Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline
As you begin reading this post, I want you to take a moment to think about how assessments are used in your current practice. Are the current assessment procedures really reflecting solid growth for your students? Do you think there should be a better way to address how assessments are given? How about, what happens after the assessments are given? Do you have effective practices in place? Do you think there is a better way you could be doing the follow up to class assessments?
I have been in many situations with a variety of assessments. I have seen successful practices and unsuccessful practices. One thing to keep in mind is to note, if you continue to do things the same way, you will see the same results. This is not new thinking, or some wise statement I just came up with, this old adage holds lots of truth. Something is not working, so we have to take the time to find a solution that may be better.
I have worked in one school that just gave assessments and you moved on, whether or not the students were successful. I bet you will not be surprised when I say, that those students who failed continued to fail. I was put on a time crunch to continue to move forward in my units because I had to follow the strict schedule.
I worked in another school where we were required to give pre-assessments and then use the data to group students. We then differentiated our instruction based on that data. We then gave post assessments. If the students made below 80% they were required to do activities to possible learn the material in a different way. After the brief instruction, they were allowed again to retake the assessment. This strategy had a little more power to it. The biggest gains however, were with the same group of students because you taught grade level material. Not to mention, it always felt like we were assessing – pretest, weekly quizzes linked to learning objectives, post assessment, reteach and reassess.
I am not saying we should provide lots of support where the students is currently learning at based on ability. In fact, that is not the answer completely. I also feel that by “dumbing it down” we are only hurting the students more. I am also not saying you should not use pre-assessments. What I am saying is we need to think smarter, so we are not working as hard and creating larger gaps in learning.
So in a dream classroom, what might this look like…
- I would have the option for students to do a pre-assessment if they so desired. This would allow for differentiation for those students who are already above grade level.
- I would teach based on the unit outline provided by my school district and ensure I am assessing weekly with simple formative quizzes to assess that week’s skill. This would give me a good idea of who has it and who still needs more.
- I would assess the students at the end of the unit, with one week of allotted time afterwards for re-teaching opportunities.
- I would not give the graded assessments back to the students at this time. I would however, identify students who need more support and provide small groups instruction to help them master the material. For the re-teaching materials, I would start one grade level below our current grade level and re-teach the skill before providing them with new grade level appropriate material to practice. This helps to scaffold learning more naturally. Additionally, if students can be successful with the material just one grade level below, they have seen success and it helps with their confidence level to master ito n grade level. For students who scored an 80% or higher, I would provide enrichment opportunities for them to work on while I spend time with small groups. Thinking about the quote provided, each small group is just one “small, well-focused action," that builds on the students learning and overall academic success.
- Finally, I would give back the assessments for students to make corrections on the ones they originally got incorrect. There is no need for them to retake the entire assessment. The corrected assessment is the final grade I would add to the grade book.
- I would take the time to go over the assessment with students after time has been allowed for corrections and re-scoring.
My dream classroom solution is not what is perfect for everyone, but it will allow students to be more successful than what some previous strategies may have been. In the past, I have assessed my students this way and saw great results for them in various content areas. Furthermore, it really helped to boost their confidence level to learn.
Always remember, it is not just about the assessment and getting results, bottom line, it is about helping students learn.