Sunday, August 15, 2010

A fine balance : Formative and Summative Assessment in the classroom

Perfect Class


For the past two days, I've been pouring over blogs and tweets in order to get a better idea about formative and summative assessments in the classroom.

I feel teachers rely too much on the summative assessment in order to gauge student achievement against the school's standards.Formative assessments tend to be teacher driven and the information collected from these activities are often filed and forgotten; they are probably pulled out during PTCs!

Formative assessments should be seen as information gathering activities.Students should be involved in planning them as much as the teacher.

What should formative assessments look like?

1.Students should be setting goals with the help of their work, test scores, and benchmarks. These goals should be practical and achievable and must make sense to the student.
2.The teacher should be walking around the classroom, taking anecdotal notes. Is a child stuck? on task? needs to be challenged?
3.Listen to their questions. As a PYP teacher, the concept driven curriculum is incredible as it helps teachers understand the depth of student learning from the lens of the concept questions. For example,a  Form question would be : What does it look like? Whereas a Responsibility question would be: How can I make a difference?
There are some classrooms where the teacher demands pin drop silence. The students can only be pitied. I always keep the image of a busy market with its buzz as an ideal setting for a classroom. No music or view is better than to see your students walking and talking purposefully.
4.Let the students set the rubrics(which are too complicated anyway) and checklists, etc.This way, they set the criteria and goals and know what is expected.No last minute surprises!
5.Let them assess themselves against the criteria they have set. Learning is so much more meaningful this way.
6. Empower students and encourage meaningful discussions by asking them to peer assess.This gives them a sense of power and allows them to fill gaps in their learning.
7. Let students keep a record of their learning. This way, the teacher and students can keep referring and changing the learning goals This is vital for if any progress is to be made.
8. Lastly, give immediate feedback if possible. Not in the form of grades. Descriptive details which inform the students.

By gathering information, questioning, observing and transferring control to the students, the teacher and the students should know exactly where they are placed.

The outcome of a summative assessment should not be a surprise to anyone.

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