Making Classroom Assessment Work

“An event is not an experience until you reflect upon it.” — Michael Fullan

Guiding my Own Learning

Chapter one of Anne Davies’ Making Classroom Assessment Work has already gotten me thinking more purposefully about assessment. Assessment has always been something I have struggled with as a student and a teacher. As a student, although I got good grades, I was plagued by the fear of failing that constant evaluation brought on. Moreover, this seems to be a common experience. When we discussed assessment/evaluation experiences in class, there was an emotional response to sharing stories of our negative experiences. As an educator, I don’t want to make those same mistakes of creating assessment experiences that cause students to become fearful or resistant to assessment. The text has confirmed for me that there is a better way to assess and evaluate. It also confirms for me how important it is to get students to become “actively involved in their own learning” (Davies 5).

So far in my pre-service teaching and learning experiences, I have worked on taking in assessment for and of learning. I have worked a lot on incorporating modes of assessment for learning in my planning. In my EMTH 300 class, I created a lesson plan that includes a monitoring chart for me to note students’ learning. What I see will affect the way I sequence student work and connect ideas so that it is clear where students are in their learning and what the next steps will be. In my English Education classes I have worked with the writing portfolio method. This would help with assessing for learning, feedback would be given from me, peers, and their own considerations. Students would pick pieces to improve on and present as evidence of their learning. In Teaching Adolescent Writers, Kelly Gallagher says that a good way encourage students to work on their writing is to “[a]dopt a 4:1 [g]rading [p]hilosophy” (53). I think this is a good way to make sure we are both assessing and evaluating and not evaluating tpo soon as is warned against in Making Classroom Assessment Work. I am excited to work these ideas into my teaching, but I have had more opportunities to consider assessment than I have had to implement it.

Some of the things I had “forgotten” (or hadn’t consider deeply) were about creating and sharing assessment so that students are part of the process (Davies 4). I believe deeply that it is important for students to have direction and control in their education. I forgot that that could extend to assessment. How better to make assessment a beneficial aspect of the learning process than to get students involved in establishing criteria and assessment. I forgot how to make it a process that all students can get into. I think, as is described in the chapter, self and peer assessment is a crucial part of this (4,8). I think that process portfolios really work with this idea. I am also reminded that students need practice. With practice, students will build a foundation, get used to this way of learning, and feel more at ease around assessment.

I would like to learn more about developing criteria of learning with students. I am really interested in how we could begin this process and how I could approach revisiting criteria to make it more focused as we go. Should I do so as learners go through different stages of learning, or when problems arrive, or perhaps, both? Also, how could I ensure that all students are represented in the creating of criteria? How can I make it a cooperative effort, so that all needs are met. How is differentiation factored in?

Davies, Anne. Making Classroom Assessment Work. 3rd ed. Courtenay, B.C.: Connections Pub., 2011. Print.

Gallagher, Kelly. Teaching Adolescent Writers. Portland, Maine: Stenhouse Publishers., 2006. Print.

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2 thoughts on “Making Classroom Assessment Work

  1. Hello Paige,

    After reading your post, I have found that we share many similar experiences when it comes to assessment. As a student, I also suffered from an extreme fear of failure that was a major hindrance during my high school career. During this period of my life, my anxiety around being graded become very bad and it took to a point where I didn’t even want to do school work because I was afraid I would do it wrong.
    I think this fear of being graded when I was younger has effected me in my time as a pre-service teacher. Assessment has been on of the hardest things for me to get my head in my time in the education faculty. This has been particularly hard in English Education, where class discussions are a commonly used activity. Every time I have added a discussion to a lesson or unit plan, I always ask myself ‘what does a good discussion look like?’ and ‘how can I really assess a student through discussion?’. But, I do really like the idea of a process portfolio. This could potentially take anxiety away from assessment, as the portfolio would be progressive and would not simply be an assignment a student would complete in a week. A portfolio would be able to show the growth of students and would give students the ability to make mistakes, as they would be able to correct these mistakes later.
    However, I do have one question for you. When I was reading about Gallagher’s 4:1 grading idea, I wondered if he went you would not grade a student for earlier drafts of writing at all? I thought this because I think students should be rewarded for making drafts of their writing.
    All in all, I thought you wrote a great post and I look forward to reading more from you in the future.

    Jordan Halkyard

    • Thanks Jordan. Anxiety around grading and assessment is so personal for me that it is a major factor in my assessment philosophy. I am afraid that I could evoke that same anxiety for my students. That’s also why I like the process portfolio. I think the 4:1 policy could be good, but you’re right, there should probably be credit for even the early drafts. Maybe the 4:1 policy could be more about mastery, but have early work be assessed as part of the writing process. Students need feedback for their work, but the process should be honored and given credit for the purpose of establishing its importance.

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