Lately, I have been focusing on “common assessments” versus “common understandings.” I have written about this in the past and shared the following ideas on why “common assessments” do not necessarily do what they hope they do.”
So here is where I struggle with this concept of “common assessments”. If teacher A does not work with classroom B, do they know the students in that room? Do they know that some of the students have test anxiety, or English is not their first language, or are a myriad of other factors that might not be conducive to “common assessments”?
Now there is a difference between wanting students to have the same test, or the same understandings of material. If I ask students to show that they understand the same objective, does the way we assess truly have to be the same? What I think we mean is that we are looking for “common understandings”, not “common assessments”. The notion of a “common assessment” does not take the individual into account, where “common understandings” allows for different pathways to show learning.
A big question that I focused on from the post:
The focus here is that we have to look at “assessment” as part of the learning, not just a summary of learning.
These definitions of “assessment for, as, and of learning” from the New South Wales (Australia) Education Standards Authority, is a good starting point:
Assessment for learning
Assessment for learning involves teachers using evidence about students’ knowledge, understanding and skills to inform their teaching. Sometimes referred to as ‘formative assessment’, it usually occurs throughout the teaching and learning process to clarify student learning and understanding.
Assessment of learning
Assessment of learning assists teachers in using evidence of student learning to assess achievement against outcomes and standards. Sometimes referred to as ‘summative assessment’, it usually occurs at defined key points during a unit of work or at the end of a unit, term or semester, and may be used to rank or grade students. The effectiveness of assessment of learning for grading or ranking depends on the validity and reliability of activities. Its effectiveness as an opportunity for learning depends on the nature and quality of the feedback.
Assessment as learning
Assessment as learning occurs when students are their own assessors. Students monitor their own learning, ask questions and use a range of strategies to decide what they know and can do, and how to use assessment for new learning.
Specifically, I want to focus on the idea of “Assessment as learning”.
As we have more of an ability to create and share our learning with the world, we have to understand that through the process of sharing our knowledge through assessment, a ton of learning happens. A student creating a SoundCloud podcast so you can hear how they speak a language, a YouTube video to display solving problems, or a digital portfolio to bring all of these things together, is learning in of itself. Not only can you see what a student knows this process on any specific curriculum objective(s), there is also learning in sharing through different mediums in the process as well. Something that I always think about is that the curriculum is the minimum of what we are supposed to teach, but we can go above and beyond that.
When we limit students to all doing the same test, or project, we also restrict learning through the assessment process. Understand I am not saying that a test should never happen (or that even educators have a choice). My focus here is to advocate for the idea that through the “assessment as learning” process, there is tremendous knowledge and skills to be gained. As you are reading this post, you are reading this in my portfolio. Creating this as a form of assessment has taught me so much about my own learning for the past eight years beyond.
The process is as important, if not more so than the product of learning. Our teaching is often changed by the way we assess, so looking at it as part of the learning will make it so much more valuable for the learners you serve.
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