Want to tag along as I take a new look at one of the old assessments I’ve used in the past? Today I’m going to look at it from a critical perspective and you are welcome to come along for this (possibly uncomfortable) ride. Let’s get started before I lose my nerve…
To give some perspective, this is an end of unit assessment, that would have been taken after a variety of learning activities and cooking labs. It would be used to assess whether students know the difference between types of cookies and minor information related to how cookies are made. I haven’t used this for a year or two as I have started to transition to more performance assessments but I felt that this assessment would give me more to write about.
As I look at this assessment now I see a few assumptions that I made when I created it. First of all I assumed that the students had experience making all 6 types of cookies. While we do make all 6 types of cookies in class if they were absent for a lab then they were not able to see the process for themselves. A secondhand description from a group member is not the same as experiencing the recipe yourself. I also assumed that they know the specific cookies I used as examples, like Snickerdoodles and Thumb Prints. Not all students would know what those cookies are so they may struggle in answering those questions.
Last week I wrote about 3 things I believe about assessment. In that post I stated that assessment (1.) should measure growth, (2.) should measure that growth over time, and (3.) should match the information or skill being measured. When I look at this assessment, with those three things in mind, I’m not surprised that I’ve moved on from using it. It is a snapshot of a student’s knowledge. Without a pre-assessment to compare it to there is no way it can show growth. It also doesn’t really measure what I want students to learn in the cookie unit. I want them to be able to successfully make a variety of cookies and understand the purpose of individual ingredients enough to make successful substitutions and adjustments to the recipes. This assessment does not measure any of that!
I did a bit of reading about assessment this week and when I look at this test I see it through a new lens. According to Master of Arts in Educational Technology (2020), one thing that helped to shape education and assessment into the system that we still use today was Social Efficiency. Master or Arts in Educational Technology (2020) goes on to say that in the early part of the 20th Century the social efficiency movement developed from a feeling that education could be streamlined to teach just what needed to be learned. Our understanding of assessment largely grew from that idea. The test I shared above reminds me of that movement; streamlined to measure mastery of content in an objective easy to score manner. Unfortunately that model isn’t going to serve our students very well in the 21st Century. In this new era our students are going to need to be able to transfer their knowledge to new situations, be creative, and think for themselves.
One last thing that I learned about assessment this week was from an article by Lorrie Shepard titled “The role of assessment in a Learning Culture”. In the article the author stresses that, “Our aim should be to change our cultural practices so that students and teachers look to assessment as a source of insight and help instead of an occasion for meting out rewards and punishments”(Shepard, 2000, p. 10). The assessment I’ve been looking at so critically is an example of why we need to change those cultural practices. This assessment didn’t help students or teachers. It was just another grade in the grade book.
While I have already started to make major changes in the way I use assessment in the classroom I still have a lot of work to do to get it right. Watch for updates as the journey unfolds.
Master of Arts in Educational Technology (2020, Summer). Course content from Unit 1: Assessment-Driven Instructional Design. Michigan State University, CEP 813: Electronic Assessment. https://d2l.msu.edu
Shepard, L. A. (2000). “The role of assessment in a learning culture”. Educational
Researcher, 29(7), 4-14. https://journals-sagepub com.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/doi/pdf/10.3102/0013189X029007004