Sunday, November 30, 2014

Three Instructional Shifts for Assessments

Making the shift to our new learning standards includes shifting the way we think about assessment too.  Assessment is a part of instruction. Start with an honest conversation with yourself about the role of assessments in your classroom.  How have you remodeled your assessments to match the depth of knowledge expected in the standards? How do you use assessments as tools to collect evidence of student learning? How do your students view your assessments?  What is your vision for assessment? How do you use a balance of Formative and Summative assessments?  These same questions can be asked at your team meetings, staff meetings or district leadership meetings.

Three Instructional Shifts - Assessment   

  • Evidence Assessments are tools to collect evidence of learning. What evidence do your assessments give you and your students? Instead of teaching students strategies for answering specific item types, shift your thinking to selecting specific item types that will help students demonstrate where they are in their learning.
      Start with the types of items you choose.  Make the shift from traditional multiple choice questions to two part multiple choice items that allow students to not only answer, but give evidence for why they chose the answer.  Performance tasks let students apply what they know in a real world context and let you assess multiple standards in one task. Try creating items that ask students to find multiple correct answers. This eliminates guessing and lets you see evidence of their depth of understanding. Be intentional about distractors you include. This can give you evidence of misconceptions or misunderstandings. Using text dependent questions allows students to find evidence to support their answers from the text passages you provide. This can give you evidence of comprehension, analysis, and inference.   Beyond item types, also think about how you structure your assessments. How do you scaffold questions to help get student thinking moving in the right direction so they can produce quality evidence of their learning? How can you tier your questions using DOK levels or Blooms' Levels to go from basic knowledge to higher level thinking within one assessment so that you can get evidence of where they are in their learning? 
  • Vision   Having a clear vision for assessment allows all stakeholders to understand the role of assessment in instruction, and what evidence of learning will be used in making instructional decisions or evaluating programs and staff.  There has been much discussion around time spent on assessment or too much assessment. Both discussions are worth having if they take place in the context of creating a shared vision of assessment.  Taken out of this context, they will lead only to disjointed assessment planning that won't benefit teachers or students.
     Starting at the classroom level, think about how you find a balance between Formative Assessments [for learning] and Summative Assessments [of learning]. As you plan instruction, how do you include formative and summative assessment in your lesson plans? How do you predict possible misconceptions and plan assessments to help you identify and address them?  How do you balance assessment of content knowledge and higher order thinking skills? How do your assessments mirror the time you spent on instruction? Common assessments, whether they are at the grade, district or state level have value. They serve as touchpoints, allowing teachers and students to compare the evidence of learning gathered by classroom assessments to a common standard.   An assessment vision also must include clear expectations for how evidence of learning growth will be gathered, and also how evidence of learning mastery will be collected. How this evidence will be used is the starting point for discussions about classroom grading practices and teacher evaluation.  One way to begin building an assessment vision is to work with a grade level or district team to make an assessment continuum. 

Building an Assessment Continuum

  • On individual post-it notes, write the name/description of each assessment used in a class or building or district (depending on the group who is doing this)
  • Arrange the post-its as a continuum from those that are most formative (assessment for learning) entrance/exit slips, thumbs up/thumbs down are examples of most formative ---  to most summative (assessment of learning) - State tests, ACTs tests are examples most summative
  • Discuss as table groups or whole group what patterns can be seen in assessment?
  • Discuss formative vs summative - should assessments be equally distributed along the continuum or would it be best to have more at one end or the other?
  • Discuss any assessments that provide duplicate evidence - is this necessary?
  • Discuss how the evidence from the assessments are used - by whom? for what purpose?

 Looking for information on Making Instructional Shifts for ELA/Literacy and Math? Find resources at or on my Supporting Ohio's New Learning Standards Homepage  Click here to go directly to my Assessment Literacy Resources

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