Friday, April 22, 2011

What's the Big Idea? Matching Assessment to Instruction

Assessment is so very important and yet it receives so little attention and thought by many teachers. Assessment involves collecting information about what your students know and can do. Teachers often just give students tests and hand out grades, while these are simply low levels of assessment and do not fully assess how much a student understands and if the student can apply what he or she has learned. In performance assessment, also known as authentic assessment, students demonstrate their understanding by solving a problem or performing a task in the real-life context of their classroom or their world. Science is not isolated bits of observing, inferring, comparing , or recording; it is instead a contextual whole in which skills are employed because of a need to know. These assessments should match instruction. In addition to the lack of good assessment decisions, the term "evaluation" is often grouped with the term "assessment." However, evaluation refers to the process of examining all the data you have gathered from various types of assessments and making a judgement about how we the student understand a concept and use their science skills. Evaluations relate students' progress to their own prior performance and to that of their peers within the class. 

When I am a teacher, I will certainly utilize a portfolio as a form of collecting assessments and  evaluate students' progress over our time together. If I were to create a portfolio for my science methods class, I would include all of my assignments I have completed, my blog, my collaborative projects I have worked on with my group (power points, concept maps, etc), and reflections on my accomplishments- as reflection is the highest form of demonstrating understanding and knowledge. 

It is very important to use multiple forms of assessment for the reason that simply only using one form of assessment will not provide a true reflection of a students understandings and knowledge of a concept. Formative assessment is important to employ to gauge students' understanding of a particular topic while the learning is occurring, in order to prevent confusion and failure. Summative assessment is important to document students' final achievement and knowledge. Therefore, different assessments need to be given throughout the learning process, and this includes many different types. Having students keep science notebooks, in which students are engaged in thinking and their findings, is a great assessment tool to use with science in the classroom. One can assess students prior knowledge by asking questions in students' notebooks, offer opportunity to engage in inquiry, and offer a stimulus to further thinking. Students can also draw pictures in their notebooks to reflect their understandings, as well, and is a form of higher thinking and understanding. These notebooks can be assessed by the use of a rubric. Blogs are another great use of assessment, where students can communicate with each other and with their teachers, reflect on conceptual questions and experiences,and help each other learn. Technology can also be incorporated here, suing electronic portfolios and blogs to assess students (as we are doing in my science methods class!). Concept maps are a great tool to use to help students organize their knowledge. As long as the assessment is aligned with standards and the content being taught in class and students are aware of the criteria for success, then it should be a key factor in acquiring information about students' understandings. The more varied typed of assessments used, the more accurate and authentic information you will gain about students' understandings. 

Student presentations in science classes usually involve a power point presentation on their experiment- including an introduction to their topic and purpose, a few slides of the data collected, a discussion about what their data tells them, and a conclusion about what was found and how they will go forward with their experimentation. This is what I do in my science courses, and it is extremely productive and effective in presenting the information to others and is a good assessment of our understandings of our research and findings. Therefore, I believe I will use power point presentations, as well. In addition, I will use "prezi" which is a new site that offers a more creative twist and options to present information as a power point presentation does. Go to to try it out for free!

Writing is a great assessment tool to use in the classroom, no matter what the subject is. Writing offers the students a chance to collect their thoughts and reflect upon their understandings and knowledge of the content discussed in class. Writing provides opportunities for the teacher to see if the student understands the vocabulary associated with the content, evidence of changes in understanding from previous reflections, and if the student is thinking about ideas further beyond those discussed in class. Writing offers a free form of expression for any subject, so it is a great way to understand what a student is thinking, feeling, and therefore, understanding. It does surprise me a bit that students use writing so much in math because I certainly was never offered that opportunity. However, now that I have been engaged in so much reflection in this course, I can now see how writing and reflecting could be applied to any area of content. 

This week in class, we discussed various articles on this "edutopia" website and each group compiled a power point presentation to discuss their findings. They revealed insight into different teaching methods, the importance of inquiry in the classroom, different important assessments to employ, how to ask right questions in the classroom, and other personal experiences shared by teachers. This was a great experience and has allowed me to gain insight and knowledge about great tips to make my classroom a place of true and active/true learning. The power point presentation is on my pb works site (link soon to follow).

No comments:

Post a Comment