Assessment has always been an area I have been very interested in. This interest goes back to my elementary school days and how I looked forward to each spring when we took the CTBS (Canadian Tests of Basic Skills) tests. Most kids dreaded it but how I loved reading the booklet and then colouring in those little ovals on what I know now as the ultimate standardized test. I never realized what CTBS even stood for until Googling it to write this post. All I remember was that it was a test to tell us how good of a student we were. The feedback didn’t come from our teacher but rather a printed out sheet that compared our results to students across Canada. That was in the 1980’s. A quick google search also told me that the CTBS tests are still be used. While this is not meant to be a discussion on standardized testing, this discovery fits in well with the statement Katia made, “the way in which we choose to assess and evaluate students tells a great deal about where we perceive knowledge to be located in the classroom and how we believe that learning should be demonstrated and expressed”. So what has changed?
When I reflect on my own assessment practices I thought back to when I started teaching. I taught the information, then gave a test which asked for a recall of the information and students received a which provided them with feedback on how well they knew the information. Repeat those practices in each subject. After my first couple of years, rating scales and rubrics were being introduced. I read a lot, learned a lot, and changed what I could to better match the learning that was taking place in my classroom. When we made the switch from curricula that was written with objectives to curricula written with outcomes, my division made a major change to progress reporting. Gone were the days of the traditional A, B, C, and D and in came the achievement levels of ET, ME, PR, and BE.
I was fortunate to be a part of the working group that developed the new progress reports and gained a deep understanding of what assessment of outcomes should be. I worked hard to incorporate new assessment practices in my classroom and had many discussions urging students, parents, and fellow teachers to not equate achievement levels with percentages.
I haven’t had my own classroom for a number of years now due to the roles I have been in. I have had the opportunity to work closely with first year teachers as an instructional consultant and administrator and assessment is always an area that teachers are looking for support with. It’s interesting how our assessment practices develop. When starting out, teachers focus on classroom management, planning, and instruction. The best advice that I can give to new teachers is that your assessment practices develop over time as you become comfortable with what and how to assess.
I was so fortunate to work with Christina, Janelle, and Ramona on this topic as we had many reflective conversations on our own experiences with assessment and assessment technologies. I have not had a lot of opportunities to use technology for assessment with students but I have learned about many that are out there. I see the value in some assessment technologies and the instant feedback it can provide students. In my experience I would say that of all the technologies, assessment technology would be used the least. On their blogs, both Daniel and Chris share some insight into their own reasons for not choosing assessment technology over face to face feedback. I think their stories are typical of how many teachers feel about technology and assessment. It comes back to what Postman said about technological change being a trade-off. Maybe assessment technologies with all they have to offer haven’t proven to be a big enough trade-off?
The biggest take-away for me from this topic was the alignment of the learning theories to assessment. Prior to this class it is not something I thought about or had even considered. I think this might have been a missing piece for me about assessment. It is so clear to see that not only do you need to consider assessment for/as/of learning but also how your assessment practices align with your instructional practices and your beliefs about learning.
With so many factors to consider about assessment, our choices around assessment technologies are of considerable importance. As we demonstrated in our presentation, it is imperative that teachers are critical of the assessment technologies that are available. Thomas (2019) states it simply, “if a tool is too complicated, is not reliable or accessible, or takes up a disproportionate amount of time, it’s OK to put it aside and try something different”.