Since beginning my journey in becoming a teacher, my views on assessment have changed drastically. Originally, I saw assessment as merely exams and quizzes, to be handed out at the end of a unit. Teachers would see how much a student retained, and that was the entirety of assessment. However, after the last few years, and most notably after the last semester, how I see assessment has shifted to include many more tools, as well as including more people in assessment than simply the teacher.
When it comes to assessment in the classroom, I have formulated a number of beliefs based off experience, readings, as well as anecdotal evidence from my peers. Here is a list of my beliefs in what I consider assessment should look like in my classroom:
– Different assessment tools should be used.
– Using too many assessment tools at one time can be overwhelming.
– Not all students learn the same. Therefore, differentiating assessment is essential.
– Records of student assessment should be kept. Student portfolios are a good means of this.
– Students need to know what they are expected to learn. Tell them how you plan to assess them at the beginning of the unit.
– Comments for students and parents shouldn’t all be negative. Parents don’t want to hear how bad their student is doing. They need to hear how they are progressing, or even how they are excelling.
With every I believe statement above, there is something that inspired the belief statement. Whether it be from a textbook, a paper, anecdotal evidence, personal experience, or classroom discussion, each belief came to be over my 3 years in the faculty of education.
First of all, I believe that a variety of different assessment tools should be used in the classroom. This is a topic that was touched on a lot during class in ECS 410, but also in ECS 311 with Julie Machnaik. It is a matter of using assessment for a variety of means, whether it be for the teacher to spot where some students are struggling and to adapt, or to come up with the ever so important final grade. Formative assessment and summative assessment should both be used, but formative assessment should definitely be used more often. Gregory and Chapman (2013) say, “Dispense a blending of formal and informal tools for ongoing formative assessment throughout the learning experience.” (p. 4). Doing this brand of formative assessment allows the teacher to get the best possible picture of how each of their students is doing, and to adapt lessons to fit everybody’s needs.
Second of all, I believe that using too many assessment tools can be overwhelming, for both the teacher and students. It is always great to get the most accurate picture possible of student progress, but speaking from my short experience in pre-internship, I found that it was too much to use more than 3 assessment tools during any given lesson. I often employed various tools during each lesson to gauge student progress, and it ended up being difficult to keep up with reading 27 journals, and 27 exit slips. Feedback was hard to generate in a timely fashion.
Third of all, I believe students don’t learn the same, and therefore shouldn’t be assessed in the same manner. Davies (2011) stated, “If we present learning as something that all students do in the same way at the same time, we may create hopelessness in those students who don’t understand how to improve or demonstrate their knowledge.” (p. 20). This really means to allow students to present in a variety of different ways, whether it be making a newscast, a PowerPoint, or coming up with a song. Not all of those presentations should be assessed in the same way, and as instructional strategies vary, so should assessment strategies. In addition to this statement, students should not be compared to one another. This is something that was brought up many times while practicing for the Report Card Challenge in class. This causes some students to do worse because compared to their peers, their work isn’t as fine-tuned.
Fourth, I believe student portfolios should be kept as a record of their progress. These collections should be created by the students in order for them to reflect on what they learned, and to show it to parents in teachers. Additionally, as pointed out by Davies (2011) “A range of evidence collected over time and across different tasks increases the validity and reliability of the assessment and evaluation for everyone.” (p. 74). Student portfolios help the teacher ensure assessment is reliable, and they help the teacher get a better picture of how a student has progressed over a period of time, which is a valuable practice to ensure students get the feedback they need to further improve.
Fifth, I believe students need to know how you plan to assess them. Davies (2011) said, “When teachers and students know where they are going, they are more likely to achieve success.” (p. 25). Students need to know what is expected of them in order to meet what the teacher wants. Otherwise, it becomes like navigating an unknown territory without a map. The student might eventually get to the final destination, but they might take a few detours along the way, or even get completely lost. As a teacher, it is important to tell students where they are going in order for them to arrive. As such, anytime I want my students to get somewhere, I will let them know where they are going as soon as possible.
Finally, I believe report card comments shouldn’t all be negative. No parent wants to hear how bad their child is at school over and over again. They need to hear about the progress their student is making. This was a hot topic in class, with the idea of sandwiching comments. The idea is to start with a positive/neutral comment, then a place where the student can improve, and finished with another positive comment. This helps parents see a students growth, but it also helps the teacher see the strengths in all of their students. Actively thinking about the positive comments helps to highlight student successes to the teacher as much as the parent or student.
I believe that all students are able to succeed in school. To enable them to do so, I believe it is important to employ a variety of assessment tools, but not too many. Additionally, differentiating assessment is just as important as differentiating instruction. Portfolios of student work should also be kept in order to visualize their growth over time, and to ensure the assessments done are reliable. Finally, it’s important for parents and students to see some positive comments. Nobody wants to only hear about how poorly their kids are doing. Kids get sent to school to grow, and teachers should be the first to point out evidence of that.
Davies, A. (2011). Making classroom assessment work (3rd ed.. ed.). Courtenay, B.C.: Courtenay, B.C. : Connections Pub.
Gregory, G. (2013). In Chapman C. (Ed.), Differentiated instructional strategies : One size doesn’t fit all (Third edition.. ed.) Thousand Oaks, California : Corwin.