Over the past few years, I have been looking at various assessment practices, including those coming from Differentiated Instruction, Assessment for Learning, Assessment of Learning, Assessment as Learning, Formative Assessment, Summative Assessment, behavioural assessment and peer/group assessment practices. This is obviously not an exhaustive list, as many assessment practices ideas come out daily through blogs and twitter and google plus. All of these assessments are rooted in philosophies of education that can be at odds with each other: can you assess lateness if your objectives are learning outcomes, not behaviour, for example.
These philosophies are so ingrained into our practice, that many educators might not even be aware of the prejudices we bring into the classroom daily, through our choice of content, activities and assessments. Some have considered this to be a hidden curriculum, as it continues to ‘teach’ students about certain expectations around learning and being. When I first started teaching, I used assessments as a management tool (quizzes at the very beginning of classes to ‘control’ students who constantly came in late) and as a sorting tool. I needed to know who was the ‘top’ student and who needed support. I never considered that assessment could be used for student learning. It was all about me. Over the course of 20 years of practice , my philosophy on the role of the teacher, student, curriculum and assessment has changed dramatically.
I have been following several paths around assessment, lately. Each brings its own educational support for students and each has its downside. I would sort these assessments into two groups: content/curriculum driven and behavioural/society driven. The first looks at the content or curriculum that is mandated by the Ministry of Education (here in BC) and assesses, throughout the progress of learning, how well the student conceptualizes the content. The second looks at who they want as workers in the ‘real world’ and assesses their preparedness for that world: consequences such as zeros, late mark deductions, no retests, etc.
I can’t argue one over the other, philosophically, but I have found that I am moving towards the first group of assessments. Especially using standard based grading, where students know what they need to know and then demonstrate their learning.
Next, I will discuss the my own classroom assessments that I have used recently.