About three months ago, I started on a journey exploring assessment and its use in my classroom. At the beginning of the trip, I identified three things that I believed about assessment. As I studied, my beliefs about assessment didn’t change, but they did get more developed. 

The original list: (May 17, 2020)

  1. Assessment should measure growth.
  2. Assessment should measure that growth over time. 
  3. The assessment used should match the information or skill measured.

The new list: (July 31, 2020)

  1. Assessment should be informative to the student and the teacher and indicate the level of mastery concerning course goals. 

“Good feedback provides information to teachers that can be used to shape teaching” (Nicol & McFarlane, 2006, p. 205). Preparation programs must train teachers to use formative assessments to inform their teaching. It is too important to leave to chance. They must know how to use the data to make decisions about instruction. “Well-designed and implemented formative assessment should be able to suggest how instruction should be modified, as well as suggest impressionistically to the teacher what students know and can do” (Bennett, 2011, P. 7). 

Students should also use assessment feedback to gauge where they stand in regards to their end goals. Black and Williams reinforced this idea when they said, “The ultimate user of assessment information that is elicited in order to improve learning is the pupil” (1998, p. 4). Students must understand how to guide their learning. 

All of the feedback from an assessment should be directly connected to course goals. Since the result is the mastery of course goals, feedback should always indicate what a student has learned in connection to those goals. It’s like a moving scale that gets closer and closer to the target as students display their understanding of the concepts. 

2. Assessment should require students to demonstrate their understanding. 

It is essential to teach and assess for understanding and transfer (Avenues: The World School, 2013). Anyone can memorize facts, but it is much more challenging to use those facts, in the right context, to explain or interpret something. We regularly hear that the jobs of the future will require students to be able to use information creatively to create new solutions to problems. It is our job to prepare them for those jobs. Wiggins and McTighe identified six facets of understanding, which they also described as manifestations of transferability (2005). They say if the assessment can measure the students’ ability to explain, interpret, apply, have perspective, empathize, or have self-knowledge, it measures understanding (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). 

3. Assessment should be authentic.

Practical formative assessment provides “realistic, challenging problems and items that elicit student understanding and make their understanding visible” (Quellmalz, 2013, p. 3). The realism of the problems and items are what make assessments authentic. An authentic question asks the students to apply their understanding of the information to a real-world problem. It is typically a performance-based task. For many students, it’s the answer to the age-old question, “how will I use this in my real life.” 

The changes examined: 

As I said before, I don’t see my new list as a change but rather a careful development of my original ideas. In the original listing, I identified that assessment is a measurement of growth over time. Through my exploration, I expanded that idea into the first two beliefs on my second list. 

Honestly, I don’t see many differences other than wording between the third belief on the original list versus the new list. An authentic assessment gives a much more accurate picture of student understanding. 

Applications:

Throughout my exploration of assessment I have taken the time to create a few new products that I plan to use in the classroom. All of the assessments I have created have been formative assessments. They were designed to give the students as well as the teacher feedback that would determine the next steps in the progression of the curriculum. All of the formative assessments have been authentic. Each required the students to actively make a recipe to show mastery of a skill. 

Another assessment that I created was a game-based assessment. While exploring game-based assessment, I started to consider whether I could find a natural way to use one in cooking. A great place to start seemed to be with reading and manipulating recipes. There are a lot of choices and consequences related to following a recipe. The choices and their related consequences are the “procedural rhetoric” (Bogost, 2007, pg. 3) of a game. 

References:

Avenues: The World School. (2013, February 28). Grant Wiggins – Understanding by Design (1 of 2)[Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watchtime_continue=22&v=4isSHf3SBuQ&feature=emb_logo

Bennett, R. E. (2011). Formative assessment: A critical review. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 18(1), 5-25.doi:10.1080/0969594X.2010.513678

Black, P. & Wiliam, D. (1998). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. The Phi Delta Kappan, 80(2), 139-144, 146-148.

Bogost, I. (2007). Persuasive games: The expressive power of videogames. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Nicol, D., & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), 199–218

Popham, J. (2012). Assessment bias: How to banish it. Pearson. http://iarss.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Popham_Bias_BK04.pdf

Quellmalz, E.S. (2013). Technology to support next-generation classroom  formative assessment for learning. San Francisco, CA: West Ed.

Wiggins, G.P. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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