Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Assessment Should Not Be An "Event"

In working on IEPs this week, I found that the categories for "Teaching Strategies" and "Assessment Methods" were blurring in my head. If I had to pinpoint why, it's probably because I see them as so closely connected as to be near indistinguishable.  Things that would fit in one category, would also fit in the other, in many cases.  It is very clear that "conversations", for example, fit into both categories, especially when you consider that conversation is one of the 3 pillars of assessment from Ontario's Growing Success.

We've heard a lot about assessment for, of, and as learning.  We know the importance of diagnostic and formative assessments, and we still use big summative tasks that connect to big ideas and units of work.  But here's the thing:  assessment IS learning.  Provided I am not going to fall back to a lecture style, in which I talk too much, and completely bore everyone, including myself, then the daily life of the classroom is constant discussion, observation, negotiation, sharing of ideas, and the continued blurring of lines between teacher and learner.

I say "blurred lines", in this case, because we all learn together, and if I didn't see myself as a co-learner, then what am I doing this job for?  I learn and am taught things everyday by my students.  I may hold a higher level of math knowledge that I need to share, but that's just the job of a coach.  (I did get schooled on the value of 0/0 the other day, but I digress)

It may also be that I have come to consider "evaluation" as the least of my three roles (the other two being talker, and observer).  We do big projects sometimes, and we are proud of them.  But they are but the final step on a long journey. Percentage wise, we spend much less time working on them as well.

There's one more thing:  evaluation, necessary though it is, often occurs on artificial timelines.  I NEED to finish Geometry now, therefore the evaluation must happen, or I NEED to get to the next unit in Geography, or report cards are due next week, is my Drama unit done?

Real life doesn't work that way. Nor should it.  Learning is our main work.  We talk and learn and explore, and I coach, but mostly I learn too. In #cdnedchat the other day, I responded to a tweet from @DanaAriss, as you can see below.

How far along have we come in changing our thinking about assessment and evaluation?  What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Matthew,

    Your tweet on Monday resonated with me and has been one of my big takeaways this week. I couldn't agree more that the shift from assessment being a big event to it being an ongoing conversation of growth and learning needs to happen.

    We may be bound by artificial deadlines, but if we are having these conversations and co-learning every day, then it helps to take away from the unnecessary stress placed on our students.

    We are all learning every day and I love that you wrote how assessment IS learning. Negotiation, sharing, questioning, trial and error happen in our classroom daily and each of those occurrences bring a learning opportunity.

    Thank you for this post and for being an important part of our discussion on Monday. Its helped me to reinforce the importance of feedback and assessment as daily conversations.