Developing and Sustaining a Culture of Assessment

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Developing and Sustaining a Culture of Assessment

Assessment is a process rather than an ending.

Schools and educators rely on a toolbox of instructional strategies, resources, and opportunities for teaching and assessing. They select those that support the explicit goals and intentions of learning, along with ones that will engage learners. Generally, appraisals of learning are added after intervals of teaching, when in fact, routinely embedded assessments are more effective in strengthening instruction and engaging learners. (See References 1-3 below)

The more accurately teachers and students monitor progress and identify stumbling blocks, the more insightfully they can appraise learning, support learners, and respond in ways that advance learning. In this regard, the traditional meaning of culture as a shared set of values, norms, and actions also relates to educational assessment.

When teaching and learning begin with a mutual and clear understanding of the learning substance, process,   and expected outcomes, the results become more robust and reliable. Putting assessment at the forefront of teaching and learning means:

  • Teaching is intentionally focused on explicit and comprehensible learning outcomes.
  • Learning is anchored in well-defined and visible purposes and results.

Put students at the forefront of teaching, learning, and assessing.

“If you don’t know where you are going, you will end up somewhere else.” Yogi Berra
Educators understand that assessment is more than a test score in that it reflects a range of learners’ knowledge and skills that can be displayed in varied ways. At the same time, it can be arduous for each teacher, especially with large numbers at the secondary level, to accurately assess what every learner knows, understands, and can do at the conclusion of each episode of teaching and learning.

Still, I am optimistic that developing a culture of assessment grounded in substantiated best practices is possible. The definition below is inclusive of all learners as it clearly and eloquently speaks to the purpose of assessment.

  • “Assessment is the process of gathering and discussing information from multiple and diverse sources in order to develop a deep understanding of what students know, understand and can do with their knowledge as a result of their educational experiences.” (Huba and Freed, 2000)

In a purposeful culture, assessment moves students from a discernable starting place towards meaningful, informative, and applicable outcomes. Appropriate and effective assessment begins with the end in mind. A culture of assessment is sustainable when:

  • Assessment contributes to and is beneficial for learning rather than being judgmental and directive
  • Assessment is constructive and restorative rather than detrimental and punitive
  • Assessment is supportive and encouraging rather than oppressive and discouraging
  • Assessment is flexible and adaptable rather than rigid and uncompromising

With traditional measures, students are typically given an assessment such as a quiz or task and, in return,  receive a grade. With restorative assessment, learners receive indicators of progress along with feedback and opportunities for improvement. There are also differences in how the assessment outcomes are used, i.e. conclusive reporting vs. opportunities for improvement.

Alternatively, A CULTURE OF ASSESSMENT considers variables such as the purposes and processes of learning and, in response, establishes local assessment priorities and practices.

A flower does not think of competing with the one next to it, it just grows
1. 2.


Planning With the End in Mind
Habits of Effective Learners
Best Practices in Student Assessment
Epic-Demic Assessment

BONUS from CHAPTER 1, Table 1.9 Alignment Concept Map (In Sticky Assessment, Published by Routledge)

Planning: Learning targets that link to clearly articulated standardsTeaching: Instructional strategies that support standards and curricular targetsLearning: Engaging students as active learners and owners of their learningAssessing: Engaging learners using strategies that reflect and support the learning outcomes

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