September 27, 2012
From Assessment to Assessing
Posted by John Spencer
"What's testing week for?" I ask him.
"It's where they make us take tests for a week so they can judge us," he says.
"Are you worried about being judged?" I ask.
He shakes his head, "I'm going to be in the top group like last year. But . . . I just want to learn."
There is so much wrong with that conversation. But in a few minutes, he has summed up the factory model of education: sort students through drill-and-kill, give them a label, put them into isolated groups based upon the quantified data.
My students spend one day a week taking common assessments. Okay, it depends upon the week. Some weeks, it's once a week and other weeks it's closer to three and a half hours a week. Still, after I factor in the three-day weekends, it's at least twenty percent of the time spent in isolation taking an assessment. Add to this Galileo pre-test, quarterly tests and the state AIMS test and students spend sixty-five days a year taking tests. In other words, students spend close to forty percent of their time taking tests.
What if we have assessment all wrong? What if we switch from taking an assessment to assessing? What if assessment was less of a noun and more of a verb? What if it was a dialogue, a conversation, an ongoing process that drives student learning often? What if we didn't have to stop learning to take a test and instead continued to assess as we go?
I get it. We need better assessments. We need portfolios and writing responses and DBQ's. But even that isn't quite what I'm looking for. I'd rather see teacher-student conferences, student reflections and teacher feedback on the work that they're doing. I would rather see students spend more time engaged in learning with assessment embedded as a part of what they are doing rather than something "out there" that they go to.
(Note: My thoughts on this have been heavily influenced by Russ Goerend's post about assessment and task)
photo credit: comedy_nose via photopin cc