FROM EARLY INSPIRERS including Plato (The Republic) and Socrates (Socratic Method) to 19th and 20th-century trailblazers and practical innovators such as John Dewey, Mary Mcleod Bethune, John Holt, Maria Montessori, Jean Piaget, and Abraham Maslow, educators have continuously relied on the prior experiences and accrued knowledge of others. (Learn more at 12 Pioneers in Education)
THROUGH 21st CENTURY ACTIVISTS, educators continue to build on the expertise of “influencers,” including Linda Darling Hammond, John Hattie, Malala Yousafzai, and National Academies Press. We also depend on resources, practices, and ideas whose sources we may not know, such as Khan Academy, Ted Talks, Flipped Classrooms, and Gamification.
INNOVATION CAN FALL SHORT: According to Jill Barshay (2020), only 18 Percent of recent educational innovations raised student achievement. Michael George (2019) explains that successful teaching and assessment do not have to depend on a continuous supply of new pedagogy. Many things can work depending on the context, content, and process: i.e., who is teaching, how and what is being taught, the learner’s ability to construct meaning, and the expected outcomes. Thus, a caveat on innovation: Be sure that facts, evidence, and data are verified and validated. As the Queen of Hearts declared, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
As the meaning of a 21st-century education is continuously redefined (i.e., growth mindset, competency-based, project-based, cooperative, authentic, or virtual), the availability of knowledge and ideas continues to expand. At the same time, there are myriad ways to access, construe, and evaluate it. Rather than rushing into the newest innovation, it is more meaningful to return to the foundations of assessment. Consider how you can make it simpler and more straightforward by relying on these three steps:
1. INFORM: Articulate and Explain Content and Purpose
Clarify, model, and display the learning intentions and routines of assessment. In their own words, students describe what they think they will learn, currently know, are curious about, and ways they may be able to use, personalize, and show their learning.
When Gregor says, “Wow, I can use this to calculate each player’s average scores,” or Mariska says, “I think I will be okay with the addition but may need help with division,” their teacher notes each of their concerns and follows up on them during learning. Insights can be gleaned before learning (entrance slips), during (sticky notes), and after learning (3-2-1 activity). (Reference: Book 1)
2. ENGAGE: Build Meaning and Form Connections
Encourage and engage learners in striving towards mastery of their learning through multiple pathways and practices. Confirm that students are ready to learn; then support them in identifying their steps forward. Provide opportunities for exploration, practice, reflection, and tracking of progress.
Keenan decides to write a rap comparing penguins to gulls, while his twin sister Keanna chooses to illustrate (using words and pictures) their similarities and differences. Both can rely on a rubric that includes accuracy of vocabulary, clarity of comparison, and resourcefulness.
Think about ways you can use a mnemonic such as SOAR, for understanding the importance of engaging students as assessors. It stands for “Student Ownership and Agency leads to Results.” (Reference: Book 2)
3. ASSESS: Before, During, and After
Before, During, and After Learning: Assessments embedded throughout learning can guide students in identifying their starting point, monitoring progress, and fine-tuning evidence of learning. These also serve to address lingering misunderstandings and smooth the path to success. (Reference: Book 3)
When learning begins with a pre-assessment, students can later complete a similar post-assessment, score themselves, identify successes, and take steps towards improvement. In doing so, they develop a mindset of progress, a willingness to try new ways, and an understanding that learning is a lifelong process that requires persistence and flexibility that leads to success.
Barshay, Jill (2020) The ‘Dirty Secret’ About Educational Innovation. The Hechinger Report https://hechingerreport.org/the-dirty-secret-about-educational-innovation/
And these resources:
Book 1. What Teachers Really Need to Know About Formative Assessment, ASCD (2010)
Book 2. Student Engaged Assessment: Strategies to Empower All Learners. Rowman and Littlefield (2020)
Book 3. Sticky Assessment: Classroom Strategies to Amplify Student Learning, Routledge Eye on Education (2016)
Also: Restorative Assessment: Strength-Based Strategies That Support All Learners, Corwin (2018)