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”.
Interesting take on assessment and first-year teachers. You’re right, it is so important for teachers in their first year to work on the lesson and unit planning, and classroom management. Assessment is important in that first year, however, it looks quite different after you have an established classroom and you feel comfortable in your role. With Regina Public moving towards EDSBY in the fall, and incorporating a few shifts in what the 4-levels are called, are you excited about these changes? Or are you thinking you need to see it more and work with it more to understand better how assessment will play a role?
I am looking forward to using Edsby in the fall. Only the names of two of the levels are changing to be the same as the rest of the province – progressing will be approaching and established will be exemplary. This minor name change really doesn’t have any impact on assessment as the four levels still describe what we are looking for in terms of the outcomes. I also don’t see Edsby changing teacher’s assessment practices as it will just be acting as a one stop communication tool for students, parents, and teachers. Very similar to Gradebook, just with more capabilities.
Laurie, wow. The way you reflect on your personal practice, how it has evolved and influenced your practice and now the teachers you lead, how you incorporated Katia’s thoughts about what knowledge is acknowledged, located and thus where teachers look to see learning demonstrated shows such deep reflection! Add in the thread back to learning theories- you have an uncanny way of finding the connections between all topics! I find your posts so eloquently and perfectly illustrate how complex teaching while simultaneously simplifying it so I have actionable steps after reading your work. From this blog my take away is to name which learning theory my assessment practice aligns with and gathering data how much I assess of each. I think it would be very interesting to see what I assess, how many times and to get a picture of what I think I do, versus what I actually do! Thank you for this food for thought so I can be more purposeful, aware and intentional in my future assessment practices.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Great connection back to Postman. Your perspective is a unique one in that you’ve had an opportunity to work with some new teachers in regard to their assessment practices. From experience, I would also suggest that new teachers focus solely on the classroom for the first few years of teacher instead of burdening themselves with as many extra-curricular activities as they can. While the relationships formed through those activities is valuable, I have seen many teachers burn out and neglect classroom work because of extra-curricular responsibilities. I know that this isn’t a reasonable suggestion– the age-old expectation is that new teachers have to “pay their dues” and be as visible as possible to get that ever-elusive continuing contract. When I’m in full swing of an extra-curricular activity, I find that even as a teacher that has taught for a while now that I am not on my A-Game as often when my time and attention is divided between what I get paid to do and what I am expected to volunteer for outside of the classroom.
Thanks Mike! I agree with your view on those first few years. There is so much to focus on in the classroom, assessment often goes to the bottom of the list.