How to Make the Perfect [Assessment] Cocktail

Assessment can be a sticky issue.  We know best practice is not a multiple choice test, yet that is the preferred method state standardized tests use--due simply to the ease of grading, way to lead by example ;)  So, do we use best practices or inferior methods that prepare students for a bogus test designed primarily for PR and political fodder?  Tough choice right? While it may be an easy philosophical decision.  The pressure from administration can often complicate things.  My general belief is that if a student can pass my assessment, they will do fine in a multiple guess test.

We often sit around and talk about assessment, specifically 'what is the best way to know what students know'.   I think we've concluded that it depends on the situation.  What is best in a science lab is not what is best in twelfth grade AP English.  While the specific assessment models don't always hold true across all the disciplines and developmental levels, the concept usually do.  Such as the concept of self-assessment.  I think this is a powerful assessment concept that should be worked into nearly every activity you wish to use as an a recorded assessment (grade).  However, it isn't always the most reliable option.  Self-assessment is best when balanced by a teacher assessment.  Obviously the teacher provides a needed perspective in the overall assessment of a given activity, and probably should be given the highest weight.  That being said, another valuable perspective are the students' peers.  If the student presents their work to the class, the class should have a say in the assessment.  The same is true of working in groups or presenting to an authentic audience.  A group assessment is a great ingredient to authentic assessment.

If you are truly interested in really learning what your students know its good to account for multiple perspectives.  If you are looking for a fast way to grade... well... find another profession because you're making all the rest of us look bad.  And while we're on the subject its OK not to grade everything you do in your class.  I once met a teacher who took 55 grades in a 9 week period---thats 1.2 grades per day!  To sum up, assessment is best thought of like a cocktail.  One part self assessment, one part group assessment, and one part teacher assessment... and, it should always be used responsibly.


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