Rethinking Assessment

As part our final M.Ed. Capstone course entitled, Collisions, Disruptions, and Diffusions, we were presented with the challenge to facilitate a seminar based on an area of personal interest in education. Over the past 3 years, themes of technology integration and teaching through inquiry have become central in my journey, as I have aimed to link theory and practice. Through this experience I have come to the realization that assessment needs to change along with teaching practices. This same wondering came to light for my Master Class co-facilitator, Jenny Loebsack. As we began preparing, we understood that this topic would lead to some collisions, disruptions, and diffusions in our discussions. Our goal was to elicit reflection and discussion on current assessment practices, how they might enable/interfere with learning, and how we might begin rethinking these practices in light of what we know and understand about learners. As stated during our seminar by a classmate, we need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable!

As a Minds-On activity we began by viewing this video entitled, Eyes Forward Assessment and discussing quotations taken from resources in our Padlet board. 
“As education evolves, we need to prevent this “currency” from being misused as the only worth of a student’s learning.” 
‘Grading Game’ (Watkins, 2015) 

“In our culture, we believe that every child is born with gifts. 
What will our schools do to uncover and develop the gifts of our children?” 
Pedagogical Documentation Revisited (2015)

“Students are residing in a 20th century classroom equipped for the 21st century. Students are taking 19th and 20th century exams in a classroom that has an interactive white board and 1:1 laptop ratio. This is where our problem begins.”
 Reinventing Assessment for the 21st Century (Marcinek, 2010)

“From Degrading to De-Grading” 
 (Kohn, 1999)

Some of the major themes that emerged included:

Product vs Process
-    What’s worth more? The attainment of grades or the development of skills for lifelong learning?
-    Evaluation of skills (eg. testing) vs documenting the learning journey (eg. portfolio)
-    How does grading affect students’ motivation and mindset?
-    Our interactions in the classroom effect student learning. Handing out grades sends a very different message than providing descriptive feedback to move student thinking forward.

IMG_3008.JPGHow and Why of Assessment
-     - The underlying goal of assessment is to know where are students are in order to identify how they can move forward. In order to do this, we must build relationships!
-     - Performance goals (ranking, grades) vs Mastery goals (experience of learning)
-     - Assessment can motivate or discourage, empower or enslave. How can we use assessment to “feed forward” learning? Student CHOICE and VOICE!

Global Perspectives and Authentic Experiences
-     - Need to consider the world we are preparing our students to enter into as global citizens
-     -  The ability to apply skills and think creatively to solve problems is essential in our changing, growing world

After identifying and discussing themes, we brainstormed potential challenges as well as solutions moving forward. Many of these challenges and solutions were further explored in personal reflections. It became clear that assessment is something that educators wrestle with and yearn to rethink. Challenging the status quo seems to be an almost impossible task. 

This experience has left me wondering how I might “feed forward” my own assessment practices and how this might model for others some small steps in the right direction.

My wonderings/next steps moving forward:

-   * Assessment Tic Tac Toe
Incorporate student voice and choice into assessments using tic tac toe board.
-   * Documenting the learning journey 
Explore the use of ePortfolio as a tool to support pedagogical documentation

-   *  How might ICT help provide personalize and holistic assessments?
I am excited about the possibility of moving from eAssessments that increase efficiency (eg. Google Forms) to more adaptive assessments using learning analytics.

For more information:

Rethinking Assessment Padlet Resource Board

Rethinking Assessment: Google Slides

“The practical difficulties of abolishing letter grades are real.  But the key question is whether those difficulties are seen as problems to be solved or as excuses for perpetuating the status quo.  The logical response to the arguments and data summarized here is to say:  “Good heavens!  If even half of this is true, then it’s imperative we do whatever we can, as soon as we can, to phase out traditional grading.”  Yet many people begin and end with the problems of implementation, responding to all this evidence by saying, in effect, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, but we’ll never get rid of grades because . . .” (Alfie Kohn, 1999)


  1. This was a really enjoyable blog post to read. I suspect that one of the challenges of re-imagining assessment is the pervasive nature of assessment in our culture. It is not just a matter of disrupting assessment practices at the elementary and secondary school level but also at the post-secondary level. In fact, moving to practices that reflect "choice and voice" needs to be considered in the work place as well. I would love to hear more about "adaptive assessments using learning analytics" and would suggest you consider writing a future blog post on this topic. Thanks for a stimulating read!


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