This Thursday at 8pm CST #saskedchat will be exploring Assessment – As, For, and Of Learning.
As often happens in education, the discussion of assessment seems to result in polarization of ideas where individuals take an Either/Or stance. This can be seen on the discussion of homework vs stop homework, where discussions often take the well-worn path of the all-in/out stance. Inevitably this type of discussion polarizes the issue(s) which really doesn’t help anyone, except maybe those people trying to sell something (another little issue that is steadily creeping into educational discussions lately).
Assessment is a part of schooling and people seem to agree that assessment needs to change but, depending on your point of view and who you talk to, the way it needs to change is not necessarily clear. There are calls for eliminating high stakes testing as they are currently used while others point to their use around the globe with mixed results.
Assessment As, Of, and For Learning
There are many times during a day in which I am ‘assessed’. If I’m driving and a police officer is watching traffic, I will be assessed on how well I am following the rules of the road and adhering to the laws, at that particular instant. When I cook for my family, how well I do is ‘assessed’ by whether people like what was cooked or not. Depending on how you view assessment, each day we are assessed in a variety of ways, some more directly than others. Drive over the speed limit in a zone where there is photo-radar, you will probably receive a ticket for failing to follow the posted speed limit.
For teachers, ePortfolios, Project Based Learning, Problem Based Learning, Inquiry, Genius Hour, Maker Space, Kahoot, Socrative, Google Classroom, Freshgrade, Flipgrid and a variety of other tools and strategies are changing how teachers are engaging in assessment with students and is changing how teachers are using assessment in the classroom. As a way to frame the discussion of assessment, looking at “Why” one assesses can help to frame the discussion in a different way. In order to facilitate this changing assessment landscape, discussing assessment As, Of, and For Learning helps to differentiate the role of assessment and how it is used.
These are not new terms, nor are they necessarily new ways of looking at assessment. This differentiation does help to see how assessment has shifted from an end-of-unit exam or a 5 paragraph essay to something much more dynamic and complex.
Assessment As Learning
Assessment As Learning focuses on students self-monitoring their own learning. This is described as meta-cognition – the knowledge of one’s thinking.
Assessment as learning emerges from the idea that learning is not just a matter of transferring ideas from someone who is knowledgeable to someone who is not, but is an active process of cognitive restructuring that occurs when individuals interact with new ideas. Within this view of learning, students are the critical connectors between assessment and learning. For students to be actively engaged in creating their own understanding, they must learn to be critical assessors who make sense of information, relate it to prior knowledge, and use it for new learning. This is the regulatory process in metacognition; that is, students become adept at personally monitoring what they are learning, and use what they discover from the monitoring to make adjustments, adaptations, and even major changes in their thinking.
Helping students to understand their own learning is key in helping them develop skills to be life-long learners who will be able to meet the demands and challenges in a world that continues to rapidly change. No one is really sure what will happen in the next 10 years but it will probably be very different than it is today while remaining very similar in many ways.
Assessment For Learning
Assessment For Learning takes place throughout the learning process from the beginning of the school year until it ends. With the use of different digital platforms, this process can continue throughout the entire time a student is in school, with learning events and reflections occurring in a variety of ways all the while parts of these events being digitally captured to allow teachers, students, and parents to see the growth over time and identify areas that might need further development.
Assessment for learning occurs throughout the learning process. It is designed to make each student’s understanding visible, so that teachers can decide what they can do to help students progress. Students learn in individual and idiosyncratic ways, yet, at the same time, there are predictable patterns of connections and preconceptions that some students may experience as they move along the continuum from emergent to proficient. In assessment for learning, teachers use assessment as an investigative tool to find out as much as they can about what their students know and can do, and what confusions, preconceptions, or gaps they might have.
Organization such as Canadian Assessment for Learning Network support teachers, schools and parents with Assessment For Learning and work to provide great understanding about the role of Assessment For Learning and it’s use within the learning process.
Assessment Of Learning
Assessment of Learning can be described as a snapshot of a person’s learning at a particular point in time. This has traditionally been what was reported on a traditional report card with a grade.
Assessment of learning refers to strategies designed to confirm what students know, demonstrate whether or not they have met curriculum outcomes or the goals of their individualized programs, or to certify proficiency and make decisions about students’ future programs or placements. It is designed to provide evidence of achievement to parents, other educators, the students themselves, and sometimes to outside groups (e.g., employers, other educational institutions).
Assessment of learning is the assessment that becomes public and results in statements or symbols about how well students are learning.
Various school divisions in Saskatchewan, in Canada, and around the globe have begun to adopt a report card that focuses on feedback and growth as opposed to grades. As with all change, there is resistance of this form of reporting and, in some cases, a call to return to traditional grades.
What do you think?
This is just a very general overview of Assessment As, For, and Of Learning. There are many more nuances to assessment that often are not discussed. I would highly recommend you check out these resources for a much greater discussion of assessment:
Softening the Edges – by Katie White – an great book about many of the parts of assessment that don’t often get discussed. I highly recommend this book as it will challenge you to think of assessment in new ways.
