Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Assessment As Learning: Using Classroom Assessment to Maximize Student Learning

Earl, L. M. (2003) Assessment as Learning: Using Classroom Assessment to Maximize Student Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Traditional tests are considered assessment of learning.  These tests reflect the understanding of a student.  Assessment for learning gives a teacher insight into a student's current understanding to inform what changes need to be made in what and how content is delivered to better serve that student.  Earl's book focuses on assessment as learning.  This involves a student growing through an assessment and using the experience as a learning opportunity.  Assessments can be used to help students reflect, get motivated, make connections, and extend learning.  Throughout the book are real world examples of the methods presented in use with detailed discussion of each.

A quality of this book that I love is the focus on the importance of learning.  As a teacher I hope to use every chance I get to have the kids “learn” something.  This something does not have to be the class topic content, but could be so many other skills.  The book does a great job of summarizing work by Costa (1996) which breaks down all of the human qualities that provide a basis for learning:

  • Metacognition
  • Constructing Abstraction
  • Storing Information Outside the Body
  • Systems Thinking
  • Problem Finding
  • Reciprocal Learning
  • Inventing
  • Deriving Meaning from Experience
  • Altering Response Patterns
The quality above that jumps out to me is Deriving Meaning from Experience.  An assessment should be an experience for the students and provide an opportunity for them to solidify some of their understandings and identify areas for growth.  Tests I took were always an experience.  I remember after a test students would hang outside the classroom, waiting for people to come out and talk about how they did.  “What did you get for Question 2?”, “How did you find the flow rate in Question 4?”.  We wanted to solidify our understanding of the material, even after being evaluated on it.

Chapter 7 of this book really got me thinking.  It talks about how to use assessment to motivate students.  The techniques they suggest are exactly what I think about when planning a project.  I plan my project to be relevant to the students.  I build into my projects opportunities for the kids to be creative.  I also scaffold project work so that all students get the support they need to make progress.  Why don’t I have these qualities in my assessments?  If an assessment is relevant to the students’, they will be drawn in and will want to engage with the content.  If the assessment allows for creativity, students may be able to express their understanding in unique and valuable ways.  Assessments should also be an opportunity to gauge where a student may need extra support so that they can progress through the material.

Chapter 8 has some very useful tools and tips for giving written feedback to the students.  I have not had much time to delve deap into this chapter though.  One thing to note is the Ice approach (Ideas, Connections, and Extensions).  It is a tool for breaking a project down into different types of learning goals.

“The predominant kind of assessment in schools is Assessment of Learning.  Its purpose is summative, intended to certify learning and report to parents and students about students’ progress in school, usually by signaling students’ relative position compared to other students (. . .) This is the kind of assessment that still dominates most classroom activities, (. . .) and feedback to students comes in the form of marks or grades, with little direction or advice for improvement.” (p. 22)

“Simply put, Assessment for Learning shifts emphasis from summative to formative assessment, from making judgments to creating description that can be used in the service of the next stage of learning.  (. . . Teachers) craft assessment tasks that open a window on what students know and can do already and use the insights that come from the process to design the next steps in instruction.” (p. 23-24)

“By introducing the notion of Assessment as Learning, I intend to reinforce and extend the role of formative assessment for learning by emphasizing the role of the student, not only as a contributor to the assessment and learning process, but also as the critical connector between them.” (p. 25)

“Assessment can (. . .) enhance motivation by being relevant, appealing to students’ imagination, and providing the scaffolding they need to genuinely succeed.” (p. 68)

Notable Citations:
Costa, A. (1996).  Prologue.  In D. Hyerle (Ed.), Visual tools for constructing knowledge. Alexandria, VA:  Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Young, S., & Wilson, R.  (2000). Assessment and learning:  The ICE approach.  Winnipeg, MB:  Portage & Main Press.

1 comment:

Stacey Caillier said...

Mark, this book sounds interesting to me and I'd love to hear what you think. The distinction of assessment FOR learning - as in moving the learning forwards, rather than putting a cap on it - is an important one. The latter is more like evaluation, which implies a final judgment on the work (i.e. the learning has ended). Whereas assessment, to me, has always felt like conversations about the work in progress. Too often in schools, we use the word assessment when what is really happening is evaluation.

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