As I come to the end of my semester at MSU, I am reflecting the changes I have had in my belief surrounding assessments by looking at the post I had about my three beliefs about assessment, it also conveniently happens at a time where most of the classes I am teaching are doing assessments before Christmas break! Assessment should be in-depth, continuous, multi-faceted and individualized giving a full view of an individual on as many levels as possible. This, though, is an exploration of my three specific belief so let me dive in and reassess my belief on assessment.
Let’s look at those initial beliefs I had, and how I would revise them now.
Where was I, and where am I now?
- It should happen regularly -> It should happen continuously, intentionally and adaptively
- It should be individualized -> It should be individualized and changing as individuals change
- It should mirror real life -> It should mirror real life and measure ability within a semiotic domain, as well as the ability to apply outside of a given semiotic domain.
It should happen regularly -> It should happen continuously, intentionally and adaptively
So, looking at the first belief, it may seem like a trivial change I made, but the wording is intentional, just like the assessment should be intentional. Assessment should be done on a continuous ongoing basis, with the educator reflectively assessing the state of the learners and how that state reflects on the course, the learning process, the instructor, and how these things can be improved or changed to better fit the circumstances. I initially thought that assessment needed to happen at periodic intervals throughout a learning period, but now realize that every interaction, assignment, and experience is an assessment of sort, and that assessments take many forms beyond the traditional test, quiz or homework assignment. Rather, every action should be intentionally designed and thought about as to what it tells me as an educator. This gives us a deeper, more true understanding of the knowledge students have and the path to them reaching their optimal potential. Assessments should not be viewed as the way we measure and value students, but rather as a way for students to gauge their progress, learn, and reflect to optimize their own potential.
It should be individualized -> It should be individualized and changing as individuals change
The second belief again had an evolution, as I have grown in my belief that individuals are constantly changing, and therefore assessments must be constantly evolving. While it is easily understood that two completely different individuals will have different methods of showing their ability or knowledge, it also should be acknowledged that as an individual grows, gains new experiences, and changes the way they can show their ability and knowledge will change, and our assessments should be reflective of that. A student may initially be only able to explain a concept or idea in theory and on a straight-forward circumstance, but as they increase their expertise within the area, they will be able to apply higher level thinking and critical analysis with the skill and how they are assessed must reflect this. Again, assessments should not be used to “catch” a student and take points away from them, but rather find a way to allow them to shine, to show their ability and potential, to measure their progress and to push themselves.
It should mirror real life -> It should mirror real life and measure ability within a semiotic domain, as well as the ability to apply outside of a given semiotic domain.
My third belief may be the one with the greatest growth and change. Students should have assessments that reflect real life, both within and outside of a given semiotic domain. When we are assessing someone, it is essential to measure their ability to utilize that content in different circumstances. For example, assessing how well a student can describe a chemical reaction is good, measuring how they can utilize it in a laboratory setting is even better, but we also should measure how well they can apply that knowledge outside of that semiotic domain such as explaining the importance/benefit of that reaction to a lay person. This not only is pertinent to real world application but gives a deeper and more true evaluation of knowledge.
How do these changes connect to my course?
From the start of the course we explored how assessment is constantly happening, whether intentional or not, and that this assessment can either be wasted or can be used to drive learning. Assessment is a continual process, and whether the assessment is formal or informal, or is an assessment of learning, for learning, or as learning and as an educator you must be aware of what you are doing, how you are doing it, and what it should mean. This ties well into all three beliefs as assessment is continuous, adaptable or individualizable, and can and should mirror real life. Based on the various types of assessment that exists you can and should employ a variety of techniques continuously to create a deep understanding, and a rich varying set of learning conditions for your students. The more you employ formative assessment for your students the more opportunity they must learn and grow from it. We explored Understanding by Design and this supports the fact that assessment is continuous and should be used reflectively to inform the instruction you are providing as well as a mirror of real life. When instruction is designed with the backwards design method, assessment should be aiding to achieve that desired end goal and to give an optimal, adaptive path towards that desired goal. This would mean that a continuous assessment is conducted to monitor progress and aid in learning to ensure the desired outcome is reached. Some additional growth I had from the course for this is the various CMS’s that exist and the specific affordances that each of these provide you. Many different CMS exist that allow you to provide a variety of individualized options for continuous assessment of learning and progress, and exploring each one’s constraints and affordances forces you to explore the constraints within my personal teaching. Using available digital tools you can create quizzes, tests, journals, and documents that allow you to tailor your assessments for a variety of circumstances, and allow for individualized answers and two way feedback which enhances the effect. This leads me into the importance of individualized and continuous feedback, as Hattie and Timperley (1999) pointed out individualized feedback is of high value to overall learning, and I learned the importance of that feedback being specific, actionable, motivating, and informative to optimize its benefits to learners. Lastly, we explored the potential of digital games for assessment and this adds a unique and intriguing aspect of potential for individualization within assessment as you can create content that is both engaging and individualized for your students. Overall each of the modules that we explored forced me to explore my assessment beliefs and expand, evolve or reinforce them both in theory and practice.
I have had the ability to directly apply many of the things I have learned directly into my practice. First I created a checklist that I use to guide my assessment’s that I create within my classes. This checklist helps to guide my assessments to be optimal in what I know about how assessments should be. I also have explored creating twine games which I am still a novice with but find exciting to increase engagement and excitement about content. Additionally, I have started to use Khan Academy, which is a CMS that I previously had used sparingly but I have now explored how to use it more holistically as an assessment method for my students. The final way this has impacted my assessment practice is the work I am now beginning to do on developing a more holistic assessment method that utilizes continuous and full measurements of my students that provides feedback to improve their learning.