ASSESSMENT UNTANGLED: A 3-Part series on Reclaiming Assessment

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ASSESSMENT UNTANGLED: A 3-Part series on Reclaiming Assessment

I thought I made up the word byzantizing* to explain the bollix** we have gotten into over tests, measurement, and assessment. Then I discovered this definition: “Byzantizing the algorithm implements the ordinary Paxos consensus algorithm under a suitable refinement mapping.” (Lamport, 2011). That’s when I realized I was onto something fundamental and consequential: Assessment must be transparent, understandable, and informative, for all learners.

In relation to assessment, byzantizing means that each of us sees and uses assessment through a different lens or pathway, sometimes as a winding road to follow, frequently a labyrinth to navigate, often as an endless tangle, occasionally something to decrypt, unravel, or break open.

DEFINITIONS:
Byzantine: Complicated, convoluted, intricate, multifaceted practice, situation, or system.
*Byzantizing: Making something more complicated than it needs to be.
**Bollix: To bungle or throw into disorder.
***Un-byzantizing: To make something less complex and complicated.

INTRO: RETURNING TO ASSESSMENT FUNDAMENTALS & ESSENTIALS:
BACKTRACKING TO BASICS

Derived from the Latin word Assidere, assessment means to sit beside and guide. Over time, this concept has become entangled with standardized tests, international comparisons, and other ambiguous measures.
Returning to its original meaning, assessment is something teachers can observe, describe, organize, compile, and most importantly, respond to.

If the purpose of education is to prepare students for the present and future, then learning how to learn must be a priority. In addition to core academic classes, skills for lifelong success include critical thinking and problem solving, as well as interpersonal skills such as empathy, decision making, and collaboration. The bigger question is this: How do we assess not only what students know and can do, but also how accurately and comprehensively they can assess themselves, gauge their progress, and respond constructively to learning challenges and outcomes?

At its core, assessment that sustains student success is informative and actionable for both learners and teachers. Rather than selected choice tests or structured essays or following step by step procedures, it is more practical and effective and informative to assess students throughout the process of developing mastery.

Keep in mind that the human body sends 11 million bits per second to the brain for processing, but the conscious mind can process only about 50 bits per second. Computers can collect and process mega-millions per second, which means that our brains are more apt to forget much of what was learned.

How long do you remember disconnected facts of history, formulas for chemical compounds, or the details of routine conversations or complex directions? Consider how Ebbinghaus shows this in his Forgetting Curve.

Remembering and forgetting begins in the amygdala, a tiny mass of gray matter in the center of our brain that regulates emotions and encodes memories. It can enhance learners’ attention and perception through positive experiences and affirmation. It also leads to a stressful fight or flight response that releases adrenaline that impedes learning and memory.

Consider these steps in un-byzantizing assessment in support of progress for all learners. They are elaborated in upcoming “episodes” of this blog.
STEP 1: Support and engage students in understanding the expectations, purpose, and intended outcomes of learning.
STEP 2: Plan, select, and design assessments that support the purpose, context, and process of learning as well as the learners’ dispositions and requisites.
STEP 3: Return to best practices, proven fundamentals, and the engagement of learners in assessment and as assessors.

Note: Steps 1-3 will be elaborated in subsequent postings on: Engaging learners in assessment, Relying on assessment as a learning strategy, and Transferring ownership and agency to learners.

REFERENCES AND RESOURCES
-Andrade H.(2019) A Critical Review of Research on Student Self-Assessment,
https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/feduc.2019.00087/full
-Ferlazzo, Larry. (2016) Controversial Topics Should Not Be Avoided
https://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2016/11/05/controversial-topics-should-not-be-avoided-in-school/
-Kruger, J., & Dunning, D. (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(6), 1121–1134
https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1999-15054-002
-Lamport, Leslie (2011) Byzantizing Paxos by Refinement https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-24100-0_22

ASSESSMENT UNTANGLED
PART 1 of 3 Essential Steps for Reclaiming Assessment
Engaging Learners IN Assessment

In relation to assessment, byzantizing means that each of us sees and uses assessment through a different lens or pathway, sometimes as a winding road to follow, frequently a labyrinth to navigate, often as an endless tangle, occasionally something to decrypt, unravel, or break open.

