Saturday, June 11, 2011

Modernizing Assessment Types to Fit Our Times

Can You Spot The Differences in the two pictures?


Thirty years ago, I was sitting quietly in a kindergarten classroom listening to one classmate after another recite the alphabet until each had been called upon.  The teacher's primary activity was assigning and listening to these recitations while I waited patiently for my twenty-six seconds of fame.  My, how the times have changed.......... or have they?

As the years went on, I experienced great success through memorization giving very little effort at understanding the meaning of various concepts.  Do you remember those 'Spot the Difference' picture puzzle games when you were a kid?  Remember how long it took to find them all?  During these years, I was reminded about this game when comparing my study guide to my unit tests.  I had trouble determining any differences!  As a result, A's were easy to earn.

"But you can't assess a student's deep understanding of a subject and their ability to apply a concept through a traditional paper-and-pencil, crank-out-the-formulas kind of assessment," says Reeder, geometry teacher at Mountlake Terrace High School, Washington.  

This brings me to believe a 21st century assessment should be a menu of options for our students.  It must allow students to pick and choose the best method for showcasing a specific skill.  Every day, in every class, students must be encouraged and expected to demonstrate what they're learning so that we as educators can capture a true reflection of understanding.

The following three minute video clip is found on in which students share tutorials with the world.  In this clip, Bob (anonymous name to protect identity) is a 6th grade student who demonstrates prime factorization using a factor tree.  As you watch the video, I want you to assess Bob's understanding of prime factorization.  Is it difficult to determine Bob's mastery of this concept?  Ask yourself this question as you watch the video, If a student made a mistake during a tutorial, would you be able to identify the problem immediately? 

Many of the tutorials on are one minute or less.  Most of these tutorials are created at home.  This is one idea on how we can upgrade our assessment types to reach a true understanding of learning.  

What are some of your thoughts and ideas?  I understand it can be time consuming, therefore, what if you were to focus on the most important concepts within the subject matter in which you teach.  How could you match the assessment to our times?  Maybe in English, students are to write a screen play opposed to an essay, or read and study a piece of literature and then being able to engage in a thoughtful conversation about it, or in history, students are required to argue a case before a mock Supreme Court, or in science, students are expected to design and conduct an original science experiment to demonstrate a specific concept.  I look forward to your comments on innovative ways to gauge student mastery and understanding.

1 comment:

  1. I teach prime factorization in then same way. I tell my students when breaking down the number into prime factors that there first 2 factorsnmay be different from their neighbors, but the end result must be the same prime factors as there neighbors.. Also I tell the student they can check there answer by making sure that the prime factors they end up with should equal the question they started with. Like Bobs example 2^5 equals 32. Having a student create a lesson for the class would be a great way to ensure mastery.