Changing how we think about assessment – Being intentional about “what” and “why”

It’s late August. In a few days, our empty classrooms will be teeming with learners. You’re probably thinking about the school year ahead – perhaps making plans, or reflecting on how you did things last year, and what you can do this year to improve. We educators…always improving. That’s a good thing, as Martha Stewart would say 🙂

Since this blog is about assessment, you are probably expecting us to urge you to change your assessment practices. You would be correct!

Of course, you shouldn’t change for the sake of change. But it might be beneficial for you and your students if you mulled over what you plan to assess, and why:

Before you get out your red marking pen (just kidding), ask yourself these questions:

What is being assessed?

  • Have you clearly identified learning goals based on the knowledge and skills set out in the curriculum expectations?
  • Are those goals both ‘broad’ and ‘narrow’ to meet all students’ needs?
  • Are you clear on the success criteria?
  • Do you know what progress on the learning goals actually looks like and sounds like?
  • Do the criteria you’ve identified reflect what is truly valued in the learning – knowledge, thinking, communication, application?

Why assess?

  • What is the purpose of gathering this evidence of learning?
  • What are you planning to do with this documentation – provide feedback to the learner? Adjust tomorrow’s instruction? Use it as the basis for grading?

Clarity about these matters will make a huge difference in how you and your students can use the assessment process to improve learning. Why not take a few minutes to reflect on these questions? Don’t try to change everything – you might just think about one of the questions in the context of one cycle of learning in one subject area or course. Please share your thoughts, questions, successes, concerns… in the Comment section below.

Coming soon – Everything you ever needed (or wanted) to know about Learning Goals

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