True Formative Assessment leads to True Education

In my first formative assessment I came up with a unique idea for an end of unit assessment, which I believe is unique, individualized and highly inquiry based.  That being said I have taken a shift in my planning for my formative assessment away from a specialized assessment for a specific unit, and rather towards a whole new way of doing formative assessments for ANY and ALL units, topics, classes, subjects, etc.  This has been discussed many times, and what is thought of as revolutionary by some is viewed as unnecessary, inefficient or overall useless by others.  My hope is that this idea and design is customizable enough, detailed enough, and of a quality that would make it beneficial to all.

So what is my new idea?  In the 21st century why do we still assess student’s learning with a single standardized assessment on paper that allows for no differentiation, no true measure of knowledge, and no true progression monitoring, but rather different snap shots of how students do on one specific assessment on one given day under one set of circumstances.  A better way to assess student knowledge would be to utilize the digital tools we have, individualize the assessment, and measure to a high degree of detail and monitor them over time to see their evolution.  This would flip how education is truly done, changing it from a measure of specific learning objectives, to a true and deep evaluation of a student’s knowledge on a subject because what is being measured and assessed is the full student and their full range of knowledge and comprehension, removing the rigidity and creating fluidity.  In this circumstance all assessments of knowledge are formative because there is no defined learning “unit” or “time period” because at all times students are simply focusing on growth and development.

This new assessment would completely shift education because no longer are schools, teachers, students, etc. tied to an evaluation based on an outdated and inaccurate form of assessment.  This would allow education to simply focus on education, I know this is a novel idea!

So, lets dive in to the specifics of this assessment.  The ideal assessment I am thinking about is an interactive digital assessment, that is beyond an assessment and more of a learner profile.  This profile stays with a learner throughout their entire education journey and measures every subject they study, giving a complete holistic measurement of strengths, weaknesses and anything else on the learner.  In addition to simple measurements of learning objectives it would also give us feedback on their critical thinking skills, how they respond differently to different questions, and varying circumstances.  When a student is given a question the tool would assess their response for accuracy, as well as the time spent on the question, what other selections were made before the final submission, previous answers that could be related to the answer provided, and come up with both a score of accuracy, but also a score of certainty.  Unlike a traditional assessment, this would then provide a follow up question based on the specific circumstances and learner, either providing a simpler question, more complicated question, or question that is the same.

Some additional features that could be present in this assessment tool is the ability to add keyword tags to various questions which would allow for deeper assessment of learning and knowledge, the ability to add varying measures of knowledge ranging from basic understand questions, all the way to complex evaluate, create, or analyze questions, and the ability to measure for varying degrees of certainty.  This high level of assessment, and constant monitor of what a student knows, how well, and what secondary abilities they have would allow for complete feedback for the learner and educator to model learning specifically for this student, which means follow-up learning is not only present but highly differentiated, individualized, and precise for what the learner needs.  At the end of this assessment a complete breakdown of how the student did, and where their current learner profile is would allow for the best form of education tailored personally for optimal learning.

Pre-assessment instruction will simply be to teach learners to truly master their own personal learning.  Whatever personalized path to knowledge they are on, would be carried out in high detail with personalized instruction for the students.  No teaching for a test is necessary because the test is measuring true knowledge and understanding on many different levels.  The test is rather designed for the student.  A teacher can control every single detail of the assessment from the length, detail, type of question, measurement goal or outcome, and desired path or final outcome for a class or learner (which allows to measure progress towards that outcome).

The assessment instructions would be straight forward, because learners would learn how to interact with the system.  They first create a profile, then measure their baseline knowledge, where the longer they measure the more accurate the profile becomes.  For the start of each topic a learner would answer questions created to establish a basic foundation of where they are, and then they would measure that in comparison to where the end goal is for them, and what path they should go to reach it.  Teachers would then give instruction in one of many ways depending on the type of assessment being conducted.  This could range from giving a predicted time length, detail of assessment, etc.

Some standard instructions that need to be given are to inform students that the assessment will be different for all, and pacing will be different for every student.  Basic instructions will be given dependent on the assessment on whether or not some items are able to be used for example: calculators, notes, digital tools, etc.  Instructions for what is to be done at the completion of an assessment must also be given.

Post assessment feedback will be provided both automatically from the tool, and then also from the educator.  The automatic feedback from the tool would be a breakdown of how they did on the assessment, under the premise of what their current learner profile is, where this is in relation to the desired outcome, areas of strength and weakness, and the projected best path going forward.  The educator would then also discuss what these results mean for the student, and discuss any issues that they may have had, as well as planning a path forward.


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