Sunday, February 11, 2007

Fair Isn't Always Equal by Rick Wormeli - Assessment

The second section of the book focuses on assessment. From it, I have a new favorite quote about grading & testing: "Too often, educational tests, grades, and report cards are treated by teachers as autopsies when they should be viewed as physicals." Douglas Reeves

Wormeli writes about 3 types of assessment: preassessment, formative assessment, and cumulative assessment. "Many teachers make the mistake of spending considerable energy designing a culminating project or test, but its end-of-unit nature limits impact on student learning. Students can't use the feedback they gain from such assessments to grow. A better use of energy, then, is for teachers to spend considerable time and effort designing and using formative assessments offered in route to summative achievements. These frequent checkpoints are where students learn the most. They allow teachers to change course mid-journey, and they keep students and their parents informed - positives all around." (p. 28) I know that I have been guilty of this and I have watched numerous other teachers do the same. I think I have now gone too far to the other side; I use many formative assessments and almost no cumulative assessments. Wormeli has me seriously reconsidering this.

Wormeli spends a chapter on 3 types of assessment: portfolios, rubrics, and self-assessments. He makes some interesting comments about rubrics, including dividing them into analytic vs. holistic rubrics. It appears that analytic rubrics are what I'm accustomed to using, but I'm still not sure I fully understand the differences. I'll have to do some more research.His ideas about portfolios and student assessments have provoked some interesting thinking. I've been struggling with how best to use portfolios in my classroom and have not managed to come up with anything reasonable. Wormeli has managed to give me some good ideas, including doing some things electronically. I think it would be fascinating to have students scan in work and orally, digitally record their reasons for including each item. However, this will require that I think seriously about how to help students choose work examples.
Reading the ideas on self-assessment prove to me that I am already doing some of this, without realizing. However, I need to formalize and find better ways to respond to students' self-assessments. Their interactive notebooks, reading notebooks, and math logs all include at least a bit of self-assessment, but they do not currently get any useful feedback from me. This has bothered me before, but it is really eating at me now that I've read this.

Going into more depth on assessments, Wormeli writes about ways to tier assessments. One good point that he makes is that teachers should begin with the on-grade level task and then work up or down as necessary to meet the needs of the students. In this way, teachers can be focused on the on-grade level tasks rather than ending up with unreasonable expectations based on having planned for advanced tasks. Many of Wormeli's ideas for tiering assessments seem too cumbersome for daily use (at least to me): learning contracts, learning menus, and tic-tac-toe boards. Others, like cubing and RAFT, seem forced in some ways and not completely useful. However, the overall idea of tiering assessments is critical and he makes some good points. He reminds teachers that we must begin our planning for tiered assessments by "expecting every student to demonstrate full proficiency with the standard, not something less." (p. 56) This sends us back to the ideas of differentiated instruction and the need to fully understand the standards and objectives and what it means to meet and master them. The one idea of a possible assessment that was completely new to me and seems worth a try is the "one-word summaries". Students choose one word to describe a topic and then argue for or against it as a good description. The teacher can supply the list of words which can allow for tiering. It sounds like something I want to try with my class this year.

1 comment:

A mom said...

Awesome summary on Wormeli's thoughts in that book!