There’s a cartoon where a little boy is telling a friend that he taught his dog to whistle. His friend notes that the dog is unable to whistle. The little boy says, “Just because I taught him, doesn’t mean he learned it.”
So, how do we know when a student has learned what has been taught? Some say a test will confirm it. Others say a project is a better way for students to demonstrate achievement. I believe it is not the assessment method, but rather the process for gathering and using evidence of learning.
This process starts with alignment between the learning intentions and the learning outcomes. If I tell a student they will learn to tie their shoes, then demonstrate how to do it, then have them perform the task, they may or may not be successful. Why?
1. I did not check their incoming knowledge at the start.
2. My boot laces were different from the student’s sneaker laces.
3. During the demonstration, some of the steps were not visible such as pulling the loop through the wrap-over.
4. During instruction some of the steps were not fully explained, such as why a double knot is more durable and lasts longer.
5. Student did not have a checklist of the steps to help them identify gaps in understanding or performance.
6. No information was gathered on their developing skills while the student tried to tie their laces.
7. Student was unable to explain reasons for their success nor ways to improve their performance.
Consider how this example can be applied to a spectrum of learning from writing the alphabet to analyzing lab experiments. The best way to gather accurate evidence of learning is to:
· Be certain the learning intention matches the learning action. If the intention is to analyze, be sure the teaching and assessment includes higher level thinking such as classifying and prioritizing, not simply defining and explaining.
· Check-in on students’ progress throughout teaching and learning. Rather than asking, “Any questions?” have students record their progress on a learning tracker or submit a “bump in the road” or “feathers and salt” review.
· Be sure the summative assessment incorporates a spectrum of learning outcomes from knowing to producing, and that each aim is unambiguously assessed. For example, using words in a word bank to complete sentences for demonstrating understanding vs. synthesizing the ideas from multiple sources into a cohesive summary and position statement.
Let me know how you have or will use these ideas.