Maze, Labyrinth, Solution, Lost, Problem, Challenge

SUPPORTING STUDENTS IN UNDERSTANDING LEARNING EXPECTATIONS, PURPOSE, AND INTENDED OUTCOMES

Numerous sources provide big-picture intentions and outcomes of learning. These standards may be more apparent to experienced educators than to students. As such, the complexity of “big picture” standards must be deconstructed to make them understandable and actionable by all learners.

For example,
Starting in 4th grade: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.8 “Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.
In 5th grade,
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.8: “Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text, identifying which reasons and evidence support which point(s).”  
By 10th grade: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI/9-10.8 that same standard is expressed this way: “Delineate the arguments and claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient.”

How is a learner to respond to that standard when asked about climate change or reinterpretation of historical events? It begins by unraveling standards into actionable learning steps.
Step 1
.
Students review and consider resource materials (self-chosen or teacher provided) for their source, author, purpose, perspective, and substantiation.

Step 2
.
Students prepare a diagram/chart that identifies similarities and differences in the source materials. They may also formulate questions about each resource to further validate the ideas and solutions.

Step 3
. Performance assessment: In a Socratic Seminar or Town Hall meeting, teams share their findings, question each other, compare responses, and analyze for objectivity, accuracy, and clarity. Each student then prepares their own summary by comparing the learning purposes with their learning outcomes. (Reference, Student Engaged Assessment, 2020, Greenstein and Burke)  They rate themselves, their team, and other teams, using a rubric (Reference: Assessing 21st Century Skills, 2012, Greenstein) that aligns with the purpose of learning and the intended outcomes (i.e., clarity, selection of resources, support for conclusions, organization, and presentation).

Here’s another example from Edutopia: https://www.edutopia.org/article/teaching-young-students-how-use-multiple-sources

APPLY YOUR LEARNING: DISCUSS with other educators the purpose and strategies for ensuring that students are aware of the learning goals, are familiar with the processes of learning, and understand the expected outcomes. How can you help students make these connections in your setting?

ASSESSMENT WITH BENEFITS: OUTCOMES OF STUDENT-ENGAGED ASSESSMENT
Self-assessment is an essential lifelong skill. The evidence on the effectiveness of student self-assessment on learning outcomes continues to grow. The skill transfers to adulthood, where it is beneficial to recognize and appreciate successes and challenges in personal and professional lives as well as identify areas for growth and improvement. Utilizing evidence and feedback to inform actions and decisions is a foundational life skill. From Heidi Andrade (2019) to the Kruger-Dunning Effect (1999), the evidence is clear.

REFLECTION ON and APPLICATION OF LEARNING
1. In relation to engaging learners in assessment, what are you doing well, and what are your priorities for improvement?
2. In what ways are you untangling assessments so that all constituents can understand and utilize them?
3. How can you assure that assessment of students is fair and accurate for all learners?
4. What steps can you take towards transferring ownership of assessment to students?
5. Select a content-area standard and begin to untangle it in ways that make it understandable and actionable to learners.

DEFINITIONS:
Byzantine: Complicated, convoluted, intricate, multifaceted  (system or situation), excessively complicated.
*Byzantizing: Making something more complicated than it needs to be. Obfuscate, muddle, convolute
**Bollix: To bungle or throw into disorder https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bollix
***Un-byzantizing: To make something less complex and complicated. Simplify, abridge, or streamline.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:
-Andrade H.(2019) A Critical Review of Research on Student Self-Assessment, Frontiers in Education https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/feduc.2019.00087/full
-Ferlazzo, Larry. (2016)  Controversial Topics Should Not Be Avoided https://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2016/11/05/controversial-topics-should-not-be-avoided-in-school/
-Kruger, J., & Dunning, D. (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(6), 1121–1134 https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1999-15054-002
-Lamport, Leslie (2011) Byzantizing Paxos by Refinement https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-24100-0_22

 ASSESSMENT UNTANGLED
Part 2 of 3 Essential Steps for Reclaiming Assessment
Reframing Assessment AS Learning

In relation to assessment, byzantizing means that each of us understands and uses assessment through our own lens or pathway; sometimes it is a winding road to follow, frequently a labyrinth to navigate, often an endless tangle, occasionally something to decrypt or break open.

