This week in one of my classes (CEP 813) we have begun looking at assessments. In particular, we were tasked with starting to formulate an assessment of assessments. Hopefully, you have not checked out, because the assignment is kind of fascinating.
We started the journey by looking at Skinner’s view of education (short version: break it into bite sized chunks and incentivize learning those chunks) and the Social-constructivist view of education (students learn socially and by constructed knowledge in context).
We then read two articles that delved into why current assessments are less than exceptional and proposed ideas for how to fix the problem Those are cited at the bottom if you are super interested.
With this knowledge (and a bit more), we were tasked with starting the rubric to assess assessments. Over the next four weeks we will be tweaking this as our minds are filled more and more with information about assessment, feedback, etc. Eventually, we will have ten criteria. Here is my beginning:
Assesses Thinking and Problem solving
One of the main takeaways that I took from the Shepherd article was the need for assessments to go beyond regurgitation of facts. Ms. Shepard (2000) explains that an assessment’s “form and content must be changed to better represent important thinking and problem solving skills in each of the disciplines” (p. 7). Often assessments of both the summative and formative variety focus more on information, while our existence is dominated more by opportunity to use knowledge to conquer a goal. I believe that any assessment should have some element of problem solving, preferably one in which students are expected to transfer their knowledge into another realm. Shepherd also noted that there is a bond between “understanding a concept and being able to transfer knowledge and use it in new situations” (p. 11).
Provides opportunity for specific Feedback that can be used for improvement
Often students turn in work, receive a grade, and move on to the next task. Black and Wiliam (1998) make the argument that “the giving of marks and the grading function are overemphasized, while the giving of useful advice and the learning function are underemphasized” (p. 142). They further explain that “feedback has been shown to improve learning when it gives each pupil specific guidance on strengths and weaknesses, preferably without any overall marks” (p.144). In other words, it is important to develop a culture in which students have the opportunity, and are encouraged to, learn from the feedback so that they can grow in understanding. Any assessment worth its salt will provide feedback that is useful for students to learn more about the topic, not just the percentage of information they knew. Black and Wiliam tell us that “hen any one is trying to learn, feedback about the effort has three elements: recognition of the desired goal, evidence about present position, and some understanding of a way to close the gap between the two” (p. 143).
Student self assessment
Black and Wiliam write, “if formative assessment is to be productive, pupils should be trained in self assessment so that they can understand the main purposes of their learning and there by grasp what they need to do to achieve” (p. 143). One of the problems that I have routinely seen is that teachers fail to provide students with a means to assess themselves prior to the submission of an assessment. I had a colleague, Matt Gugino, who once told me that students should never be surprised by a grade because they should know exactly what was expected and looked to see that it was done. This can be done in a variety of ways such as a rubric (how;s that for meta…a rubric that includes a rubric). It can also include exemplars. Regardless of the form that it takes, assessment of any variety should have a means by which students can assess their own learning before the instructor does.
Fortunately, this is just the beginning, and I have time to improve and grow. Here is your chance to help me out to make it better. Feel free to deluge me with suggestions.
Black, P. & Wiliam, D. (1998). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 80(2), 139-144.
Shepard, L. (2000). The role of assessment in a learning culture. Educational Researcher, 29(7), 4-14.