Monday, June 14, 2010

The utilization of classroom assessments...

A year and a half ago I started my Doctoral Degree in Educational Leadership. As a teacher, this program has been influential in helping to shape my philosophy of education. In particular, I have really begun to analyze and critique the assessment policy I use in the classroom.

Last school year I was part of a committee that was reading and evaluating the ideas presented in Rick Stiggins' Assessment for Learning model of assessment. In addition to my doctoral studies, this committee has played an important role in leading me to re-evaluate my assessment practices. Rick Stiggins' theory ultimately leads educational curriculum and instruction in the direction of Standards Based Grading, which places more of an emphasis on meeting standards, and what students "must know and be able to do." Stiggins' Assessment for Learning identifies 5 main principles that must happen in order for this theory to be successful. They are:

1. The provision of effective feedback to students.
2. The active involvement of students in their own learning.
3. Adjusting teaching to take account of the results of assessment.
4. Recognition of the profound influence assessment has on the motivation and self esteem of pupils, both of which are critical influences on learning.
5. The need for students to be able to assess themselves and understand how to improve.

As part of my growth and development as a teacher and as an instructional leader, I have questioned how accurate my assessments have been. The more I think about my assessments, the more I realize that my assessments were and are not doing their intended purpose. I am a firm believer in using assessment as a teaching tool and resource, not just as a grade or piece of paper that a student discards 5 minutes later. As such, it is my goal to revamp my assessment tools to follow Stiggins' model to make sure I am using assessment as more than just a grade, but rather a resource. I want my students to become independent learners who can utilize assessments to evaluate where they are, and to improve upon their mastery of the content.

Part of my goal last year on the Assessment for Learning committee was to help teachers who were not a part of the committee understand the importance of accurate and effective assessments. As with anything new, there were several teachers who were not buying into the Assessment for Learning model. As instructional leaders, it is our job to make sure we are always thinking about ways to improve the educational model for our students. As the world changes and the needs of our students change, it is imperative that we are flexible and able to adapt to ensure that we are providing our students the best educational experience possible.