Toward a Clearer Picture of Assessment: One Teacher’s Formative Approach by David Peter Noskin (2013)

David Peter Noskin’s article “Assessment: One Teacher’s Formative Approach” (2013) provides a wonderful English-based example of a unit with a formative assessment focus. Noskin used Hawthorne’s text to discuss big questions and accomplish curriculum outcomes. Within the unit, assessment was “formative and frequent with timely feedback” and students were evaluated at the end of the unit after they were given ample practice time (Noskin, 2013, p. 73). Noskin talks about the importance of letting students know the purpose of the learning but he created the rubrics on his own, something I think his students would have benefited from. However, I loved that the initial pre-assessment of a journal response was the basis of the final essay. Students engaged in journal responses, short essay responses and grammar lessons that focused on student areas of need, like inserting textual evidence, until their final essay was created. Activities built off each other and students received ample feedback instead of just receiving an essay topic and being told to do their best.

One thing I really took to heart is the idea that “the text is not the unit” (Noskin, 2013, p. 72). I think as English teachers we often forget this but we need to consider why we are studying a text and how it relates to the curriculum outcomes and our big questions. I also like Noskin’s honesty when he says he now realizes “that using an activity because it is fun ought not to be my sole or even main criterion: it must foremost align with one of my learning objectives. Then, I can determine how to make it fun and engaging” (2013, p. 74). In the age of Pinterest, this is something all teachers need to be cautious of.

For more information: Noskin, D. P. (2013). Toward a clearer picture of assessment: One teacher’s formative approach. English Journal, 103(1), 72.

Creating Coherent Formative and Summative Assessment Practices

Lorrie A. Shepard’s article “Creating Coherent Formative and Summative Assessment Practices” outlines formative assessment practices that are more effective than exams. When students are faced with exams, or one time to shine, they are more worried “about what will be on the test rather than thinking about learning” (Shepard, 2006, p. 41). Grades, which are extrinsic rewards, “can reduce intrinsic motivation” (Shepard, 2006, p. 42). Thus, we need to create a learning culture instead of a grading culture, where students guide instruction and make connections to their interests and prior knowledge (Shepard, 2006, p. 41). Shepard suggests that teachers use pre-assessment, such as KWL charts, provide feedback that relates to the outcomes, allow students to self-assess, and plan with the end goal in mind (2006, p. 42-4). Furthermore, students need time to make changes based on feedback and apply knowledge to new skills and understandings (transfer knowledge) (Shepard, 2006, p. 44).

Shepard (2006) suggested that “replacement assignments and replacement tests or throwing out test scores when learning is verified in later assignments,” allows students to be evaluated fairly (p. 44). I never thought of this but really like the idea; everyone deserves a second chance and some students will take longer to complete an outcome but the goal is simply to complete the outcome, not necessarily all at the same time.

One thing that I have heard often but think is easier said than done, is creating “formative and summative assignments” that are “conceptually aligned” (Shepard, 2006, p. 43). Furthermore, I wonder how much time proper, fair and accurate assessment and evaluation takes. I think it would be best for me to start small and try to implement two proven researched assessment/evaluation practices at a time. I also have to accept that I will get better with practice and time but may need administrative and collegial support at the start.

For more information: Shepard, L. A. (2006). Creating coherent formative and summative assessment practices. Orbit, 36(2), 41.

Chapter 3 and 4 Responses

Beginning with the End in Mind

I like the quote that says “students can reach any target that they know about and that holds still for them.” Too often, the teacher only knows the outcome and this leaves the students unaware of what they are specifically learning or why they are completing a task. To connect this to my ELNG instruction, we are learning that if we are looking at a text with a deconstruction or a gendered lens, we need to explicitly tell kids this and explain why so that they can internalize these strategies. Involving students in all stages of the learning problem should reduce questions like, “when will I ever use this?” I love the idea of putting outcomes and indicators in student/teacher/parent friendly terms. Not only will students get more control of their learning, parents will have an easier time getting involved. Also, I think this would help teachers understand what they really want from students. This seems like a lot of work but Davies suggests using this simplified sheet in parent-teacher interviews, report cards and when making criteria with students, therefore one task can have many uses.

Describing Success

In order to describe success, educators need to know what success looks like. As a pre-service teacher, I have yet to figure this out.

The chapter also outlines that all students learn in different ways and should have many options to express their learning. Students need to be shown samples and models. They should also be part of the criteria making process so that they can give themselves descriptive feedback. When creating criteria with students, Davies suggests “1. Making a brainstormed list; 2. Sort and categorize list; 3. Make and post a T-chart; 4. Use and revisit and revise.” Samples help students but they also help teachers. Packages can be made that show different representations of learning, gaps in student ability and inform professional judgment and they can be collected between colleagues, schools and divisions.

Reflection

Davies suggests creating our own assessment plan. I think I would really like to take the ELA curriculum and summarize the outcomes and indicators. I think this would be great to do with a in-service teacher. That way, I would have a document that is more understandable and accurate to best support my students. I think this would be a worthwhile practice to do with my co-operating teacher this semester.

However, first I think I would need grade-appropriate samples. I can read and understand the outcomes and indicators but it is hard to know what that means for each grade level. Also, since I have never taught fulltime I do not have a sample base to pull from. This is an area where I will need to collaborate with a co-worker or two. As my career expands, it will be important to save student work so I get better support my learners.