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HOLISTIC* vs. ATOMISTIC* ASSESSMENT

group-work-454882_960_720Holistic, similar to the word whole, means to develop comprehensive and coherent mental representations of learning. Rather than simply completing a selected-choice test, it means recognizing the schema of learning.

Holistic assessments are multidimensional in that they include varied facets of learning from recall of vocabulary to production of new ideas. Holistic assessments unify multiple learning outcomes into an integrated picture of student learning. What good does it do to know that the patient is bleeding without understanding anatomical pressure points? Why do we ask students to sequence the battles of war but not ask what would happen if the battles and their outcomes were altered?

To make assessment more holistic, consider ways you can turn traditional tests into multifaceted assessments: From knowing facts to understanding relationships and from labeling details to questioning evidence. Holistic strategies include well-thought-out projects, structured action research, and production of artifacts, each aligned with grade-level learning intentions. For example, a student may prepare a presentation of types of clouds, compare weather data at different elevations, or analyze research on climate change. When accompanied by self, peer, and teacher assessment, using rubrics along with more traditional measures, a full picture of the outcomes of learning becomes evident.

Benefits include:
Stronger links between learning intentions and learning actions

Clearer insights into student learning
Better guidance on modifications and interventions
Integration of assessment within teaching and learning
increased student ownership and engagement in learning and assessment

*Holistic and Wholistic both mean that the parts of something are interconnected and interdependent. They may be used interchangeably with medicine typically referring to treatment of the whole person and philosophy referring to a composite holistic belief system. One source adds to the confusion by saying that although the words have distinct meanings, they have similar definitions. Go Figure

**Atomic Assessment deconstructs standards into separate and distinct elements, then measures each of the elements. For example, in a unit on atoms student may show knowledge and understanding by defining electrons and explaining Dalton’s atomic theory, but go to deeper such as considering the pros and cons of harnessing nuclear energy.


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Insights and Inspiring Ideas from AVL 2017

canvas-1905723_960_720Back at home, after spending time on the road and enjoying the buzz of airports (really, I love them), it’s time to refocus on teaching, learning, and assessing. By far, the most exciting experience was spending several days at Corwin’s Annual Visible Learning Conference. Inspired by the best minds in education, including John Hattie, Peter DeWitt, Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey, here’s a sampling of ideas. Some I am still pondering, other’s I am fully committed to, and a few I’m still absorbing.

“It all comes down to mindset. If teachers think their job is a change agent, they’re more likely to be successful. If they think that their job is to constantly evaluate the impact they’re having on kids, that’s what makes the difference.” John Hattie

The ability to transfer learning is a long term aim of education. Incoming knowledge and surface learning flow to deeper levels through concept mapping, problem-solving, and metacognition, resulting in more comprehensive and complex outputs.

Restorative assessment shifts the emphasis from displaying deficiencies to illuminating strengths.

Assessment capable learners understand the learning intentions, identify their current level of expertise, select tools and strategies to support their learning, recognize and compare performance to success criteria, rely on focused feedback to improve outcomes, monitor their progress, and take action to close gaps.

Self-efficacy, student efficacy, teacher efficacy, and collective efficacy ALL MATTER!

“Every student deserves a great teacher, not by chance, but by design.” Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey


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TALKING WITH PARENTS ABOUT ASSESSMENT: 5 Things Parents Need to Know

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1. Tests and Assessments Are Not the Same
A test examines a student’s knowledge, understanding, and skills to determine what level of learning has been reached. It generally results in a numerical or letter grade.
Assessment involves gathering, analyzing, and responding to a student’s strengths and misconceptions about their learning. It offers informative feedback to the learner and also guides the teacher’s practice:  Similar to a BMI that provides a number but not a health analysis or fitness plan. There are times we need a test but more often success is built on assessment.

2. A Standardized Test Is Just a Snapshot
There’s nothing wrong with getting an annual family portrait to provide touchstones of change over time. But in the classroom, assessment that relies on a variety of strategies offers an ongoing kaleidoscope of a child’s skills and abilities. Rather than one test score, it is essential to routinely monitor progress and take steps towards continuous improvement.

3. Encourage and Acknowledge Progress
Children can become discouraged when they don’t get the score or rating they expected. So can adults, athletes, and accountants. With assessment it is okay to make mistakes as long as we learn from them. The goal of assessment is improvement and small steps are important in reaching the big picture goals. It’s not about the learning gaps; it’s how we cross over them.

