What is the goal of student assessment?
Falchikov writes about the various purposes of student assessment, including: student motivation, diagnosis, monitoring learning, selection, monitor effectiveness, providing feedback, accountability, certification, and improving learning (Falchikov 2013).
To whom does student assessment matter?
Falchikov writes about the various stakeholders of student assessment, including: students, parents, districts, teachers, administrators, community, state, policy-makers, and realtors.
What is the current context of student assessment?
Types of assessment
Formative versus Summative. The more ways in which the purpose of the assessment serves the needs of the student, the more the assessment looks formative. The more the assessment meets the needs of the teacher or another stakeholder, the assessment tends to look more summative. Another way to talk about this concept is to consider the relationship between the learning and the assessment. More summative assessments tend to be assessments of learning, middle-of-the-road assessments are assessments for learning, and formative student-utilized assessments are assessments as learning.
How people learn
The National Research Council’s How People Learn diagrams that we know people learn in five distinct ways: skills-based (ex. drill practice), inquiry-based (ex. project design), lecture-based (ex. live talk), technology-enhanced (ex. simulations), and individual or group-based (ex. jigsaw learning). (NRC, 2000)
Tools and Practices
What sorts of assessment artifacts do teachers collect?
Representations. These might look like pre-planned formal items such as a standardized test, unit exam, written report, quizzes with multiple choice, true/false, or fill-in-the-blank questions, presentations, portfolios, or learning contracts. The representations could also be generated in a more informal manner, such as reflective journaling, observation notes, exit slips, or student check-in meeting notes.
What is the framework around the purpose of collecting these artifacts?
Standards. Teachers collect representations of learning, generally artifacts which can articulate competencies of the academic standards (ex. science, math, art, health, etc.)
What do teachers do with this information?
Formative Feedback. The primary way in which student assessment artifacts and data are used is for teachers to improve student learning. Teachers tend to follow the Kolb Cycle when planning instruction: they plan an experience (a lesson), carry out and reflect on the experience (how the lesson went), form generalizations (decide to move onto something new or repeat the next day), and then experiment (assess the students) to see if they are indeed ready to move on to new content. (George and Cowan).
The current landscape of student assessment in schools is teacher-centered and focuses on feedback for the teacher much more than the learner. The current landscape also includes a number of assessment practices and forms that do not tend to work collectively, nor do they influence the learning of an individual student.
“Schools often give this message that what matters to young people doesn’t matter in school. As they do so, they also signal the opposite—that what matters in school doesn’t have any meaning in the rest of your life.” – Jenkins, Ito & boyd
Going back to Falchikov’s nine purposes of assessment, “providing feedback” is the only item listed that directly influences how and what a student is learning.
Innovations in the Assessment Landscape
Charter schools allow for different classroom practices to meet the same assessment goals. Some charter schools are also piloting alternative ways to assess their students to show a complimentary form of accountability. Some examples include Grit survey, Hope survey, conferring, or 21st century skills rubrics.
Some schools are piloting independent workshop or project times in their schedules. This time might be categorized as: Genius hour, Flex time, 20% time, Project time, Connect time, Independent study, or Readers-writers workshop. These times often come with the option to hold students accountable in non-traditional ways, such as individual goal-setting, or public presentation.
Some schools are providing varying degrees of autonomy to students through personalized learner profiles, which might also be called pathways, learning plans, student-centered learning, or individualized learning. This process allows students to plan their own coursework, projects, and future, and can also include the student determining the accountability measures for the work.
There are digital products available to assist teachers and students in tracking the assessment data in a student-centered accountability learning environment. Learning Relationship Management Systems such as Project Foundry, Epiphany Learning, and MyLC are just a few available.
Schools are innovating the sets of standards by which students are held accountable. In addition to the academic standards, schools are adding items such as communication, motivation, creativity, and risk-taking to the core list. These lists are called non-academic standards, 21st century skills, social-emotional skills, soft skills, or college and career readiness skills.
Capturing the New Assessment Landscape
Alternative Measurement Tools
As mentioned in some of the above sections, the following is a list of some measurement tools schools are using to capture student learning data and use it to document student growth and provide feedback to students around their growth.