Checking for Understanding – by Doug Fisher & Nancy Frey – A great book that highlights the use of Formative Assessment at all grade levels.
Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design – by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Jay McTighe – this has been my go to book for addressing the whole assessment piece – planning like an assessor not like an activity planner.
What do you think? What are your thought about assessment? How would you like to see things change?
Join #saskedchat Thursday night at 8pm CST as we explore this topic.
It’s hard. It requires taking that first step. Of following it with another. Of having to get back up if you fall down. Learning to walk is tough but small children soon learn all the complex steps in taking one step, then another, then another… then they’re running.
Getting started on making change or reframing the work you do is the same way. It’s hard to get started. You cling to the furniture around you, balancing yourself, looking longingly at the open space in front of you yet not wanting to fall. Maybe just a bit more studying that space….
In a world filled with so much information, when will it be enough learning before it transfers into motion forward. Maybe if I read more a few blogs or papers or books….. but there isn’t enough time to read it all but maybe just a few more…. the open space beckons you.
but it’s not just the information. It’s the fear. Fear of failure. Fear of going unnoticed. Fear that it won’t work out.
Fear… it holds us back, whispers all sorts of discouraging words,keeps us from even trying. We often don’t have to worry about failure because fear keeps us from trying.
When I first began teaching I wasn’t very good. I might have been awful but for the fact that there were other teachers around me whose classes were a lot less exciting than mine. Mind you, I taught Arts Ed, Phys Ed and some English and there were days when it was VERY exciting. In art – all kinds of things happen when you give 26+ grade 7’s some coloured ink, lino boards, paper and rollers and instructions that aren’t quite as clear as you thought they were!
But I started. Each day, I’d try again. Each evening I’d spend hours trying to figure out what I could do differently or what I might change or….. it was exhausting but exhilarating at the same time but I knew I was missing something. I’d walk past classrooms and … well my classroom wasn’t like that!
Somewhere along the way I began to study teaching: teaching strategies, methods, assessment, planning….. I began to think that if I could just read the right books or find the right method or strategies then I would become a “good teacher”.
Heck, I wasn’t even shooting for “great”! I wanted to be good. Solid. Not stellar. No way, because then you would stand out and people would up their expectations.
Good Enough…. but that wasn’t me.
I was always trying new strategies and methods in the classroom, experimenting with new configurations for learning, different assessment strategies and ways of students presenting their understanding. Somewhere along the way I stumbled across Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design, Tomlinson’s Differentiation and then both together! Rubrics, feedback, multiple assessment options for students. No two years were the same – with each class I learned that I would have to make changes to meet their learning needs – even though I didn’t really know that was what I was doing at the time.
Along the way I was fortunate to work with some great teachers. I mean, really great. What made them great? Their planning? The strategies? The assessment? I spent time trying to figure it out and it was right in front of me all along. See, great teachers begin with the end in mind – they begin with student. Relationships are the foundation. They don’t give up on students. Student growth and development are their focus. They ground their work in the relationships they build with their students.
It took me a long time to figure that out because I was looking in the wrong place to start. I was looking for the method or plan or organization or strategy when, all along, great teachers begin with relationships. All they do is linked to the relationships they develop with students, parents, colleagues, administrators, and community members.
They aren’t afraid to try new or different things for fear of making mistakes because they know that those mistakes are great opportunities for learning with their students.
I think we need to do serious hard work in producing alternative models without being tied down to what can be implemented in the short run. I think if we take industries like aircraft, or any big industry, they are spending large resources on planning for the day when they know that what’s cutting-edge today is going to be obsolete. The education world has to learn to put a fraction of its resources into what cannot be done today, but can be, but which can stand there as experimenting, as working with visions of a possible future. Seymour Papert
They don’t shy away from incorporating technology because they understand that when pedagogically driven, technology can enhance the learning experience. They are always reading and questioning what they do in the classroom because they are a true life-long learner, curious about the world around them.
They aren’t afraid to start even though they don’t know all the steps. See, these teachers have a secret that they share with everyone and that secret, which took me so long to figure out was …….
Reframe the Story
It begins with the relationships in the classroom. You can be innovative and creative, I sure was, but I didn’t pay attention to that relationship piece. Somehow I missed that part. See, lost in the search, lost in the reading and reflection, missed in the implementation was just how key relationships are to the classroom.
For me, it took my own struggle with “what am I missing?” and the frustration of not “getting it” to finally cast aside my preconceived ideas about what it meant to be a “good teacher” and reframe – what made me a good student? What drove me along? Why was I motivated to learn?
Yes, part of it was a desire to learn but part, the part I wasn’t always aware of, was the relationship I formed with others as I learned and the key the instructor/teacher played in the learning. When learning begins with relationships, teachers begin to put that little bit of energy into developing for the future. They aren’t content with what they are doing today but are looking forward to see what might be tomorrow.
So, what does your today and tomorrow look like?