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Changes in Education, Changes in Assessment

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Moving right along to Chapter 2 in Talk About Assessment, it comes down to this…

Flickr Some rights reserved by William M Ferriter

Flickr Some rights reserved by William M Ferriter

It is time to get on the Criterion Referenced bus.  It should no longer matter how long it takes a student to meet an outcome, so long as they are moving towards and eventually meet this standard.  Instead of sorting students we can certify that students have met a standard of achievement.

The Alberta High School Flexibility Project is redesigning high school experience and has had to rethink assessment and instruction.  One of the project focus points was on credit recovery, much like criterion referenced assessment, it allows students to meet a standard when they meet it.  At my school this turned into credit recovery, extension and acceleration and allows students to meet outcomes not always according to the semester system.  Has this meant that students return to try and learn again?  That they are more engaged and motivated to learn?  The initial data, high school completion rates, credit completion and student engagement figures say yes.  It works, it is not perfect but it is a work in progress.

But how does this prepare students for real life if they are given numerous chances to complete?  It does, because education is changing and so must assessment.  Think about the last time you had to learn something, what did you do?

I am trying to figure out how to make buns and I am struggling.  They taste fine but they look horrible.  So I researched a recipe and


tried it.  It didn’t work.  So I did a little more research and watched some videos.  Still no good.  So I thought I should switch from dinner buns to hot dog buns, no hot dog ever managed to get in those buns.  Then I talked with a colleague who makes the most delicious and visually appealing, perfect buns and got some advice.  Still no good.  Next we are meeting and doing it together.  In the meantime, my cinnamon buns look fantastic and I still attempt to make dinner buns when I think about it.  Should we get multiple attempts to do something, learn something or should there be an arbitrary time when this learning must be complete?  Do we want students who return and persevere or have a DEADline they need to meet to learn something?


The Big Ideas of Assessment

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As I make my way through my summer reading pile, the one that has risen to the top is Talk About Assessment by Damian Cooper.  The book starts with 8 Big Ideas about Assessment.IMG_0622

  1. Assessment serves different purposes at different times.
  2. Assessment must be planned, purposeful and accurate.
  3. Assessment must be balanced and flexible.
  4. Assessment and instructions are inseparable
  5. Assessment, to be helpful to students, must be in words not scores.
  6. Assessment is collaborative; self, peer and teacher.
  7. Performance standards are essential and must be criterion-referenced.
  8. Grading and reporting requires teachers to exercise their professional judgement.

Looking at my current practice the big idea that is most evident in my classroom is #3, that assessment must be balanced and flexible.    My students advice to next years class is to always have a conversation with Mrs. C and to have a plan to meet the learning outcomes.  Their are guidelines not timelines and suggestions for demonstrating understanding, but ultimately a conversation can change any of this. When I look to see what I gather as evidence of learning, it varies.  Blogs, exits slips, presentations, performance tasks, oral reports, foldables, image analysis, conversations, emails and lots of choice.  With one notable exception, no tests this year.  I have been moving in this direction for a number of years and this year I did it, however I wonder if it should be a part of, or perhaps a choice in, a balanced assessment plan.

Talk about Assessment imageThe big idea least evident in my classroom is #2, assessment that is planned purposeful and accurate.   I have taught social studies 9 about 5 times now and I am getting closer to hitting the essential understanding targets, but I still find myself flying by the seat of my pants every once and awhile and missing the target.  I know what I need to do and I am envious of the math department at my school that has sat down and mapped out their essential understandings, formative and summative tasks.  Now I need to do the same.  The author, Damian Cooper, talked about how he used to leave the Evaluation portion of his lesson and unit planning blanks and I can totally relate.  While some of my planning is bang on, and you know when that happens.  Students are engaged, the classroom is humming and together we are moving towards a goal we all understand.  And some of the time I get part way there, but then I stumble with a poorly designed rubric or timelines gone sideways.  This is the piece that our Social Studies Div 3 cohort was working on and off over the last couple of years, but we have not had the consistency of meeting and talking to get it done right.  But I know this is where I need to concentrate my energies.

Where are you at?  What is most or least evident in your teaching practice?