Beyond the Assessment Institute…

This is cross posted at the Cooperative Catalyst.

I do think words matter. (See a previous post here.) I think how we define words matter and it’s important to have common definitions, language and belief systems when working together and sharing kids.

Joe Bower ended his post today with a quote from Socrates about the beginning of wisdom and defined, “…assessment as a process where the teacher and student work together to nurture a desire to go on learning…” That made me wonder…Is that how I would define assessment?  Is that how YOU would define assessment?

I KNOW it’s not how many teachers would define assessment. This summer, I’m going to participate in a professional development opportunity in my county, one we call the CAI (Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction) Institute and the topic is assessment.    Two of the outcomes are supposed to be:

  • A shared model for a process of assessment among stakeholders
  • Develop knowledge and skills for participants in assessment:
    • process
    • task and item creation
    • leadership

So, clearly the leaders of this work see assessment as a process.  But, is it a process “where the teacher and student work together to nurture a desire to go on learning” as Joe says?  Is it a process to find out what is known and unknown?  Is it a process to define future steps for learning and evaluate past actions? Is it all of those and more–or less?

Will teachers leave after three days with new skills in assessing? Will we have an opportunity to define assessment and come to a common understanding of the purpose of assessment? Or will we simply go back to our schools and continue to do weekly multiple choice tests to see what kids have learned in math, or drill kids with online programs like Spelling City and Accelerated Reader to define what they know and don’t know?

In looking at this year’s purpose of the CAI Institute, will we change our practice and how will we know whether it has made a difference? Will the representative teachers chosen to go then return to their schools and share what they learned to make changes in more teaching practices? Will we see language shifts in talking about student learning?  Will “item” mean a multiple choice question and “task” mean a real world one? Will we spend time on developing common language and exploring beliefs and building on current understandings to deepen knowledge and experience? Will there be opportunities to really delve into the work of creating high quality assessments that will make a difference in classrooms and in students’ lives? Will students see a difference in how they are asked to show their learning, or will worksheets still abound?  Will principals allow that to occur or will they be the leaders who set guidelines that drive a change to deeper ways of assessing?

HOW will the Institute be set up to forge common beliefs, to change the language we use in describing student learning and to refine assessment literacy to move beyond traditional methods to ones that make sense to the learner?  How would you set up a workshop like that?

What advice would you give the people who are setting up this opportunity, and how would YOU structure my day to have the biggest impact on students when we return to our schools to share what we’ve done?  How would you ensure that this three day institute would actually change what teachers and students do in school?

3 thoughts on “Beyond the Assessment Institute…

  1. Paula,

    Sorry to leave an unrelated comment, but I couldn’t find any contact info for you on the blog! I wanted to ask about a guest post. Please drop me an e-mail!



  2. I would hope that at the end of the three day CAI, that teachers would have a better understanding of how to instruct their students better. How do we help the students with the process and have a better outcome of their knowledge? What is assessment anyway? To me assessment is really an opinion of a teacher or administrator, of a students ability to perform a certain task. I believe there are many ways of viewing assessment and I am excited to learn the different ways and how to deal with them! As a student myself, I have a long way to go before I began to assess a student. When it is my turn, I will take everything I have learned in the last few years and apply it to my approach with my students.

  3. Paula, I think the definition of assessment being “a process where the teacher and student work together to nurture a desire to go on learning…” is a beautiful picture of the ideal in assessment, but reality is far from that mark. Unfortunately, our educational system relies heavily on the pen and paper, multiple-choice, one correct answer format. I am taking three classes to reinstate my teaching certificate, and I am learning so much about alternative ways for student’s to show their knowledge. It appears that you are already well-trenched in the world of technology, wikis, blogs, etc., but it is all new to me. I am enjoying the newfound knowledge and look forward to using all these methods as measures of student learning. Thanks for your thought-provoking, probing post.

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