On Friday, I attended a professional workshop, “Assessment for Learning,” with Sheelagh, Sharween, Paulina, Gordon and Wendy. Tom Schimmer spoke of the paramount responsibility we share as educators: to protect students’ confidence and well-being through use of sound educational practices. He also noted that the most important instructional decisions are made by students themselves. They decide whether the learning is worth the effort; students decide whether they believe they are capable of reaching the learning targets. It is only after they make these decisions in the affirmative that we as teachers can impact their learning lives. In essence we are second in the rank order of importance as instructional decision makers.
Schimmer also talked of how assessment for learning reveals to students “how to do better next time.” He spoke of the impact on student achievement when the principles of assessment for learning permeate the classroom environment:
- student gains in standardized tests;
- increased sense of student confidence;
- the largest gains accruing to the lowest achievers (“Everyone wins, with those who have the most to win, wining the most.” Stiggins).
Rick Stiggins, in Classroom Assessment for Student Learning: Doing it Right – Using it Well, notes that in the case of assessment for learning, “assessment becomes not only the measurer of impact but also the innovation that causes change in student achievement; assessment is not just the index of change, it is the change.”
In the posted article, “New Assessment Beliefs for a New School Mission,” Stiggins presents an alternate vision of excellence in assessment, urging a balance between standardized assessments of leaning and classroom assessments for learning. He also provides the research evidence of the remarkable achievement gains that would result from such balance.
Our stated goal at JO is to have students engage in and take active responsibility for their learning. Assessment for learning, in essence, helps all students ask and answer three critical questions: (1) “Where am I going?; (2) “Where am I now?”; and (3) “How can I close the gap?”. These are questions that we are presently addressing as part of our School Planning process. As we inquire as to how we can ensure that failure in not an option for any student so too should we be asking how we can use classroom assessment to, as Stiggins concludes, “make success a driving force in the learning life of every student.”
Have a nice weekend