Activating Students in an Assessment as Learning Classroom Environment

Activating Students in an Assessment as Learning Classroom EnvironmentA recent piece by Terry Heick at TeachThought – The Most Important Question Every Assessment Should Answer – nicely shares why assessment for learning, or formative assessment, is much more important to student learning than assessment of learning, which focuses on past tense learning indicators.

As Terry says in his blog…

The benefit of assessments for learning isn’t merely a more clear picture of understanding; Used properly, it can also inform the rest of the learning process, from curriculum mapping (what do we learn when?) to instruction (how will it be learned?) to assessment design (how should future learning ideally be measured?)

While the role of testing in instructional design isn’t simple, it really might be. If the goal of any assessment is to provide data to refine planned instruction, then the primary function of any assessment, whether an authentic, challenge-based learning performance or a standardized test, should be to answer the following question for any teacher:

“What now?”

Formative Assessment: giving teachers the data they need to inform instructionThat ‘what now’ is really what drives successful formative assessment and interim assessment in the classroom; giving teachers the data they need to inform instruction. It helps teachers and students navigate toward the same learning goals and outcomes. Beyond formative assessment, this is something that our MAP assessments do very well.

Now what if we took assessment for learning to the next level, by extending the formative assessment strategies to all students as well as teachers? In this evolution we’d have what Lorna Earl calls assessment as learning. In her book, Assessment as Learning: Using Classroom Assessment to Maximize Student Learning, she discusses how the student’s role as a contributor to the assessment and the learning process can improve student metacognition.

With students assuming responsibility for a greater part of their own learning, as well as the learning of their peers, successful formative assessment can really transform learning outcomes. While the chart here excludes learners and their peers from engineering effective classroom discussions that elicit evidence of learning, and providing feedback that moves learners forward, it doesn’t necessarily need to. All students – especially in the collaborative learning settings that will play a greater role in higher-order thinking – need to be active across the board with all five of Dylan Wiliam’s formative assessment components.

1. Clarifying, sharing, and understanding learning intentions and criteria for success – getting the students to really understand what their classroom experience will be and how their success will be measured. Certainly student involvement and participation here is critical.

2. Engineering effective classroom discussions, activities, and learning tasks that elicit evidence of learning – developing effective classroom instructional strategies that allow for the measurement of success. While this component has been traditionally teacher driven, with today’s Common Core State Standards, students are collaboratively taking part in engineering classroom activities and discussions.

3. Providing feedback that moves learning forward – working with students to provide them the information they need to better understand problems and solutions. In collaborative settings, students are providing their peers with this feedback at increasing rates.

4. Activating learners as instructional resources for one another – getting students involved with each other in discussions and working groups can help improve student learning.

5. Activating learners as owners of their own learning – student self-awareness and self-regulation is playing a larger role in more classrooms.

What role are students playing on you classroom learning team? Please share your thoughts below.

Photo credit to xMizLitx.