A new school year has begun, and as is the case with new beginnings, we have the opportunity to begin afresh; welcome staff, students and parents; and adopt clear and strong priorities. We invite you to consider promoting deep assessment work as one of those priorities. Why? Because deep work addresses fundamental problems in schools. It is also satisfying and meaningful, and promotes new learning.
We need deep assessment work because what we assess matters and what we don’t assess matters even more. We continue to rely on assessments that provide us with a very limited slice of human capacity. It is time for us to recognize and assess the full spectrum of adult and student learning. Now, more than ever, we should walk our talk when we say we value focus, thoughtfulness, perseverance, flexibility, thinking, etc. The time has come for us to fully engage all learners in the assessment process. Students need to be active participants in identifying and understanding the outcomes they will be assessed on, in developing the metrics of those assessments, and, more importantly, in using those metrics to set goals and priorities, monitor progress, revise their thinking and work, and assess their attainment.
How can we promote deep assessment work? Here are four actions educators can take:
1. Consider a focus on assessment as a priority that deserves attention, conversation, and work recognizing that assessment is seamlessly integrated with learning and that assessment is an opportunity to promote more learning.
2. Articulate and define all the outcomes you value and identify the distance between what you value and what you assess by asking questions such as: What outcomes do I value most as an educator? Which of those do I formally attend to and assess? Which of those could benefit from increased attention and assessment? Clarity of purpose and focus can help practitioners become more mindful in their teaching and help students understand teachers’ expectations.
3. Examine a sample of the assessments that students will experience in the first months of the school year. For each one, consider questions such as: What is the purpose of this assessment? In what ways, if any, could students engage with the assessment not just as subjects, but as partners in the learning process? Taking such an inventory helps ensure that your assessments serve a purpose and are done with intent.
4. Consider the role that students could play in understanding and even addressing existing problems or needs within the classroom, school and the community at large and identify contexts within the curriculum that would support their engagement with those problems and needs. Students are more engaged when they perceive their tasks to be meaningful and authentic.
LCI has made a long standing commitment to support schools and educators in their efforts to improve the quality and use of student assessments. We are eager to welcome a new school year and to support you. For more about LCI’s approach to assessment, and how we can help, click here.
Are you looking to go deeper? The following tools support the steps we have outlined, while the text resources provide further context and examples of this work.
This checklist for assessment to produce learning can be used to assess an existing assessment, or to revise or develop new ones. This checklist is consistent with many, if not all of the conditions that promote deeper learning and engagement in students. For a thorough exploration of deeper learning as a concept and its impact on schools, you may want to access this link.
The assessment blueprint can assist teachers in designing a performance task. One of its most useful features is that it requires that teachers articulate each of the steps students take as the engage in the assessment, separate from the actions teachers take to guide students and to use data from their work to both address students’ needs and adjust instructional moves.
The report Make Assessment Work for All Students is NWEA’s third look at perceptions of K-12 assessments, and it is the largest and most comprehensive research effort on this topic to date. It helps all of us understand why there is still much confusion in the field related to the purpose and uses of assessment and the need for a shared understanding of the role that assessment has in promoting student learning.
Engaging Students in Deeper Learning Requires Engaging Assessments, from two Stanford researchers, builds the case for using performance-based assessments, and provides design recommendations to increase student engagement when using these assessments.
In Deeper Learning: 10 Ways You Can Die, Jal Mehta highlights some of the lesser-known pitfalls for educators to be aware of, and avoid, in their quest for deeper learning.
Teaching and Assessing Worthy Outcomes shares lessons learned from a district with a deep commitment to performance-based assessment, to guide the journeys of other educators. Written by Giselle Martin-Kniep.
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