Erik Day explains how use personalization, projects, place-based, and formative assessment to deepen learning
Erik Day explains how use personalization, projects, place-based, and formative assessment to deepen learning
Assessment originates from the Latin assistere meaning to assist and from assidere meaning to sit beside. In this way assessment is an intentional process that improves learning by relying on the skilled and knowledgeable guidance of others. A test is only one a type of assessment: It provides merely a partial picture of student learning. Assessment has the potential to be a catalyst for learning. In the classroom, assessment can engage learners and spark learning by making it participatory, personal, and purposeful.
Filling in a bubble sheet, even if it is on a computer screen is not engaging. When students are actively engaged in assessment they use their own words to explain the learning objectives, monitor progress by comparing their work to exemplars, and document proficiency on learning trackers. In doing so, students not only take possession of learning but also take responsibility for the outcomes. Whether Javier decides to create a poster or Mackenzie makes a video they both rely on consistent, high-quality learning intentions. For example, a rubric that includes: Reliance on 3 authenticated resources, accurate and comprehensive timeline, and inclusion of alternative perspectives on the topic. Mackenzie uses EdPuzzle to incorporate questions directly within her video on the contributions of Leonardo da Vinci. Javier asks classmates to identify steps that were out of sequence on his poster. Students can ask others to help them improve their learning through feedback and formative assessments
The aims, strategies, and evidence from standardized testing is impersonal. Personalizing assessment means building on student’s strengths, addressing challenges, and helping each one achieve their best. Personalized assessments engage and empower learners by offering opportunities for success along with scaffolds for support. Consider these ideas:
When assessment is personalized, students have options for showing their learning. For historic events, they may summarize an individuals’ roles and beliefs, or illustrate important events and their significance, or write an editorial on what should/could have been done differently. Scoring is based on common standards such as depth of information, reliability of source material, and alignment with specified writing standards.
Ask a teacher why he is giving a specific assessment. Responses may explain that it is mandated by the district, selected by the team leader, came with the textbook, or one he used in the past. These are not good ideas unless they support the learning intentions and align with success criteria. Substantiate this by matching the verbs in the questions with the verbs at various levels of a learning taxonomy. If you want to stretch beyond traditional taxonomies, consider augmenting learning through the Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model for technology integration such as shown in this table
Stretching Beyond the Taxonomy
|Levels of Learning: Bloom’s Webb’s DOK, CELT, or SOLO||The 4 levels of SAMR||Assessment|
|Remembering: define and use in context, these 3 vocabulary words||1. Substitution: Technology performs the same task as before.||Students complete a worksheet: Paper or electronic|
|Analyzing: categorize food groups or chemical elements||2. Augmentation: Technology is a tool for purposeful improvement.||Students take a test that is self-correcting and gives them immediate feedback.|
|Evaluating: Self-assess written work against specified scoring criteria||3. Modification: Making the classroom more personalized by modifying learning through reliance on and inclusion of technology.||Writing progress and process is monitored and strengthened through computer mediation and guidance.|
|Creating/Producing: Design an original video on a topic||4. Redefinition: Tasks that were not previously possible or actionable.||Digital documentary where each student contributes to, edits, and presents the final product for an online peer review|
Not long ago, I received this response from an aspiring teacher to a question about which taxonomy of learning was best. Her response was “IDM.” When asked about her cryptic answer, she explained that “it doesn’t matter.” Then went on to say that “They all have relevance and value and can all serve to deepen student learning. It just depends on your purpose and how you use them.” I encouraged her next time, to include this type of explanation in her response to the question. She added that she now understands how low-quality measures hurt learners and the many ways in which high-quality assessment can raise them up. Students continually inspire me! Use assessment to ignite your student’s learning.
Take a moment to think about your worst test. For me it was macroeconomics. Unable to understand concepts such as GDP Deflator and Quantity Equation, I memorized parts of the text and got accused of plagiarism. Fortunately, it was an understanding professor who explained why I might like microeconomics better. His feedback included relevant advice for achieving my goals. And I was grateful!
For many students, the word test conjures up feelings of fear and images of failure. Especially for those whose COMT* gene predisposes them to stress. Assessment, on the other hand, is intended to reduce stress, emphasize progress, engage learners, and improve outcomes.