4. Let’s Work Together: Stay Connected
All of our lives have ups and downs. If your child is going through a rough patch keep the teacher informed of their changing mindset, unusual setbacks, and setups that can support improvement. Follow your child’s progress on your school’s learning management system. Talk with them and their teacher about assignments and assessments, their progress, and what you can do at home to support learning.

5. Grades Don’t Mean Everything
Test scores and report cards do not represent the whole child. Emerging studies show that someone who is dependable or works conscientiously and diligently may be more successful in life than the one who studies 12 hours a day and gets high test scores. Maybe the child with a wonderful sense of humor, practical problem-solving skills, and a willingness to help others will go farthest.

In school you are taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you are given a test that teaches you a lesson” Tom Bodett

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DITCH THE TEST: ASSESSING WITHOUT TESTING

It is easy to test and report content knowledge. When students take a test they receive a score. Some “smart” people such as Bill Gates get high scores, while others such as Stephen King have mediocre test scores. Some people are good at taking tests and others take test-prep courses to raise their scores, but that does not make them smarter.

There are many ways to be smart. Large-scale tests do not measure a person’s emotional intelligence or will to succeed. In fact, Daniel Kahneman explains that higher IQ and SAT scores correlate with a bigger “bias blind spot” that makes them more vulnerable to believing their answers are correct.

People are too complex for one score designed to predict college success or 12 years of cumulative records to foretell their future. What is needed is a landscape of assessments, inclusive of and reaching beyond standardized tests.

A SPECTRUM OF ASSESSMENT  mount-hood-1757264__340A panorama of assessments displays a student’s knowledge, understanding and skills throughout the taxonomy. It may reveal how their interpersonal trees reach to the sky, but their swamp of emotions results in indecision.

 STEALTH ASSESSMENT is what happens when students do not feel as if they are being tested. With EdPuzzle a teacher can embed questions in a video and gather responses as students watch. More and more digital games can assess during learning; from historical events to fossils, and digital literacy to coding.integration-2031395__340

INTEGRATED ASSESSMENTS are blended directly into teaching and learning. Examples include formative assessments such as entrance slips, empty outlines, Humpty Dumpty, and 3-2-1. Alternatively, if a teacher is required to use a communal selected choice test, space can be provided for students to annotate their response; for example: “I picked B, but based on what you said in class about it, parts of C are also correct because…”

Assessment is about the process of learning, not merely the final outcomes. An SAT score may show an individual’s potential but other measures are also essential to show analysis and synthesis. Comprehensive methods are essential to get a full picture of each learner’s strengths and struggles.


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THREE LENSES OF ASSESSMENT

binoculars-100590__340 Telescopes, binoculars, and magnifying glasses each have a purpose in improving our ability to see. Assessment also has many purposes and perspectives. Yet, it is easy to lose sight of its fundamental function: To improve student learning by illuminating outcomes and informing instructional responses. This is achieved through alignment of instruction and assessment with learning intentions. The result is tangible evidence of purposeful learning.

Choosing the right lens and the just-right response takes mindfulness of purpose and finesse of process.

star-clusters-74052__3401. A telescope provides a big picture view of far-off and often indistinct objects. It may help us see distant galaxies or confirm that the universe is expanding. Big-picture assessments show large-scale data or trends in large numbers of schools and students. This may inform policy decisions, but in general, does not cause significant variations in classroom instruction or student achievement.

 
telescope-950907_960_7202. Binoculars bring things that are somewhat distant into clearer focus. With them we can see the conclusion of a race or people scaling a mountain. In schools, this level of vision can evaluate the relationship between guiding principles and learning outcomes. It can also validate a district’s curriculum or delve into sub-groups of students. As with the telescope, binoculars look at broad issues, but at the school level offer greater potential for influencing local practice.

magnify-butterfly-1282344__3403. A magnifying glass brings learning and assessment up-close and personal. Somewhat like examining a bug or mathematical operations to better understand how and why each part has its place and purpose. This helps teachers know the strength of student’s knowledge and skills as well as recognize lingering gaps. These lenses also improve teacher’s practice by highlighting areas that may need upskilling. (My new favorite word indicating that their abilities are valued, yet can improve.)

eye-lens-15699_960_720In brief, effective lenses makes assessment intentional, illuminating, and informative.


