Professional Learning About Assessment: Getting Started

Every time I speak with educators, the conversation turns to the topics of assessment and evaluation. These processes, integral to teaching and learning, are widely studied, yet many of the conversations indicate that educators have questions, concerns, and sometimes fears about changing their practices to incorporate the body of research that is available to us.

It is easy to fall into recognizable habits, or to conduct assessment and evaluation in ways that we experienced ourselves when we were students. More challenging is the work of learning about and then implementing more effective practices. In a previous post, we suggested that the assessment process supports learning for learners of all ages – including adult educators who are trying to learn new ways of assessing and evaluating!

Much has been written about self-guided professional learning, including processes such as action research or collaborative inquiry. Ideally, you will benefit if you can learn with colleagues who are also interested in self-directed learning. Collaborative learning brings the benefits of having other points of view, as well as others to support your learning. If you are learning on your own, there are a number of resources that we can suggest that will help guide you as you learn.

What might it look like to use the assessment process to guide professional learning about assessment and evaluation? Recall that the process involves the following components:

  • Identifying, sharing, and clarifying learning goals and success criteria
  • Eliciting learning through tasks that provide opportunities for exploration, practice and consolidation
  • Giving and receiving descriptive feedback
  • Monitoring and documenting learning through self and peer assessment
  • Self-reflecting and setting goals

Let’s look at a first step to get started — identifying, sharing, and clarifying learning goals and success criteria for our professional learning:

This component of the assessment process helps you to focus your learning on an aspect of the broad range of topics available. You might ask yourself:

  • What are my “assessment and evaluation” wonderings?
  • What challenges me?
  • What have I read about, heard about, or encountered, perhaps from colleagues, that might improve my practice with a view to helping learners?

Another way of investigating an area of focus would be to use a list of criteria for effective assessment. There are several available on the Edugains website:

Learning Goals and Success Criteria (see page 39)

Descriptive Feedback (see page 16)

Self-Assessment (see page 31)

Planning Assessment with Instruction (see page 48)

By completing the self-assessment using one of the above checklists, you can narrow down your area of focus. The next step would be to write a learning goal for yourself (and colleagues if you’re fortunate to be working with a group), and then select criteria from the checklist to identify what it would look like to attain your goal. Here’s an example:

Learning Goal — We are learning to help our students know and understand the success criteria for their learning goals.

Success Criteria — We’ll know we are successful when we:

  • plan tasks that help learners to identify the success criteria;
  • during a lesson, ask our learners questions to focus their attention on success criteria (e.g. “What I’m hearing you say is that we need to focus each of our paragraphs on one main idea. Do you think that’s important? If so, let’s record that as one of our class success criteria.”);
  • create structures that help learners keep track of the success criteria (e.g. anchor charts displaying the criteria; checklists or notes so that they can access the criteria; electronic tools to record criteria;)
  • provide models and exemplars to show what successful learning looks like and have students discuss.

green runner smallOne last thought, and a call to action:

As educators, our number one goal is to teach our learners how to learn. The assessment for learning process does just that Рit helps learners to learn, and it teaches them a process for how to go about learning. Using the process in your own learning reminds us all of the power of assessment to support the learning process.

Let us know what you’ve identified as a learning goal. We want to learn alongside you, and support you in any way we can.

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