Thursday, January 5, 2012

Assessment that Transforms the Learner

How Do We Include Students In The Formative Assessment Process? - Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo - Education Week Teacher.

I was asked to elaborate on a tweet related to how we can include students in the formative assessment process.  But since I had to sign into Educational Week (EW), I opted to post here instead - I don't enter into EW enough to remember my password.

We include students in the formative assessment process by listening to them.  We listen by taking part in informal discussions, instructional conversations, Socratic Method, academic prompts, performance tasks, quizzes and exams, eportfolios, etc.  We listen to them not relying only on a limited number of forms of assessment, but rather through the collection of many different types of evidence that allow us to make better inferences on student achievement.

In one sense, instruction and assessment are separate in that formative assessment should make instruction better (Popham, 2008).  Formative assessment should inform and transform.  How might that happen?  First, after having collected enough evidence from the students, teachers should determine when instructional adjustments are necessary.  This might include spending more time on a particular unit, given students more time to complete a task, or reviewing concepts that students seems to still be missing.  Second, teachers oftentimes need to guide students in making adjustments to learning tactics.  This might mean advising them to better organize their study habits or providing them reading strategies that help them read more effectively and efficiently.  Formative assessment through instructional and learning tactical adjustments then emerge at the classroom level and at the school level; that is, it's oftentimes a top-down and bottom-up change initiative.

In other sense, the line between instruction and assessment becomes harder to define.  As we are constantly assessing learners for understanding, slight instructional or tactical adjustments might be less noticeable or less defined.  An example might be simply checking homework only to find out that students might need a quick review before continuing on to the next unit.  Or perhaps a student was unaware of a change in personal learning tactics that transformed over three or four months.   

Besides relying on the different forms of assessment, we listen to our students by simply talking to them; asking them, perhaps on a weekly basis, the following:

What did you find easy this week?

What was difficult for your this week?

What did you enjoy doing?

What did you not enjoy doing?

How would you prefer to interact this?

What type of additional help do you need?

If these questions are asked frequently enough, there will be time to make minor adjustments throughout the course so that learners receive the support they need.