Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


It is that time of the year when we start assessing our scholars' work and assigning final grades for the year. In too many cases it may be a time of panic. Are we prepared as teachers and students to go through the assessment process in a meaningful and FAIR way? If we have begun the year or semester talking about assessment, then we should have little trouble. In fact, it should not cause any panic and have already been built in so the transition is either invisible or transparent.

Here we are in June and how well are we prepared to assess our scholars? What have we done since September to make assessment meaningful and accurate? As we explore what we are doing in June, the conversation has to have begun in September in our classes. So let's talk about what we can do next September, now as we evaluate what we are doing now and what we can do better.

A source for assessing comes from Robert J. Sternberg's article "Assessing What Matters" from Educational Leadership, December 2007/January 2008 | Volume 65 | Number 4 Informative Assessment Pages 20-26. Sternberg lays out a comprehensive methodology for assessing scholars' work.

Assessment should be occurring on a daily basis. We should be using both formative assessment and summative assessment. When students can explain to others what is being done, can teach others what is going on in the classroom, formative assessment is happening. It can be informal and done in teacher conferences or in font of the class. Self assessment is a big part of formative assessment for me. Having the scholars write in a journal explaining and assessing their own performance on a daily, weekly, monthly, semester, yearly basis is crucial in the formative stage. Summative assessment oftentimes has a bad connotation and is too often associated with tests, especially the Regents or standardized tests. Summative is as the name implies a summing up of what has been done over a period of time. I have used webfolios for this much of my teaching time. Scholars reflect on what they have done in a semester or in the year. It is important to incorporate both formative and summative assessment in our classroom practices.

To make assessment fruitful and part of informing our instruction, we need to be sure the scholars are well aware of how they are being assessed. They must be part of the process, which is why we need to be talking about our forms of assessment with the scholars from the beginning. On my class webpages, ToDay's MeNu, I have a link to assessment and we begin discussing it from the first day and continue that conversation on a daily basis and especially in our fortnightly teacher conferences. Essentially we need to establish patterns of assessment, rituals and routines is a popular phrase for this practice.

So what are rituals and routines? They should exhibit a variety of evidence to meet the standards. They are practices begun on the first day and incorporated every day throughout the year. What is it you want to do and how do you want to assess? What can you do from the first day of school to begin that process? Establishing a successful assessment procedure starts from the first day of school and is reinforced everyday of the school year.

Star now to plan for next year, based on what is happening now in June. Take notes, ask questions, and organize next year based on what you observe now in June. What are the successes, the failures, the missing pieces?

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