Assessment is a tool used in the classroom every day. It is used to measure a student’s mastery of a skill or knowledge of a given subject. It is also what demonstrates to the teacher what the students have learned. Educators use that information to determine if they need to re-teach to a specific student, group, or the entire class. They can also use that information to determine the rate of their teaching. Assessments are important because, as teachers, we need to know what difficulties our students have and what needs to be refined for them. While I do believe in assessment and feel that it is one of the key components of teaching, I am more concerned with a child’s process of learning rather than the overall product that comes from it. This is where grades come in for me. Grades determine the students’ level of mastery on a subject, nothing more. Grades should not be the exclusive indicators that a student has learned the information that is presented to them. It is the things a student learns along the way that truly matter and sometimes cannot be measured.
Prior to teaching a unit, I believe it is useful to incorporate surveys and diagnostic assessments to determine what your students understand before instruction.
Observation, combined with anecdotal records, is essential, especially in the early grades. By observing and keeping track of these observations, teachers are able to tell a lot about their students. For example, they can see how they interact socially with other peers as well as how well they carry out a given task. I am inclined to be an early elementary teacher, in grades K-3. The first years of school are my ideal age group. The early childhood stage is a time when children develop the most. They are developing physically, cognitively, and psychologically. Due to this, I feel it would be more beneficial to assign performance tasks rather than tests. By having students carry out performance tasks, students can demonstrate they have learned what has been taught and also show they are learning real life skills that will help them throughout their daily lives. To achieve this, I plan to develop and conduct both formative and summative assessments on a regular basis.
Formative assessments are ongoing assessments such as records of students’ performance, observations, checklists, and rating scales. These are ongoing records that are used by teachers to improve instructional strategies in the classroom and direct instruction. According to our textbook, these assessments monitor students’ progress during instruction and learning activities that include feedback and opportunities to improve. Some informal assessments may be in the form of regular classroom activities such as class work, journals, essays, play-based assessment or student participation. I plan to utilize them to determine where students are at the time of learning. The results will indicate the pace of my instruction and I can modify the way I present the information. Informal assessments include a teacher’s.
Summative assessments are used to evaluate the effectiveness of the academic programs taught. They can be used to determine whether or not students have mastered specific skills or grasped certain concepts. During this semester I learned that summative assessments are administered at the end of teaching a lesson or a unit as an indicator of what the students know and are able to do after the instruction is completed. These assessments will vary in form such as quizzes, tests, presentations, essays, and growth portfolios. I like to incorporate a variety of assessments in my instruction because it gives students an opportunity to demonstrate what they know as a result of the lesson, not based on the type of assessment. While one child may not be good at tests they might be good at presentations and vice versa. This diverse outlook on assessment is what enables my students to be the successful learners.
As a teacher, I have some control over the types of assessments, formative and summative, that I administer to my students. However, there are other types of formal assessments that are data driven and based on statistics. These assessments include norm-referenced tests and criterion referenced tests used by the District, State, and/or Nationwide. Formal assessments can be given to students to test their performance against other children in their age group and grade level. They may also be given to identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses in comparison to peers. These large scales tests may have some benefits, but in my perfect world, they would not exist. These tests are presented in one way and does not allow for students to demonstrate their mastery or understanding but only their ability to ‘fit a mold’.
During the teachers’ panel, both guest speakers admitted that, at present, the classroom revolves around assessments. Everything students do in the classroom today ultimately leads to progressive assessments and final evaluative assessments. It saddens me that school has become this assessment ‘bubble’. I believe that we are surrounded by assessment and since it is a crucial part of our education system, we need assessment in the classroom but do it in a way that is strictly meant to monitor student’s progress and whether we are effectively teaching or not.
The panel also talked briefly about grading. Often, teachers have a hard time agreeing on what practices are ethical when it comes to determining a grade. It is a general consensus that grades are a powerful symbol and have the capacity to impact students in a positive or negative way since they can represent different things for different people. The use of rubrics and checklists are important to me. These checklists and rubrics should be shared with the students constantly and discussed at length so that students are aware of what they will be graded on and what each aspect of their grade is based upon. Grades, as I stated earlier, should be limited to the level of knowledge within the subject that has already been taught, not about the students ability to read the instructions. I also believe there should be different grades for different things, for example, in a grade for a language arts performance, I should not include points for non-related items.
On a college course syllabus we have a section that includes all of the elements needed for a final grade with a total worth for each section. Each of these elements has a rubric of its own that composes the overall final grade for that assignment. This method of grading is what I would like to incorporate for my students, making the necessary modifications based on their age group, grade level, school policy, and district policy. I believe that academic skills are a separate grade from social, emotional, and community skills. If students know what to expect, a grade will not come as a surprise to them. Students will be able to know what is required of them to get a passing score or a mastery score.
I also believe in giving students an opportunity to redo an assignment if they believe they can do better. With the redo, however, they will also include an explanation as to why they believed they could do better the second time around. I will not take points away with a redo because the goal is not to penalize students for making an effort to succeed but rather to help them see where they could improve and noticing said improvement.
If I assess what I teach, my grade results should be valid. If my results are reliable, and they indicate that the class did poorly on one exam, the assessment indicates that there is something that my students didn’t understand and, therefore, something I didn’t effectively teach. In this instance, I should re-examine my grading policy and adjust it to reflect what the students were able to do, not what I was not able to teach. My philosophy is not only that assessment is vital for the classroom, but using the results appropriately is crucial to the continuing of effective teaching.
It is my goal to make assessment and grading a positive element to my classroom for both my students and me. I want to give many opportunities for my students to do well and achieve mastery as well as become the best student they can be. Students should not just be measured by the end result. Learning is a process and I believe that it is in this process that true learning occurs. Aside from being graded on the basic facts, students need to be measured on how well they apply their knowledge. Assessment will be a huge part of my classroom; however, I will hold more importance for a student’s performance and progress rather than a factual test. Down the road, these students will need the skills learned during their early years. A multiple choice question isn’t what is going to help them in the long run. However, the process they used to learn and decide upon the answer will.
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