Assessment Belief Systems

This is a term-long discussion topic:

How will you use sound assessment principles to help students meet standards while preparing them to be life-long learners?

Here is an interesting Washington Post article on the effects of homework. Here is the original study cited: When_is_Homework_Worth_the_Time

Here is an opinion piece by Diane Ravitch: Ravitch Op Ed_100211 Does it change your views at all?

Here is the NRC summary in Ravitch’s op ed: NRC_2011_Summary.

Here is the link to NCEE report used in Ravitch’s op ed. Click on the presentation (pdf) or webcast to view the report.

Here is a great article on the issues with grades and GPAs: DocumentingStudentPerformance(2)

Task for this Module:

Here is the task for our Assessment Belief Systems module this week:

Due by 2/5:

  1. Based on the readings for this week and your own experience, describe your assessment belief system. Post your belief systems on this page.

5 Responses to Assessment Belief Systems

  1. Oona Badgley says:

    I have had both horrifying and exceedingly positive experiences with formal education. I remember tears, anxiety, depression and overwhelm in elementary and high school. A vast majority of these negative experiences came from either; classes that relied on weekly tests and multi-chapter homework assignments within a single week or had single assignments weighted so heavily that to turn in a less-than-perfect product meant a surefire F in the class. This, in my opinion, and as some of the research and materials that i’ve read through this week clarify, is not the most effective way to create lifelong learners.

    Although, here I am, in a graduate program to learn the art of teaching. So, what positive influences helped me to overcome my negative experiences with school? It was the teachers that said, you’re not there…yet, and asked what more I could do. They prompted me and my classmates to take our thoughts are far as we could. The classes in which I could, in someway, play a role in my own education, those sparked my curiosity and lit a flame that I am still following today. Much of the same is illustrated in chapter 1 (Stiggins) and I really appreciated reading the examples and the detailed methods in which to guide students towards their own self discovery.

    I have always leaned towards the belief that you must teach the “whole child”, head, heart, hands, health as much as possible. How can you test the growth of your students in all those categories with a written test? Or by a single letter grade? or even GPA. I think it definitely falls short. It will be interesting to learn how to assess my students with this in mind and attempt to use the absolute best practices to create assessments that have the best chance of capturing the growth and competency of students.

    From what i’ve read thus far, and my own personal beliefs, I think that students involved in their own assessment process is an incredible way to spark an interest in learning that could remain for some time, while also being rigorous enough to meet standards. Also, striving to be extremely clear, with expectations, learning targets and instruction is HUGE and can lead to positive experiences, as they have for me, and did for Emily in chapter 1 (Stiggins).

    I will also strive to make learning a positive experience, by weighting tests and assignments fairly and minimizing any/all busy work. Also, allowing for the practice of concepts in class, will greatly reduce the need for out of work class, although, i’m not sure how eliminating homework altogether would look? Perhaps homework could be re-structured to make it more interesting, more fun, more natural or more appealing.

    These are my thoughts thus far, it will be fun to see how they shift throughout the course and beyond.

  2. Roxanne Winston says:

    I feel as though I have an underdeveloped assessment belief system. It’s still emerging. One of the things that resonated with me in the readings was from Diane Ravatch regarding “increased scores on standardized tests at the expense of creativity, innovation and imagination.” I’ve heard the talk of teaching to the tests and I’ve seen cuts in education around all things that are not academic. My concern is that we are being short sighted and we are not seeing the forest for the trees in respect to growing a thriving whole person. I’d like to see more art, music, shop, and all things silly that feel the soul and the imagination.

    The conflict for me is a standardized yardstick of which to measure how students are doing and how schools are doing. I’m not sure that standardized tests are the way and I’m not sure I could measure the subjective definition of success later in life. Is it college? Wages? Fulfilling career? Family? One of the things missing for me in the studies referenced in the reading was student’s own feelings or thoughts about homework, academic engagement, priorities and so on. I found it amusing in Matese’s study that they had less than 15% complete the end portion of the survey which is where the section on academic engagement was. That tells me something about how much the subjects were engaged in the survey.

    It seems so long ago to think of my own experiences. I was a mix of procrastination and competition. I tried to do what was expected of me and usually gave what I had. I think of my dad who passed high school math only because his math teacher was also his baseball coach, those who can paint circles around me, but struggle with formulas.

    I think my assessment belief system is full of a of healthy dose of skepticism. I believe in standardized measurement and I want to see whole students who are oozing with untapped potential.

  3. Alex Anley says:

    There are several problems with assessments including bias, reliability, and validity. Instructors might unconsciously focus too much on specific concept/unit or create questions that require too high of a reading level. Their assessments might not be consistent or sound. That being said, proper assessments can be assessments for learning. It’s imperative that the content is comprehensive and that questions are properly worded with varied formats and basic reading comprehension.

    Assessments are also very useful when teachers encourage student participation and effective communication. Empowering the students builds confidence and gives them an accurate portrayal of where they are and where they are headed in the learning process. Proper assessments can answer questions like: How can we help our students learn? How can we help them believe that they are capable learners? The goal is to have teachers make important instructional decisions based on accurate assessment results in order to promote student’s learning.

    I was honestly a bit surprised to read that there is little evidence to support that homework is beneficial to grades, test scores, and learning. I was under the impression that “practice makes perfect.”. The more I think about it and also reflect on my personal experience with homework, I cannot find reason to believe that homework is either helpful or harmful. In my opinion, relying on standardized test scores is much more controversial than assigning homework. Ravitch argues that the world’s top performing nations do not rely on standardized tests and that this recent investment in testing is simply based on a hunch rather than evidence. Teachers,schools, and distrcits are too concerned with student achievement on these tests instead of comprehensive learning and growth.

  4. Erika Peterson says:

    I’m not sure if I have a clear idea of my assessment belief system. I think back to high school and remember how terribly I would do on tests even though I understood the subject matter, the opposite of a lot of people who are test-wise. I suppose, in so many words my assessment belief system right now would boil down to ‘Down with assessments.’

  5. Elizabeth Day says:

    My Assessment Beliefs

    1. People crave accountability (for others) and validation (for themselves) through “fair” assessment
    2. No assessment system is perfect
    3. Assessment systems will always be exploited
    4. Assessment systems should reward the right/desired behaviors
    5. Numerical/standardized testing has a role in assessment
    6. Assessment should include multiple factors and multiple methods of data collection
    7. Cost/benefit should play an important role in designing assessments
    8. Assessments (in education) should be in the spirit of improvement versus punishment

    Assessment has a love/hate relationship with society. On one hand, people want to have concrete evidence that their tax dollars are being used effectively and efficiently through student achievement data and teacher performance. On the other hand, people can readily point out problems, inequities and inconsistencies in specific measuring tools and methods.

    To me, the goal of assessment should be to demonstrate learning, progress, and improvement. Each student should be set up to succeed, meaning there should be a variety of ways for the student to demonstrate their learning. It could be a combination of tests, projects, discussions, and observations. Tests can be an efficient measure of facts and process learning. However, I don’t think we should only measure facts and processes, I think we should measure other habits and practices that will lead to future success. For example, in math, for most people, it may not be important in the future to be able to recite the elements of a point/slope equation. It will be important for students to be able to “think mathematically” by comparing and analyzing numbers. What behaviors in math class lead to this type of skill in the future? This would be a complementary measure along with some form of core skill/data testing.

    Another analogy is sports. I have coached volleyball. Sometimes a player will shank a pass but her form and movement to the ball are excellent. To me, this is a success even though the result was a fail. The player is doing all the right things to build consistency and skill, even if that single event did not have the desired outcome. Her process and approach are on the right track and should be encouraged.

    Lastly, I think in assessment people are often tempted to design tools that have zero room for bias – which is a good goal on the surface. However, it often takes out the human factor of assessing. People have the sense that an assessment system is fair if it only goes by numbers and standardized tests. But if the goal is long term success, other measures can sometimes be more important.

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