Assessing Assessment

Assessment is a vexing component of 21st Century education.   I find it annoying because mainstream instruction has made leaps and bounds, while assessment has stagnated, or maybe flat-lined is a better term.  Constructivist activities, Project Based Learning, Flipped Class, etc. are innovative ways to change classroom instruction, yet students still take multiple choice test at the end of the year to assess their learning.

Albeiro Rodas
I accept formative assessment.  We need to know what students do/do not understand, so we can address the gaps in understanding during the learning process.  However, summative assessment has less meaning to me, especially when it comes in the form of a traditional standardized test.  We waste 2 instructional weeks a year just on standardized testing.  How much time is wasted testing and reviewing for tests in most traditional classes?  What is gained? More importantly, what is lost?

There are definitely alternative assessments.  Performance-based assessments, presentations, and portfolios are a few examples.  However, their use is relatively rare compared to traditional testing, and when they are too heavily structured they become inauthentic--just ask anyone who has ever put together a collegiate portfolio.  If we switched to these types of assessments on a large scale… would it be worth it?

Why do we feel the need to test learning beyond the evaluation of regular learning activities?  What is this obsession with testing learning?  What are we trying to prove?  Some kids remember more things?  What we should be assessing is can you learn?  Can you teach yourself when you need to?  Its hard to measure these things when we tell them what to learn.  So, what should 21st Century assessment look like?  

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