Testing is often viewed through the lens of success or defeat when in truth, it is about improvement. Everyone wants to achieve: No one says “I can’t wait to be a failure.” But success takes “Sisu”, a Finnish word meaning determination in overcoming challenges, resilience in the face of adversity, and perseverance in reaching one’s potential. To restore balance and help students reach their highest potential consider these assessment moves and views.Develop a Positive Assessment Environment
It’s not about what you know or giving the one right answer; it’s about how you use what you know to investigate and solve problems. This may be about learning to hit a tennis ball, deciphering the periodic table, or recognizing words that don’t sound like they are spelled such as knead and island. Engaging learners, emphasizing growth, and assessing small steps along the journey helps learners see that the results really are worth the effort.
Some of Us Just Haven’t Learned It YET
As Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” In a learning-centered classroom, help students track progress rather than focusing solely on final scores. They can annotate their learning tracker, note improvement on a standards chart, or graph their growth in order to substantiate their learning so far.
Recall How Hard Learning Really Is
The “Curse of Knowledge” is used in the business world to explain what happens when one person assumes another knows as much about the topic as they do. For a teacher, it can be hard to recall how difficult something was to learn in the first place. Once we have understood the times tables or the mechanisms of social change, it is hard to recall not knowing it. Rather than making assumptions, ensure that new learning targets are explicitly deconstructed, clearly explained, and routinely assessed.
Strengthen the Feedback Loop
Frequent formative assessments can reinforce learning. Knowing where students are at the onset as well as routinely checking on progress throughout instruction reduces later difficulties. Intersperse the assessments and offer frequent practice through real-world applications. Think of it as a cycle of learning, rather than a steep pathway directly to the top of the mountain.
Vary the Drumbeat
Mastery comes from studying, practicing, and assessing using multiple methods. Becoming skilled at the piano or testing hypotheses requires watching, listening, rehearsing, comprehending theory and more. Beyond basic recall of facts, use diverse assessment to discern understanding of a concept, analysis of a viewing, or a demonstration of a process/procedure.
While summative measures provide a snapshot of a specific time and place, it is the ongoing embedded assessments that support step-by-step progress towards success.