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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.