Sunday, February 14, 2016

Week 4 PLN: Assessment

My Philosophy on Assessment

At this point in education, assessment seems to be one of the current buzzwords, more specifically formative and summative assessment. Everyone is talking about it. In my eyes there are positives and negatives to assessment. I believe that when used correctly, assessments are a great tool for teachers and give teachers very valuable information about their students. However, they can be used incorrectly and due to this it tends to give assessments a negative stigma by teachers, parents, and students. I also think that there are too-many high stakes tests taking place, which puts unnecessary pressure on students and teachers. This pressure can cause poor results because of teachers and students being stressed about the tests.

However, in regards to my own use of assessments for true instructional purposes, I personally believe in using assessments, especially formative assessments, in my teaching to help ensure that my students are learning and that they're learning the material correctly. In a way, assessments keep me on the right track and inform me what my next steps need to be.

In my classroom I use formative assessments daily. Many times they are quick checks like having the students give me a thumbs up or thumbs down. I also have students write answers/thoughts on their whiteboards, especially in math, although I do use them for all subjects. Other formative assessments are pencil/paper. I really like the idea of using technology for formative assessments; however, I have not used it much due to a lack of technology resources in my school. I could create some to be done while students are in the computer lab, but we do not have iPads or clickers students could use to complete them during lessons.

In regards to Pear Deck and eduCanon (the two formative assessment technologies shared by Scott Kinkopht in our weekly video), I would love to use these with my students. I think they are great because they are engaging, quick, and easy formative assessments for both the teacher and the student. One benefit of using these tools is that it cuts down time wasted on grading since it does it for you, unless it is an answer that students had to write a response to in which case the teacher needs to view those. I like that a teacher can create an assignment for the students and the students can login and answer the questions while they are working on the assignment. I also like that it can be used during a lesson the teacher is giving and the teacher can give immediate feedback. These types of assessments are also more engaging and interactive for students to use.

In regards to grading formative assessments or not, I have mixed feelings about it. Many of my formative assessments are unable to be graded because students are not turning in work. For example, the quick checks I have students complete on white boards are unable to be turned in. However, many times the pencil/paper formative assessments end up being graded. This is due to the fact that my district is transitioning to standards-based grading and currently K-5 has implemented standards-based grading/report cards. We were advised to have at least three "dips" or assignments per standard. Therefore, if I only graded summative assignments, I wouldn't have enough data to give grades on report cards. However, I'm okay with grading my formative assessments for the following reason: The grades are not averaged together to get a final grade. At the end of each quarter I have to manually give each student a grade for each standard. When I do this, the formative assessments help me see the progress students have made, where they started, and where they ended for each standard. I also do not put as much weight into the formative assessments when deciding their final grade because I know they occurred when students were still learning.

Therefore, I do not agree with using formative assessments as grades if they are being averaged into their final grade. I do agree with using them for grades, if they are used the way I use them, to show student progress through out the quarter on a certain standard or skill.

I believe that students should get a chance to revise and edit formative assessments because they are the assessments directing student learning and teacher feedback. The purpose of formative assessments is to show what the students know and what the student still needs work on. Much of a students learning will occur when they are given the opportunity to see what their mistakes were and go through the process of fixing them. Before students are given the opportunity to fix a formative assessment or take a similar one, teachers need to make sure they give the student feedback and instruction on the areas they are struggling with. If there isn't feedback, there is no instructional value in formative assessments. These assessments should be used to guide students in their learning. If there isn't meaningful feedback, students won't understand the areas they are still struggling with. I believe that feedback is one of the most important parts of formative assessments. When watching the Rick Wormeli video where he discusses formative and summative assessments, many things stood out to me and were points that I agree with in regards to formative assessment.

Rick stated that formative assessment, not summative, is the most important aspect of the two. He went on to talk about formative assessments saying, "It has the greatest impact on student achievement, on feedback to the teacher. The whole enterprise of teaching and learning really boils down to that formative assessment. Can kids learn without grades? Yeah. Can they learn without formative assessment and the feedback that comes with it? Not at all." He then suggested that teachers should spend at least the same amount of time, if not more, designing formative assessments instead of summative assessments. Lastly, he stated that the best formative assessments include descriptive feedback. He noted that there are many people that talk about the following three aspects of descriptive feedback:

You helped the kid discover or you pointed out yourself...
1. What is the goal (objective)?
2. Where are you in relation to it?
3. What are we going to do to close that gap?

Also in the Rick Wormeli video, he noted that summative assessments can turn into formative assessments if need be. I agree with this because our job as teachers is to ensure that students learn and master the material. If students have not mastered it on the summative assessment, more teaching and learning needs to happen. A teacher can't just say, "Too bad!" and move on. Instead, they need to figure out what went wrong on the summative assessment, reteach, and give a new summative assessment.

I think it's important to note that there is no set number of formative assessments that need to occur before a summative assessment. A teacher may need to add more formative assessments than planned based on student progress. Finally, formative assessments should be short. According to Scott Kinkopht, they should only check one or two learning goals and each learning goal should have no more than 3 questions.

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