In reading two different articles on assessment, Chapter 6 of Our Words, Our Ways: Teaching First Nations, Métis and Inuit Learners from Alberta Education and Learning to Love Assessment by Carol Ann Tomlinson I’ve started to formulate my own ideas of assessment and the impact it has on students.
I’ve noticed between the two articles some similarities which I view as important things to consider while performing assessment.
1) Variety – it is important to utilize a variety of methods when assessing students. I agree with this whole-heartedly. As a student with ADHD tests were the last thing I wanted to sit through. Blessed with an academic gift I was able to fight through it, but this is not the case for all students. We need to provide different avenues for our students to show that they’ve picked up on what we’ve put down. Tests may still have their place but I will be hard pressed to just test instead of providing different projects and activities for students to pursue in order to assess their learning.
2) Flexibility – being flexible on assessment is important, but how flexible I think is the greatest challenge as an educator. Do you get rid of deadlines? How about late penalties? These are things that as a teacher I think I would like to be soft on, but as students transition into employees in the workforce being late with work is in most places not an option. Jobs could be lost, not advancing as fast as you would like is also a problem when work is constantly not on time. I think having deadlines is important, but I think being soft on deadlines is in my opinion the way to help students achieve deeper understanding. Being soft on deadlines allows students to find the best time to work for them it also allows them to work on time management skills to help meet the deadline. Do you go out on Wednesday night when the last day to hand in is a Thursday? Or do you hand in your assignment on Tuesday knowing you want to go out on Wednesday. Having a window for assessment provides students with an opportunity of choice.
3) Providing Choice and Opportunities – as previously discussed providing students with different options and opportunities enhances their learning experience. The concept of differentiation persists in assessment as well. As educators we need to not only be flexible on timelines, but be flexible in the ways we assess our students. This point relates heavily to points 1 and 2 made above. The challenges I foresee in providing choice, however, is that how do you provide different methods of assessment for different students? How many choices do you provide? Can you cater to each student individually? I think these are all tough questions that practical experience will have a better answer to.
4) Feedback vs. Grades – growing up most teachers were subjected to grading. Do grades truly show the performance of a student in a certain class? To a point it might, if you’re flexible, providing variety, and providing choice 🙂 But I agree with both articles when they state that students are typically more successful when they are provided feedback over grades. What is very interesting is that the working world for the longest time used feedback models of various types to help workers fill deficiencies in their performance. It was feedback that helped workers find success. Now education is turning towards feedback and the working world is turning towards grades. No longer are you told “Great Job on that project!” you get a performance rating with some comments and you move along your way.
I feel those are four very important things to consider when performing assessment.
Some closing thoughts:
Don’t all cultures benefit from open and clear assessment with feedback, variety and opportunity, not just First Nations and Aboriginal students?
Rubrics – do they really work? Should they be provided to students? If so, do students even understand what is in front of them? Does it not create a “checklist” for students as they work?
*Credit to Emergency Kittens @EmrgencyKittens for the image.