely to sit down for many formal assessments, so the majority of them may be informal. Most of the time, students’ learning can be assessed without them even realizing it. But getting students engaged in the assessment process can be powerful as well.
Assessment. Accountability. Benchmarks. Pacing.
These words all carry such negative connotations, yet they’re a driving force in the world we must exist in as educators today. As teachers, we must toe the line every day between progressive ideas tugging at our hearts and external standards with accompanying responsibilities.
Is it possible to move beyond this “either-or” paradigm?
Congratulations: You made it to January!
For many experienced educators, January can feel like an exciting time to reboot. For new teachers, January can bring back feelings of disillusionment that may have started around November (be sure to read this post on staying energized if you’re in the latter category).
Whether you’re feeling dismayed or excited for the rest of the year, taking just a few minutes to reflect and plan can often make you feel a little bit better.
At the beginning of the school year, Teaching Channel launched our Back to School Starter Packs, a set of checklists and resources organized by grade band to help you start the year off on the right track. Now that we’ve reached the midyear point, we’re offering you a simple review sheet to see how well you’ve done with all of your plans.