Text Box: Pixabay

RETURNING TO ASSESSMENT FUNDAMENTALS:  BACKTRACKING TO THE  BASICS

Derived from the Latin word Assidere, assessment means to sit beside and guide. Returning to its original meaning, assessment is something teachers can observe, describe, organize, compile, and more importantly, respond to.

At its core, assessment that sustains student success is informative and enlightening for both learners and teachers. Rather than selected choice tests or sequenced essays, it is more effective to continuously assess students in varied ways as they progress towards mastery. 

ALIGNING ASSESSMENT WITH PURPOSES OF LEARNING AND ABILITIES OF LEARNERS
Learning can be as simple as repeating the A, B, Cs or as complex as analyzing global rivalries. Learning, viewed through the lens of a taxonomy, typically follows a purposeful sequence. Whether you choose Bloom’s or Anderson and Krathwohl’s revision of Bloom’s, or another (Heick, 2013), there is consensus that learning proceeds from simple to complex and from passive to engaged, while also developing cognitive, social, emotional, and physical mastery. (Berger: Maslow Before Bloom, (https://www.edutopia.org/article/how-maslow-bloom-all-day-long)

Imagine you were required to display your knowledge and skills in a sport such as golf, preparing a unique cuisine, or leading a contentious meeting. Each of us may rely on explicit knowledge or skills that could be assessed through differing channels, i.e., written, illustrated, or demonstrated. Each learner begins with their own proficiencies. And they perform at their best when they have opportunities to display their learning at varying levels of mastery as well as through varied mediums. Some would even write a three-page essay if it meant they did not have to present in front of peers (or visa-versa). However, rather than emphasizing the medium or channel, it is more important to focus on the level/type of knowledge or skills being assessed.

CHOICE BOARDS are one way to assess through the taxonomy while giving students choices to present what they know and can do with their learning. Perhaps one learner is best at remembering and prefers to dramatically perform a soliloquy while another wants to persuade their school leaders that reading Shakespeare (except for “Othello”) is irrelevant in today’s world. He advocates and defends the reading of other classics such as 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird, or Diary of Anne Frank.

OFFER STUDENTS MULTIPLE PATHWAYS TO DISPLAY THEIR LEANING AT VARIED LEVELS OF A TAXONOMY 

Weighted Choice Board: Multiple Ways to Show Learning (Sticky Assessment, Greenstein, 2016, pg. 115)

2 Points: Remember4 Points:
Understand, Apply
6 Points:
Analyze, Evaluate,  Create
Make a word cloud using unit vocabulary Explain three main ideas from your learning to a Martian.                  Prepare a technology-based
summary.
Prepare flashcards for review of learningUse illustration/words to explain a key concept from your learning.Create an educational cartoon about the main ideas/points of your learning.
Prepare a dictionary of 5 new terms or concepts Write a mini-test that includes 3 types of questions or tasks that measure the learning intentions.Write and perform a 30-second public service announcement. Include 2 essential ideas and a defensible urge to action.

APPLY YOUR LEARNING: With your team, prepare a choice board that supports your curriculum, matches taxonomical expectations, and supports learners’ needs.

CONCLUSION: OUTCOMES OF STUDENT-ENGAGED ASSESSMENT = ASSESSMENT WITH BENEFITS
Self-assessment is an essential lifelong skill. The evidence of its effectiveness for improving learning outcomes continues to grow. (Andrade, 2019; Kruger-Dunning Effect,1999), These skills transfer to adulthood, where it is beneficial to recognize successes and challenges as well as identify areas for growth and improvement. Utilizing evidence and feedback to inform actions and decisions is a foundational life skill.

REFLECTION:

1. In relation to assessment, what are you doing well, and what are your local priorities for improvement?
2. In what ways are you untangling assessments so that all constituents can understand and utilize them?
3. How can you assure that assessment of students is fair and accurate for all learners?
4. What steps can you take towards transferring ownership of assessment to students?

