28 June 2012

Buck Institute Day 2: Assessment reflection

If teachers are safecrackers, each assessment is a number in the combination that helps us unlock the treasure. 

Assessments are not whole combinations unto themselves, if done correctly. We should have to listen carefully, find the right tools to detect when we hit the number we need next. If the whole combo's just handed to us on a single piece of paper, then the vault we open is probably empty already (think the vocab list memorized just long enough to pass). If someone hands over a combination that easy, you can bet they don't value what you'll find if you use it.

WHO should assess?
  • The student him/herself (25%)
  • Collaborating peers (25%)
  • Teacher (50%)

WHAT needs to be assessed?
  • Content Knowledge  (60%)
  • Critical Thinking (20%)
  • Collaboration (10%)
  • Communication (10%)
WHEN should it be assessed?
  • ALL.
  • THE.
  • TIME.

    The best analogy I've heard was the swim team that was actually laughing and enjoying swim meets, the coach too! "Why aren't you yelling at them? Pushing them?" other coaches and swimmers would ask. "We did all that during practice--our work is done!"

    Our presenter, Sr. Eisberg  (also the aforementioned swim coach), said, "The summative is celebration of content knowledge."

    This means:
  • Always let students re-do formative assessments to improve, so their final product can be its best.
  • Assess research collection the first week--everything else should build on it and add to it.
  • Use the "Need to know" list, checking off the questions that are answered, but also adding questions that come up. These "Need to knows" are also assessments to indicate to you where direct instruction (IE old lessons that worked well) or perhaps some small-group pull-out sessions can actually be useful.
  • Assess content knowledge  in pieces, one aspect at a time, one "need to know" at a time, ensuring mastery of each before beginning the "celebration."

HOW does it need to be assessed?
  • Rubrics, not checklists. I will never forget the example of the "Kitty Karrier" project where one picture was a neat, creative design, but one was a cat stuffed in a box, but it still met as many of the criteria as the fancy one.
  • Asessment should be done considerately, respectfully, according to critical friends protocols. Instead of accusations and insults, peers and teachers should couch their suggestions in "I wonder" statements and sandwich them between "I like" statements. Maybe "me gusta" and "quiero saber" on student blogs? (NCNSP taught us to use "I noticed" rather than "I like," but I'd say praise has more worth to a student being assessed than pure "objectivity").
  • Assessment should be re-doable. Maybe not the summative (after all, when the swim meet is over, it is over), but the formatives along the way should be things students can re-do until they get it--but perhaps for partial credit the second time around.

    (Interesting but relevant fact: it appears my new district REQUIRES that students be allowed to re-do anything with an 85 or below. Me, I think it's cool that they've thought about this enough to have a policy on it.)
  • Assessment's should be doled out step by step, one thing to fix at a time, and if possible, delivered by peers. See how Ron Berger explain's Austin's Butterfly:

  • Like Austin, students should have something to aim for, something to which their work can be compared. They can't all be photograph-drawing comparisons, of course, but rubrics should be descriptive enough that they can be used like Austin used the drawing. If the rubric is not as clear to the students as the butterfly picture, well, you have some "Need to knows" to address, don't you? As another presenter, Erika, said, "Students can only hit targets they can see."
  • Self-assessment should be submitted up to half an hour before class is over so you can go back and challenge any responses that seem too hasty or do not match what you saw. BUT always approach it as if you missed something, so they 1) do not feel cornered and 2) feel free to get you up to speed and learn to elaborate on their own contributions.
  • Assess collaboration individually still, but instead of "how the group worked together," reflect on "how YOU worked with everyone else" and "what YOU are doing to solve the problems."
  • A few lower-order-thinking online assessments along the way provide quick checks of comprehension, and--with the right programs--immediate feedback so the information is ingrained accurately.

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