What do you think would be the better way to assess student understanding? A multiple-choice test on content knowledge or an assessment of ability to apply learning. Consider these two questions:
Most educators choose 2 as the better option. What are your thoughts?
When assessment is restored to its original intent-meaning to assist and guide by being close at hand- students are less fretful and more willing to give it their best effort. Assessment acknowledges the social and emotional underpinnings of learning. When viewed in this light, the focus changes from tests that exclude some learners to assessment that supports all learners. Intentional assessment is purposeful, engaging, and focused on progress. Adjusting the lens from standardized testing to responsive assessment means students know the learning intentions and success criteria, track their own progress, and resolve lingering misperceptions.
Balanced and Restorative Assessment
Assessment is balanced and restorative when it is inclusive of all learners. Ask any teacher to point out their superstars and they can readily identify their top achievers. But what about Alef who is struggling to learn math yet always willing to revise his work as well as share his meager lunch with a kind word and smile. Or Bettina, who completes her homework with accuracy and precision, when she doesn’t have to watch her three younger siblings while her mom works two jobs. These students may not have the highest numerical averages, but they work hard and demonstrate the social and emotional outlook and skills for success. Consider Regina, who knew little English at the beginning of the school year, is still reading 2 levels below grade level, but understands that progress is most important for her success. In these ways assessment is inclusive of all learners while providing access to each learner.
All students can be successful. It depends on the lens we view them through. Consider how you assess and report student success. Do you take a close-up view, primarily data-driven, sometimes producing walls of data and report cards that mystify even the most measurement savvy parents? Or do you take a bigger-picture view that supports students as assessors and values growth over final scores? We have tons of data, but the lingering question is how it is used to benefit students, classrooms, and schools.
Consider steps you will take to move the meter from the left to the right side of this chart. There is space in each section to record your thoughts, recommendations, and action plans.
LESS BALANCED AND RESTORATIVE MORE BALANCED AND RESTORATIVE
Fixed learning sequences Flexible sequences
Prearranged schedules for learning Adjustable scheduling
Pre-determined learning objectives Personalized learning intentions
Learning is segmented by content Integrated learning
Teacher known learning outcomes Student developed learning outcomes
Frequent mandated tests Multiple methods
Reporting of final scores Revealing growth and mastery
Symmetry and Purpose
Restoring balance in assessment doesn’t mean seesawing from side to side. Rather it means seeking ways to move teaching, learning, and assessment practices towards the right side of the chart. It means moving the fulcrum in service of the best types and outcomes of assessment, and in doing so meeting the needs of all learners while making the best use of sound assessment practices.
Students are most successful when there are varied and variable measures across a spectrum of learning outcomes, assessments are infused throughout teaching and learning, and a continuous pulse of learning is taken. In this way, responses can be designed to meet the needs of all learners. For Sumina who is creative, illustrating her understanding of chemical reactions comes easier than remembering where to find tungsten on the periodic table, while Rilez, who has memorized the periodic table, needs help making sense of it.
Please don’t misunderstand my intention or interpret this as a one-sided position. Rather take it as advocacy, guidance, and encouragement for finding balance in assessment. Consider your students, the types of assessment given to them, and how learning outcomes are reported. Flip thinking from external testing mandates to local needs; from narrow data analysis to broadband assessments; and from summative measures to progress towards mastery. In this way assessment will be restored to its intended purpose.
ESSA provide opportunities for setting achievement goals, developing rating systems, and looking beyond test scores. At the same time, each state’s and district’s practices must ensure equity, balance, and fairness for all students. Locally, this means visible dashboards rather than summative school scores, support rather than sanctions, and planning rather than penalties. This works for all schools, classrooms, and students.
COULD ASSESSMENT BE BETTER? Of Course!
*Learn more about COMT gene, test worriers, and test worriers at
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/magazine/why-can-some-kids-handle-pressure-while-others-fall-apart.html by Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman
For more technical insights try https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17008817
Chapter 1: Reverting to Purpose
Assessment and testing have different meanings. A test is a tool for measuring. Number 1 could mean your golf handicap or your score out of a possible 10. Assessment extends beyond simply pointing out right and wrong answers. It is intended to illuminate learning, engage students, and guide improvement. Assessment is at its best when it: