Sunday, February 22, 2009

How do you assess that?

My session at PETE-C almost two weeks ago was a great way to get my thinking about assessment straight. Though not an expert, I have spent considerable time questioning the way that we do assessment and how this works with project based learning. A few thoughts:
  • It has always seemed wrong that we "learned" material, students took a test (and usually did poorly), and yet we still moved on even though not all had learned.
  • When doing projects, a few students do a good job and "get it"," a few come close, but a vast majority miss the mark. They can see what you are asking but do not know the knowledge "steps" or questions that it takes to get there.
  • I have been reading a lot about "assessment for learning" which we should be doing instead of "assessment of learning."
  • I am using Understanding by Design to backwards plan the course from the essential questions and its assessment to the day to day activities.
  • With reforms in education, assessment has not been changed and is crucial as old ways of assessments are not the best at assessing learning.
My main suggestions through the session:
  • Use formative assessment of the project pieces to be sure students get to the goal of the project. Since the project is more than just "tell me about the biome" and is value laden decisions about the biome, asking students for the pieces of the project and then offering feedback and oppotunities to improve, seems like a great idea. Though the project is moving slower than I would like, students are improving upon the way they complete the project. I am planning on using evidence for future presentations and to determine if this is a way I should proceed in the future.
  • In my academic class, students will have an opportunity to be exempt from portions of the test by doing well on the quizzes along the way.
  • During the labs in the academic class, students analyze what has been learned in lab as a group write-up but the harder questions are reserved for homework. Students who score low are offered remedial activities to bring up portions of the grade, though they will not achieve 100%. The purpose is to get students to understand the essential ideas that tie the content together which lead to the unifying themes in science.
So basically, I am focusing on many formative assessments that provide the opportunity to correct misunderstandings and show learning along the way. There are other teachers doing similar assessment for learning.

So what are your thoughts? Are others asking the same questions and making/made some of the same changes in assessment? I am still pushing my thinking as well as listening to feedback/criticisms (though, assessment is broken and needs fixed.)

Tags: PETE-C, assessment, education


  1. Hi there - I love this post as it echoes so much of my own philosophies about assessment, particularly the role of formative assessment FOR learning. My question is this: how do you "transform" all those formative assessments into a grade when it comes time to report on a student's progress?

  2. @adrienne I may be blurring the lines but I ask essay type questions that require students to identify the key essential ideas (process) with the artifacts from lab or other experiences in the classroom. I use a checklist that spells out the information and points for each item we are looking for. Though not focusing just on content, it asks for it to be applied. Students who do not understand the process have an opportunity to redo to increase learning and understanding. Not a perfect process but students know they can't just fail this and move on.