Grit Survey, Angela Duckworth
Duckworth asks the following questions to help a person self-assess their grit, which she defines as, ” perseverance and passion for long-term goals” (Duckworth 2016).
- New ideas and projects sometimes distract me from previous ones.
- Setbacks don’t discourage me.
- I have been obsessed with a certain idea or project for a short time but later lost interest.
- I am a hard worker.
- I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one.
- I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take more than a few months to complete.
- I finish whatever I begin.
- I am diligent.
Newell and Van Ryzin define a student’s Hope according to the following measures: Hope, Engagement, Academic Press, Goal Orientation, Belongingness, and Autonomy.
Conferring & Weekly student conferences
Schools are practicing frequent individual check-in meetings with students to discuss their learning. This may take a number of forms, but some of the questions include: How are you? What are you working on? Have you met any learning goals we can document? And How can I support you on your work?
Citizenship surveys place value on a student’s role in the school or extended community. In the “2001 Home Office Citizenship Survey: people, families and communities” by Chris Attwood, Gurchand Singh, Duncan Prime, Rebecca Creasey and others, they measure topics which translate well in schools:
- what it means to be a good citizen;
- perceptions of racial prejudice and discrimination;
- people’s involvement in their neighbourhoods;
- active participation in communities; and
- family networks and parenting support
Gold teaching strategies
The Gold Teaching Strategies company developed a list of social-emotional standards for early childhood growth documentation. These could be extended into higher grades of schools seamlessly.
- Regulates own emotions and behaviors
a. Manages feelings
b. Follows limits and expectations
c. Takes care of own needs appropriately
- Establishes and sustains positive relationships
a. Forms relationships with adults
b. Responds to emotional cues
c. Interacts with peers
d. Makes friends
- Participates cooperatively and constructively in group situations
a. Balances needs and rights of self and others
b. Solves social problems
21st Century skills
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills developed the following framework:
1. Curricular Knowledge Mastery
- English, reading or language arts
- World languages
- Government and Civics
21st century interdisciplinary themes into curriculum:
- Global awareness
- Financial, economic, business and entrepreneurial literacy
- Civic literacy
- Health literacy
- Environmental literacy
2. Learning and Innovation Skills:
3. Information, Media and Technology Skills:
- Flexibility & Adaptability
- Initiative & Self Direction
- Social & Cross-Cultural Skills
- Productivity & Accountability
- Leadership & Responsibility
Gee’s Prerequisite Reading Knowledge
James Paul Gee developed a list, specific to literacy skills, a more creative and inclusive interpretation of the traditional standards, which he called Prerequisite Reading Knowledge:
1. Access to texts
2. Ability to decode and comprehend print
3. Ability to engage in good inferencing
4. Good oral language comprehension
5. Rich former experiences in the world relevant to the text to be read
6. Rich former experiences in media & w/ other texts relevant to the text to be read
7. Background knowledge relevant to the text to be read
8. Motivation to read the text
9. Low Affective Filter (No affective barriers to the text, its content, or to reading)
10. *Ability to think like a writer
11. *Critical thinking skills
12. The desire to learn or do something valuable or good
How do teachers document learning in a way that benefits primarily students, but also additional stakeholders?
How could teachers and students collaborate to collect artifacts that will provide information around student motivation, monitoring learning, provide feedback, provide diagnosis, and also document students’ ability in 21st century skills, creativity, risk-taking, and hope?
Teachers and students can weave together all of the items listed above into an ecosystem, in which the multiple pieces work collaboratively to tell the whole story of the student’s learning and help determine next steps in their trajectory. I call this a personalized assessment ecosystem.
Student success is often measured based on one single assessment that occurs annually, typically testing content that is decontextualized, in a format that is no longer common in most classrooms. I propose a new way to look at student assessment, a framework for compiling and using student assessment data as a holistic and collaborative classroom activity. An assessment ecosystem is a documentation framework, drawn in part from Hutchins’s work on distributed cognition (Hutchins 1991) through which teachers at the personalized learning schools of my study collect, analyze, and utilize student measurement artifacts. These artifacts range from conversations with the student, to measures of personality type, to a state standardized assessment. The framework serves as a tool for both teachers and students to implement formative feedback processes (Kolb and Kolb 2005) to drive individual student learning.