RENOVATE, REHAB, or RESTORE ASSESSMENT Complex Choices in Uncertain Times

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RENOVATE, REHAB, or RESTORE ASSESSMENT Complex Choices in Uncertain Times

Volkswagen, Vw, Camper, Bus, Monster Truck, Truck, 3D
Carpenter, Work, Tool, Board, Saw, Go, Wood, Build

Over time, new words have been invented, and old words redefined. Dictionaries add thousands of words each year. Consider these from Merriam Webster: HATERADE and ADULTING, and the redefinition of terms such as WOKE, SALTY, and SHADE.

Ideas, practices, and resources in educational assessment also continue to be modified. Like a house, assessment can be remodeled in multiple ways:               

  • RENOVATE: Renew, modify, or modernize, for improved functionality
  • REHAB: Update, revamp, and revitalize, for current requirements and usage
  • RESTORE: Revert to substantiated processes and practices that still work.

Few would trade their technologies for a chalkboard, while others would readily modify testing from selected choice and computer-based to student demonstrations of knowledge and skills.

With an old house, decisions come down to purpose, usefulness, and functionality: Glaze the windows or replace them; repair the old furnace or get a heat pump. Facts, finances, and preferences typically guide these decisions.

Similarly, educators have repeatedly renovated the symmetry and content of curriculum and testing. From the ideas of Horace Mann (1820s) to John Dewey (1920s) and policies of OBE (1990s), NCLB (2001), and ESSA (2015,) the pace and focus of disruptive mandates have increased. But it makes no sense to demolish the whole house because of a leaky roof.

Rather than razing education, toss what is no longer functional or suitable (a.k.a Marie Kondo), keep what is working, and fine-tune what has potential. Here are three alternatives to ongoing demolition that often leads to periods of controversial reconstruction.

RENOVATE ASSESSMENT: Replace praise and rewards with self-directed student identification of learning goals, challenges to overcome, and steps towards improvement. As feasible, allow learners to decide how to display learning outcomes: i.e., words, images, diagrams, actions. Janessa may write a poem about digestion or a historical period while Jasper prepares a flow chart of the sequence. Consistent and dependable scoring of organization, accuracy, depth, and clarity of content assures fairness.

REHAB ASSESSMENT: Update teaching and learning by incorporating multiple modalities and pathways for learning and assessing. Students can summarize with a 3-2-1 (3 facts, 2 ideas, and 1 lingering question), or prepare a matching or Jeopardy-type review. In the classroom, puppets can be repurposed to produce an original play, reenact scientific discoveries, or solve math problems. As with renovation, scoring criteria must be consistent across displays of learning.

RESTORE ASSESSMENT: Being a visual learner, I prefer 3-dimensional globes and models of the solar system to google maps. I also find joy in a beautiful analog clock for displaying the time. While ‘sit-and-git’ learning may work briefly to introduce a new theory or communicate vital information, brains learn best when they are actively involved.  Memory develops, not from soaking up facts, but from deeper thinking and productive actions.

Oversized Chellis Wall Clock

We may live in the information age, but effective and enduring learning is built on problem-solving, critical thinking, adaptability, and accountability. Standardized tests rarely measure those skills but, in the classroom, students can learn to sequence their steps as they solve a problem. (both mathematical and real-world), rely on multiple levels of thinking and learning, and chart their own pathways towards improvement.

Readings for Enrichment
Prepared by Laura Greenstein Ed.D. at

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