ASSESSING Deliberately and Thoughtfully; with Purpose and Persistence

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ASSESSING Deliberately and Thoughtfully; with Purpose and Persistence

Most of us have heard the story of the race between the tortoise who slowly and steadily ambled down the path and the hare who ran as fast as he could until he was exhausted, and stopped for a nap.


No doubt, we live in a fast-paced world where keeping up with styles and trends can be challenging as well as exhausting. Gas prices and global markets change minute by minute. Diet and fashions fads come and go as do sources of high-tech entertainment. Access to information has expanded and sped up, leading to rapid adoptions and just as swift dismissal of products and ideas. But, when things change too quickly, it becomes difficult for our brains to manage the overabundance of novelty and choices, making us feel more like the racing bunny. (Read more about How information overload affects the brain)

The word “hack” traditionally meant to cut down things such as dense woods.  Subsequently, it was used to describe illegally breaking into another’s computer. Now, a life-hack refers to innovations and shortcuts that increase efficiency and productivity. Assessments, too, have been hacked and are now programmed, adaptive, diagnostic, and personalized in ways that allow test takers to record their answer and receive quick feedback.

Rather than trying to determine what a student knows as speedily as possible, it is more productive to decelerate assessment and delve into student thinking more deeply. Slowing down means taking time to use insights for a purpose: to scrutinize emerging learning, gain an understanding of thinking, and consider how it connects to current knowledge and skills.

Testing is more about measuring what students know, while assessment means gaining insight into how students are thinking and reasoning. Assessment also delves more deeply into a student’s ability to compare, appraise, analyze, and evaluate authenticity, comprehensiveness, and usefulness in relation to explicit learning intentions. https://www.edglossary.org/assessment/ Rather than asking a student to define mammal or fish, ask them to compare mammals to fish in terms of each ones living environment, skin covering, breathing, locomotion, and diet.

Assessment Practices that encourage, raise, and sustain student achievement are deliberate and unhurried.

Preparing students for an assessment is like priming the well. Assessment results improve when students know the norms (i.e., supply words or full sentences), expectations (display thinking in words or images), and the ramifications of the assessment (will the learner be expected to repair, revamp, redo, or restart).

Slowing assessment has numerous advantages in relation to the process, purpose, and outcomes of learning. It begins when students understand that assessment is important and worthy of the required and expected time and effort. It helps when students receive assurance that they will have adequate time to complete the assessment and that fast and sloppy work may be returned to them for deeper and more detailed evidence of learning.

Mr. Walsk expects his students to provide more than a one-word response and provides examples. Ms. Wagner incorporates a self-monitoring assessment checklist so that students can check-off each step as they complete it. For example, “I used our unit vocabulary in my answers”, or “My opening sentence is top quality because_____”, or “I showed two ways to calculate the area”, or “I fully explained the character’s motivation and gave three reasons for his actions.” 

Mr. Walsk expects his students to provide more than a one-word response and provides examples. Ms. Wagner incorporates a self-monitoring assessment checklist so that students can check-off each step as they complete it. For example, “I used our unit vocabulary in my answers”, “My opening sentence is top quality because_____”, or “I showed two ways to calculate the area”, or “I fully explained the character’s motivation and gave three reasons for his actions.”

For early finishers or more hurried learners include a brief follow-up or supplement to their assessment, for example, writing a short rhyme or cinquain, preparing an acrostic, advertisement, or designing a bumper sticker about their learning.

Slowing assessment leads to higher quality outcomes. Elevating assessment (the quality and also the importance of it) may mean asking students to check the length and complexity of their answers, or elaborate how they rechecked their work, for example, by using an alternative math calculation, or made their thinking visible by explaining why they used a specific word or phrase. Relying on slow assessment strategies puts an emphasis on the journey, not just the outcomes and scores. Here are 10 ideas for putting this into practice:

  1. Provide examples of different levels or quality of work. Ask students to discuss and pre-assess what they observe.
  2. Be sure that learners understand the standards and expectations. Discreetly guide and reassure them as they complete their own assessments.
  3. Confirm that instructions are clear, both orally and in writing. When possible, include samples and models of expected outcomes.
  4. Pause for a brief tete-a-tete or quietly place an informative and instructive sticky note on their work.  Alternatively, that sticky note can be a “speeding ticket” with a reminder to rethink and/or redo part of the assessment.
  5. Give early finishers puzzles or other supplemental materials for reviewing or extending learning.  
  6. Encourage students to do their best work by making every effort and/or seeking guidance to reach the top of the scoring rubric.
  7. If there is a fun conclusion to learning, explain that all will participate when everyone has, productively and to their best ability, completed the assessment.
  8. Collaborate with parents on recognitions and incentives for acceptable, careful, thorough, or other previously determined outcomes, demonstrations of competencies, and evidence of progress on assessments.
  9. As students complete their assessment, have them review the rubric and note with different colored pencils where their work matches or doesn’t yet reach the requirements and expectations.
  10. Before turning in their work, students remain in their seats until everyone has given the signal that they have finished. While they wait for the whole class to complete the assessment, they can review their work, continue their learning with an activity or reading that goes more deeply into the topic, or prepare for the next topic unit with a preview of learning. In this way, they own the learning and can decide whether to improve their work or to move forward with next steps.

For additional insights and recommendations try these resources: http://assessmentnetwork.net/toolbox/best-practice/classroom-assessment/ https://www.nwea.org/blog/2015/7-ways-understand-classroom-assessments-working/
http://www.lauracandler.com/how-to-get-kids-to-slow-down-with-their/ http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/dec10/vol68/num04/What-Teachers-Gain-from-Deliberate-Practice.aspx

You will find deeper and more technical readings at the references below:

You can learn more about the book at:
Sticky Assessment: Classroom Strategies to Amplify Student Learning

You can find a free summary of the book at:  
The Science of Sticky Assessment

Eggen, Theo J.H.M. (2018) Multi-segment computerized adaptive testing for educational purposes. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/feduc.2018.00111/full

Kimura, T. (2019) The impact of computer adaptive testing from a variety of perspectives. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5549015/

Ling, G. Attali, Y et al. (2017) Is a computerized adaptive test more motivating than a fixed-item test. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5978472/


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