Over the past 43 years of my young life, assessment has taken on different meanings at different stages. Even before I started formal education, I was assessed. My grandfather was a man of few words, but when I helped plant potatoes or cantaloupes on the farm, he was quite quick to give criticism of my spacing between plants. His garden had structure, and his workers were expected to do it his way (the right way) every single time.

When I entered public school, assessments became more formal. Quizzes and tests were common, and as far as I knew, they were the only measure my teachers were using to measure me. College was much the same with big exams like midterms and final exams, taking on an even greater significance than they had in high school.

Then I became a teacher, and in my early career, I used assessment in the same way I had experienced it. The longer I was teaching; however, the more my views changed, and that old version of assessment just didn’t feel right anymore.

Now, at this moment, when I think about assessment, I can pinpoint the following 3 things that I believe about assessment.

  1. Assessment should measure growth. Assessment is a measurement tool, but often it is only used to record one measurement with nothing to compare that measurement to. You need to have multiple data points to truly measure what a student has learned or how they have increased in a skill set.
  2. Assessment should measure that growth over time. Even now, in midlife, I am still learning. Learning is a process that lasts the whole life through, and assessment needs to take that into account. When it is used as a snapshot to record what you know at one point in time, it is not a very accurate measure. Assessment should measure what you know at the beginning of an experience, how you grow along the way, and what you have learned by the end.
  3. The assessment being used should match the information or skill being measured. When you are assessing a reading skill, you don’t ask math questions. The evaluation should be crafted to take an accurate measure of the information learned or the level of expertise developed. Often in my baking classroom assessments look like an everyday cooking lab. I measure my students at the end of the yeast bread unit by how successfully they can make garlic knots. Do they keep the yeast alive? Is gluten appropriately developed? Are the knots shaped correctly? Is the hydration of the dough correct? Etc.

If you hadn’t already figured it out, I am starting to explore assessment as a new topic of interest. I look forward to sharing with you what I learn along the way.

6 thoughts on “3 Things I Believe About Assessment

  1. After a few weeks of exploring assessment, I still stand by thoughts in this first post. I wouldn’t change anything on my list but I would definitely expand it to include other things. For example, I believe assessment should be used to inform learning and I believe students should be taught how to use it to improve themselves. Learning is lifelong and they won’t always have a teacher to tell them what they need to do. Self-assessing and planning improvement is a necessary skill for us all.

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  2. The more I read about assessment the more convinced I am that I should include formative assessment on this list. Feedback, in the form of formative assessment, is imperative for students and teachers alike. Students use it to plan how they will read the goals at the end of the unit and to measure their progress along the way. Teachers use it to determine next steps in the classroom. Ex. do we spend more time on an area or move on? Feedback should help us figure out where we are going, what progress we need to make to get there, and how we are going to make that progress happen.

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  3. Choosing digital technologies to provide assessment is time-consuming. First, you must look at a variety of platforms and models to determine their affordances and constraints. Then you must determine if your assessment can work within those parameters. If I want them to also correspond with my three core beliefs of assessment I’ve got to be even more choosy. The digital technology would need to allow multiple data points to show growth over time. It would also need to be closely matched to the type of information being assessed. The only saving grace is that once I have vetted a digital technology it should be useful for multiple assessments. (There is always a bright side!)

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  4. If I were to choose a CMS (Course Management System) that aligned with my beliefs about assessment it would have to allow for a lot of different types of assessment. It can’t be a really limiting platform because my assessments need to match the information or skill being measured and honestly, the area that I teach is outside of the “typical” assessment parameters. I would need it to track progress over time as well.

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  5. If I am going to use games as an assessment first I have to decide if the game aligns with my beliefs about assessment. The game would need to somehow match up with other assessments to create multiple data points to show growth over time. I guess basically this means it needs to be similar to another pre, formative, or summative assessment so there can be a comparison drawn between them. It would also need to be closely matched to the type of information being assessed. If I am going to assess the student’s ability to follow a recipe then there should be cooking or at the very least a recipe involved.

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