Using classroom assessment to improve both teaching and student learning is not a new concept. Benjamin Bloom first described the practice of Mastery Learning and showed us how to conduct this process in practical and highly effective ways. Mastery Learning yields not only effective cognitive or achievement outcomes; but also improvements in student confidence, school attendance, participation in class, attitudes toward learning, and a variety of other affective measures.
Large-scale assessment programs provide the foundation for nearly every modern education reform initiative. They are a vital component in our efforts to reform and improve education. Policymakers and legislators at the state and national levels see assessments as essential for change. Large-scale assessments are designed for a specific purpose – to rank-order schools and students and provide measurement for accountability. But assessments designed for ranking are generally not good instruments for helping teachers improve their instruction or modify their approach to individual students.
On the other hand, quizzes, tests, writing assignments, and other assessments teachers administer on a regular basis in their classrooms tend to be the assessments better suited to guide improvements in instruction and student learning. Teachers trust the results from these assessments because they relate directly to instructional standards in the classroom. Plus, results are immediate, relevant, and easy to analyze at the individual student level.
However, to use classroom assessment to make improvements, teachers must change both the way they view assessment and the way they interpret results. Specifically, they need to see their assessments as an integral part of the instructional process and as an essential element in their effort to help students learn.
MAKE ASSESSMENTS USEFUL
For assessment to become an integral part of the instructional process, teachers need to change their approach in three important ways:
- Use assessments as sources of information for both students and teachers
- Follow assessments with high-quality corrective instruction
- Give students second chances to demonstrate success
USE ASSESSMENTS AS SOURCES OF INFORMATION FOR TEACHERS AND STUDENTS
Nearly every student has suffered the experience of spending hours preparing for an assessment only to discover that the material the student studied was different from that the teacher chose to emphasize on the assessment. This experience is a common one for students because many teachers still mistakenly believe that they must keep their assessments secret.
Classroom assessments that serve as meaningful sources of information do not surprise students. Instead, they are well-aligned extensions of the teacher’s instruction. Such reflect the standards the teacher emphasized in class, along with the criteria the teacher provided for how student performance would be judged.
Ideally, these concepts, skills, and criteria are also aligned with the state common core standards. Students see these types of assessments as fair measures of important learning goals. The results of the assessments facilitate learning by providing essential feedback on student learning progress and by helping to identify learning problems.
FOLLOW ASSESSMENTS WITH HIGH-QUALITY CORRECTIVE INSTRUCTION
Assessment must be followed by high-quality corrective instruction designed to help students remedy whatever learning errors identified with the assessment. Using high-quality corrective instruction is not the same as re-teaching, which often consists simply of restating the original explanations louder and more slowly.
Instead, the teacher must use strategies that accommodate differences in learning styles and intelligences. Although teachers generally try to incorporate different approaches when they plan their lessons, corrective instruction extends and strengthens that work. Students who have few or no learning errors to correct should also participate in enrichment or extension activities to help broaden and expand their learning.
GIVE STUDENTS SECOND CHANCES TO DEMONSTRATE SUCCESS
Assessments must be part of an ongoing effort to help students learn. If teachers follow assessments with high-quality corrective instruction, then students should be provided a second chance to demonstrate their new level of competence and understanding. This second chance determines the effectiveness of the corrective process while giving students another opportunity to experience success in learning, thus providing additional motivation.
All educators strive to help their students become lifelong learners and to develop learning-to-learn skills. What better learning-to-learn skill is there than learning from one’s mistakes? Mistakes should not mark the end of learning; rather, they can be the beginning.
When teachers’ classroom assessments become an integral part of the instructional process and a central ingredient in efforts to help students learn, the benefits of assessment for both teachers and students will be boundless.
FINALLY – MAKE DATA WORK FOR YOU
The Educational Services division of ITS offers Educational Consultants with years of experience in education who can consult with administrators and teachers to facilitate the implementation of these assessment strategies using the MAGIC Model (Making Achievement Gains in the Classroom).
Employing the MAGIC instructional model, schools use extensive formative assessment to drive instruction and implement a variety of strategies for the purpose of differentiating the instruction.
To complement the MAGIC process, ITS offers the Gateway to Resources for Instructional Decisions (G.R.I.D.) for data disaggregation and analysis. The G.R.I.D. provides access and delivery of learning resources and data disaggregation to create personalized learning environments available through a single sign-on to facilitate personalized learning based on individual student mastery of performance standards anytime, anywhere and from any device.