A Different Take on Assessment

The Digital Age easily lends itself to creating numerical data.  It seems people want to quantify every part of society, especially education.  In fact, we seem to only assign value to quantitative data and shrug at qualitative data as being quaint.  In truth, you can't quantify learning.  You can quantitatively measure a student's score on a single test on a single day, but that, in no way, captures the complete experience of learning in a class, from a teacher, or in a school. 

I have come to realize that grades, just like numbers, do not represent learning.  Maybe they represent completion rates, but not learning.  Inspired by people such as Mark Barnes, I have completely changed how I assess this year, and so far I love it.

When a student completes an activity, we sit down together to assess their work.  We first look at the requirements.  I ask some questions about their work.  I ask them some content-related questions to make sure they understand the material.  The student chooses a fair grade we can both agree on.    I move on to the next student.  While students are waiting to be graded they move on to the next activity, depending on the day.
Students are pretty harsh when they grade themselves.  I have to raise the grade 9 out of 10 times because they are so hard on themselves.  I'm trying to encourage self-assessment and meta-cognitive skills.

When we finish a "topic" (similar to a section or chapter) in my class, we take a brief diagnostic.  The diagnostic is set of 10-15 question on my eInstruction clickers.  I don't take a grade on this, I just use this as a measuring stick for me to evaluate the effectiveness of my activities and mini-lessons.  Generally they kids score 70-90 percent.  This happens about every 2-3 weeks.  Other than my diagnostics, I HAVE NOT GIVEN A SINGLE QUIZ OR TEST THIS YEAR!

In the past I wasted so much class time quizzing, reviewing, testing, studying... not learning and definitely not inspiring a love for learning.  Cramming for the purpose of brief memorization is not learning.  Besides, the State does enough testing.  This assessment system is so much more personal.  Students are not simply dropping a piece of paper in a tray and forgetting it.  They know they will have to sit down with me and be accountable for their work.  It changes the whole dynamic of assessment and provides more time for more important endeavors such as learning and inspiration.

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