Monday, February 22, 2010

Assessment Thoughts and Strategies

The process of assessment can be successful based on the time and effort expended to prepare the assessment and use the results of the assessment. Good assessments take time to prepare. Better assessments are clearly linked to and derived from student learning. The best assessments are developed to improve student learning. Understanding the process of student assessment must begin with an understanding of improvement and reporting.

Whether the assessment is summative or formative, traditional, essay, multiple choice exam, or project or portfolio based, assessment is one method to improve learning. The cycle of assessment is an important one, and one that can improve teaching practices and learning.

Improvement occurs with results. Results from some form of assessment, whether internal or external, can be one indicator of a need for improvement. The level of specificity for improvement is often related to the level of specificity in the results. The more specific the results are, the more specific an improvement can be. The danger in using general results for specific improvement can result in improvements that do not change processes.

For continuous improvement to occur, assessments must become a natural part of the culture. Each and every process must be carefully and deliberately assessed to determine the impact, the effect, the scope and reach of the process. Does the process accomplish what was intended? Are we constantly and consistently reviewing everything we do with improvement in mind?

When empowered with the resources to succeed, most individuals will review and reflect to improve everything. There is a certain sense of both self-improvement at the individual and cultural level. We want to do “things” better than before. If things are better, there is a perception that the process (in this case, teaching and learning) is better and more robust.

Some may be content with the status quo. Their perception of the processes has identified no need for change. The processes work. They have worked and there is no need for or to change. However natural that supposition may be, it does not reflect the enormous changes in technology, the changes in students, the changes in societal expectations. We need to become agents of and for change and improvement.

We know the “what” of assessment – this is the form, test, lab experiment, essay, project, performance, portfolio. Focusing on the why can begin to lead to improvements. We assess to evaluate instruction, curriculum, technology, student learning. Is each element contributing to the overall focus of student learning? Has student learning, the breadth and depth of learning, been positively changed? How do we know?


Anonymous said...

Hi David,

My experience tells me assessment is often disregarded by teachers. Not that teachers do not use assessment, but they tend to do it rather mindlessly and seem surprised if I ask what they will learn from the assessment. They tend to answer, "Who has it and who doesn't." which in my mind is a quite narrow band of the possibilities of assessment. How to we move ourselves into a deeper mode of assessment? What would persuade folks of the importance of this?

Thanks for raising an important conversation.

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