DEFINITIONS:
Byzantine: Complex, convoluted, intricate, multifaceted, excessively complicated
*Byzantizing: Making something more complicated than it needs to be
**Bollix: To bungle or throw into disorder. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bollix
***Unbyzantizing: To make it less complex and complicated. Simplify, abridge, or streamline.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:
-Andrade H.(2019) A Critical Review of Research on Student Self-Assessment, Frontiers in Education https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/feduc.2019.00087/full
-Berger, Tom (2020) Maslow Before Bloom https://www.edutopia.org/article/how-maslow-bloom-all-day-long
-Ferlazzo, Larry. (2016)  Controversial Topics Should Not Be Avoided https://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2016/11/05/controversial-topics-should-not-be-avoided-in-school/
-Heick T, (2013) Alternatives to Bloom’s Taxonomy for Teachers  https://www.teachthought.com/critical-thinking/5-alternatives-to-blooms-taxonomy/
-Kruger, J., & Dunning, D. (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(6), 1121–1134 https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1999-15054-002
-Lamport, Leslie (2011) Byzantizing Paxos by Refinement https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-24100-0_22

ASSESSMENT UNTANGLED
Part 3 of 3 Essential Steps for Reclaiming Assessment
Ownership and Agency Empowers All Learners

In relation to assessment, byzantizing means that each of us sees and uses assessment through our own lens or pathway; sometimes as a winding road to follow, frequently a labyrinth to navigate, often an endless tangle, occasionally something to decrypt, unravel, or break open.

Labyrinth, Confusion, Confused, Way, Choose

OWNERSHIP AND AGENCY EMPOWER STUDENTS AS SELF-ASSESSORS who can monitor and modify their learning. Note that prior to this step, it is essential for students to understand the purposes, processes, and expected outcomes of their learning as well as acceptable ways to display it. For example, in place of a test, learners may expound on a prompt, illustrate a graphic, or add details to a checklist.

PURPOSE
____Clarity: Students can explain the learning intentions and goals in their own words.
____Understanding of purpose and process is evident in the student’s personalized learning plan, their steps in
         learning, and the anticipated results.
PROCESS
____Student’s learning plans and goals are focused, visible, and feasible.
____Includes opportunities and processes for self-regulation, support, and remediation.
____Students utilize strategies to monitor their learning, track progress, and extend learning.
OUTCOMES
____Students explain how their process and led to their outcomes and also suggest improvements.
____Students voice and choice in displaying learning strengthen self-confidence.
____Students develop skills for self-advocacy and personal responsibility.

APPLY YOUR LEARNING
Using the list above, rate yourself/your team, elaborate on each of the above criteria in your own setting, and/or make recommendations to enhance and empower learners as self-assessors.

OUTCOMES OF STUDENT-ENGAGED ASSESSMENT: ASSESSMENT WITH BENEFITS
Self-assessment is an essential lifelong skill. The evidence on the effectiveness of student self-assessment on learning outcomes continues to grow. These skills transfer to adulthood, where it is beneficial to recognize and appreciate successes and challenges in personal and professional lives as well as identify areas strategies for growth and improvement. Utilizing evidence and feedback to inform actions and decisions is a foundational life-skill. From Heidi Andrade (2019) to the Kruger-Dunning Effect (1999), the evidence is clear.

REFLECTION:
1. In relation to assessment, what are you doing well? What are your priorities for improvement?
2. In what ways are you untangling assessments so that all constituents can understand and utilize them?
3. How can you assure that assessment of students is fair and accurate for all learners?
4. What steps can you take towards transferring ownership of assessment to students?

DEFINITIONS:
Byzantine: Complex, convoluted, intricate, multifaceted, excessively complicated
*Byzantizing: Making something more complicated than it needs to be
**Bollix: To bungle or throw into disorder. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bollix ***Unbyzantizing: To make it less complex and complicated. Simplify, abridge, or streamline.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:
-Andrade H.(2019) A Critical Review of Research on Student Self-Assessment, Frontiers in Education. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/feduc.2019.00087/full
-Ferlazzo, Larry. (2016)  Controversial Topics Should Not Be Avoided. https://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2016/11/05/controversial-topics-should-not-be-avoided-in-school/
-Kruger, J., & Dunning, D. (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(6), 1121–1134 https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1999-15054-002
-Lamport, Leslie (2011) Byzantizing Paxos by Refinement. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-24100-0_22


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