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.
Most of us realize the importance of a warm-up to get our bodies and minds ready, whether we’re talking about exercising, singing, or learning. But what about the cool down? How you close a lesson is just as important as how you open it. Yet all too often, we run out of time. Or, we look at the clock, see our students are still working hard, and think to ourselves, why interrupt their flow? But there are proven benefits to taking even just one minute to wrap up a lesson.
In those last moments, you and your students have a chance to check for understanding, reflect on what you’ve learned, tie up loose ends, or make sure everyone is ready for the next part of the day. You could even just take a moment to breathe! If you’re looking for new ideas on how to wrap up your next lesson, here are five things you can try.
Finding teaching resources online can often feel like a scavenger hunt. Even when searching one particular area of teaching, there are videos here, blogs there, and various conversations floating around social media. With such a variety of resources, it can take a great deal of time to learn in a progression that makes sense.
Teaching Channel just made this searching and learning so much easier with their new Deep Dives! On one page, dedicated to one idea, you can read background information, watch related videos, read blog posts, and ask and answer questions. It’s a one-stop shop for learning individually or as a team, as well as planning professional development for your school or district.
In my role as assessment coach and consultant, I have had many conversations about the differences between formative assessment as a form of testing, and formative assessment strategies that become part of instructional pedagogy. A common misconception among educators is the use of formative assessment as a noun, when in fact the research frames formative assessment as a verb. Capturing the strategies that move learning forward can be tricky, but Teaching Channel has some great examples of practical ways that teachers can implement formative assessment.
My nephew, who is in elementary school, suffers from anxiety. When he was in third grade, in the days leading up to the high-stakes state exam, his teacher told his class that what they were about to do was so important that even the President of the United States would check to see how they performed.
This fire and brimstone approach to assessment has been going on for too long.
Just a few months after No Child Left Behind was passed, the Sacramento Bee reported that “test-related jitters, especially among young students, are so common that the Stanford-9 exam comes with instructions on what to do with a test booklet in case a student vomits on it.”
Rather than allow students to fear exams, we should use assessments in no-stakes or low-stakes settings to build confidence and strengthen learning. It’s time for us to realize the importance of using assessments to combat the anxiety of assessments.
Everyone in education has heard of formative assessment. At first, we may think of it as something we collect and reflect on after school, such as an exit ticket or other quick assessment. But what if we shift thinking of it as an after class event to a during class event? We can use formative assessment at any time during a lesson in order to inform instructional decisions. Then it becomes an experience for both teacher and student that happens throughout the class, not just a one time shot when the student is gone from my presence. It becomes an experience I like to call formative teaching and learning.
In my mind, formative teaching and learning is similar to if I were taking my students on a trip. I need to pick the destination – where do I want to take them in their learning? Then, I need to select the route, deciding what scheduled stops there will be and anticipating detours. So, if formative teaching is more like a journey than a one-time event, how do you plan it?
Recently, Teaching Channel brought you into classrooms where teachers and students are using formative assessment to adjust ongoing teaching and learning strategies to improve student learning:
While these videos take a deep dive into formative assessment, we also want to provide you with some quick tips and resources. These are some of our favorites:
Try These Today
These strategies are so simple and easy to do, you could try them today.
Hand Signals: Quickly gauge student understanding with hand signals by asking students for a thumbs up, sideways, or down to indicate their level of understanding. Another popular hand signal is Fist to Five, where you ask students for a 1 to 5 rating of their understanding.