Making assessment the bridge between teaching and learning
A few years ago I visited a school for the first time and a teacher asked what my job was. I told her that I was a facilitator and a lot of my work in schools was supporting teachers and students with assessment for learning. “Ugh… assessment,’ she replied. “If they would just let us get on with teaching!” It was a wonderfully honest response, which demonstrated to me how assessment can start to be viewed as a required task which sits separately to teaching and learning, rather than the bridge between teaching and learning.
I think we have a responsibility, as teachers, to ensure that our students don’t see assessment in the same way that that teacher did – a task done for someone else that doesn’t have much to do with them.
A good way to test this with your own class might be to think about how many times in the past month a student has asked you if they can do a formal assessment to check their learning, or approached you after their self-assessment to ask for help. If your answer is ‘not much’ or ‘not at all’ or ‘my students, especially the more passive ones, would never do that’, then where do you start with trying to change this?
My advice is to teach students to be active and involved in assessment. Teach it like any other skill.
- What are we learning? To be involved in assessment.
- Why? Because it’s your learning, and you deserve to know how it is going so you can make informed choices about what and how to improve.
- Model for them the type of things that show student involvement – such as requesting an assessment or challenging the teacher when he or she hasn’t explained the purpose of an assessment well enough.
- Co-construct some success criteria for student involvement in assessment. The students might find it helpful to have cards with sentence starters on them so they can start conversations with you about assessment.
- Then, say that you’ll be listening carefully in the next week for active learners who are involved in assessment. If you notice something during the week, celebrate the new ‘active learner’ skill that the student has demonstrated.
It might be useful, when planning to teach students to be active and involved in assessment, to consider the things students might say in a class that promotes assessment as the bridge between teaching and learning. For example:
- I want to know when we have assessments coming up and what they are for. If I know this, I can make sure I do the them properly and get the best information about my learning.
- When I do an assessment, I need to do it properly. I want the assessment results to be accurate so my teacher and I know what I need to learn next.
- The teacher asks my whānau and me what we value and think is important to learn – both in school and out of school - and helps us think about how to assess these things during the year.
- When I think my books are getting too easy, I ask my teacher to do another running record with me. It is really useful to know how I’m doing and if I’ve improved.
- I have met most of the criteria for this learning but haven’t reached one of the success criteria yet and am not sure how to. I need to learn this next.
- Because all my peers also assess against success criteria, we can help each other. I can often see things for improvement in my classmates’ work that they can’t, and they can see things in mine.
- When we do an e-asTTle test the teacher helps us to understand any of the language in the reports and helps us analyse what we know and what we might learn next.
- My teacher is honest with me when explaining assessment results. I don’t seem to learn as quickly as some kids, but I do learn, and my teacher and I have a plan for how I can keep improving.
Remember – what is focused on, flourishes. Focus on student involvement in assessment and watch that bridge between teaching and learning flourish and strengthen.