Every new unit plan we start a journey with our students. We engage in the learning process with our assessment for learning and as we move along provide further feedback in the form of assessment as learning. The final stage, of course, is assessment of learning. Regardless of the form it may take, be it a test, a PowerPoint presentation, or a poster, students often experience anxiety wondering if they will “make the grade.” One of my biggest struggles as a teacher is witnessing a student engage whole heartedly, experience a tremendous learning curve, only to come up short on the final assessment, in comparison to their level of effort, either because of academic difficulties or otherwise.
At the January Digital Literacy series, Dr. Roland Case, the executive director of TC2, addressed the myriad of conundrums that surround the issues on assessment. His main point was that students should no longer be assessed on their knowledge of specific content, but on the process they engaged in in order to learn it. Why grade them on something that can be accessed from the Internet in seconds? Instead of focusing on the product they produce we should be focusing on providing frequent, formative assessment around their thinking process. I have often struggled with my student’s need for feedback, managing my marking load, and assessing their understanding of specific outcomes…Roland had me at “Hello.” I was hooked!
I found this presentation quite timely. Right now, as educators, we are required to assess student’s ability to demonstrate a certain level of understanding of specific content. However, education is shifting, we can see it, we can feel it…I get excited just thinking about it! Can you imagine a system that no longer requires you to teach specific information, but a system that allows you the time to teach purposeful, rigorous thinking that results in powerful, imaginative questions? I am waiting with bated breath as a few school districts, like Surrey, take the plunge in an effort to move in this direction by having 5 of its elementary schools discard the report card and replace them with frequent, descriptive feedback that celebrates their learning and outlines strategies for improvement…an educator’s dream come true!