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5 ASSESSMENT MYTHS

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1. Assessment is the Same as Testing
While tests are a form of assessment, assessments are NOT solely tests. Assessment originates from the Latin Assidere, meaning to sit beside. In doing so, teachers and students gather information about learning and use that to guide their next steps.

2. Testing Helps Us Teach Better
After centuries of testing (Civil Service tests began with the Ming Dynasty) there is little evidence that all this testing has improved outcomes. After all, since Alfred Binet devised the first IQ test in 1904 the average IQ is still 100.

3. All We Have to Do is Assess Harder
Some believe that if we assess harder, we can produce better data that leads to improved learning outcomes. Today, we are drowning in data, but it is not necessarily the right data. We can pinpoint exactly what a child’s reading level is, but we can’t figure out why they comprehend non-fiction better than fiction.

4. Comparing Students and Schools is an Effective Path Towards Improvement
Improvement is about growth. Everyone starts on their own starting line. Whether it be the ability to divide fractions, interpret the intent of the Constitution, or make a 3-point shot, we can all improve. But we cannot all reach superstar status. Sorry about that.

5. Data Informs the Best Decisions
Data is good; information is better. If I tell you that you are at the 85th percentile, or scored in the 5th tier, or had a Stanine of 4, would you be able to decide what to do next? So why do we trust that district and state decisions based on data are more relevant than teacher’s insights and information.

What does leads to student success is assessment that is relevant, mutual, engaging, and instructive.


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Decluttering Assessment

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There is a movement afoot to declutter our homes and our lives. Advice comes from cleaning experts, organizing professionals, prioritizing specialists, and more. Marie Kondo recommends getting rid of things that no longer bring joy or serve their purpose. For generations, Heloise has been telling people how to organize closets, and the International Cleaning Organization holds an annual expo on clutter control. Seriously, their advice can also declutter and improve assessment. Consider these ideas.

SORT: Determine categories that make sense to you such as;
Purpose: What is their function? Summative, formative, common, alternative
Timing: When do you use them? Before, during, after teaching and learning
Practice: How do you choose what to use and when? Traditional (selected choice, essay) Student owned (metacognitive, self/peer review) Products and performance (progress logs, observations)

PRIORITIZE: Decide what is most important and essential in assessment. Is it mutual, informative, or…
Consistent: Does everyone take the same test at the same time in content areas and grade levels?
Flexible: Do strategies and processes vary for subject and students?
Engaging: Is it embedded throughout teaching and learning? Does it involve teachers and students?
Equitable: Is it fair and supportive of all learners? Does it emphasize gains rather than scores?
Technical Qualities: Consider accuracy, consistency, and alignment.

STORE: Manage storage to avoid clutter-whelm
Electronic or paper documentation depends on frequency and purpose of assessments. Most is stored electronically, but for routine reminders keep a notepad app or even real paper handy for those flashes of brilliance or reminders of people and things that need checking, confirming, or questioning. Maximize your student management system for grading, notes, and parent communication in ways that are personally productive and practical.

Helpful organizational technologies include LiveBinders and Remind. Assessments and data can be stored with Kahoot  GoFormative, and Quizziz. Use all that  Google Classroom has to offer.
Feel The Lightness

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Recent News

The Institute of Educational Sciences (IES) continues to be a reliable source for research and data on numerous topics in education. Learn more about it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-aBA0GklOQ

Ideas for making annual testing more meaningful

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https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2019/01/09/is-it-time-to-kill-annual-testing.html?cmp=eml-enl-eu-news1&M=58722125&U=83632&UUID=fa7d6e5558ed809b770d91848c643ca0

 

Assessment-Literate Educators

7 Things Assessment-Literate Educators Need to Do. (including: Balanced, Intentional, & Aligned) from NWEA/Advancing Assessment Education https://www.assessmenteducation.org/blog/seven-things-assessment-literate-educators-need-when-creating-quality-assessments-partone/

 

Overused Buzz Words

In this edweek article, from Larry Ferlazzo’s Classroom Q and A, the most overused words in educatioin include: at-risk, data-driven, rigor, 21st century skills, flipped and more. Read about it at https://bit.ly/2Llwhyl

SCAN “The Journal for Educators”

Showcasing innovation in education

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