22 June 2010

quality in assessment

What is it that determines quality in assessment? I've been reading an article from Educational Leadership entitled, "The Quest for Quality" (Chappuis, S., Chappuis, J., & Stiggins, R., 2009.) It certainly raised some questions in my mind. The first thing to enter my mind while reading is a major paradigm shift in the attitude towards testing and grades. It reminded me of a cartoon I saw recently (I can not find the source or a copy of it) where the caption reads "1970" and the parents are yelling at their child about his grades. The next frame shows the parents yelling and the caption shows "2010", but in this frame they are yelling at the teacher while the student joins in the fray. I wonder, at whom should they be yelling? Maybe they should be yelling at both the child and the teacher. Either way, the current way to value the amount of learning a student has done, is through assessment. However, the real question remains, how do we as instructors perform authentic assessment of a high quality? I certainly do not know the answer to that, hence my enrollment in this class, "Assessment".

The most damning phrase in the entire article was simply "assessment literacy". When I read that, I felt grossly inadequate to do the job I have set before me. I find that when using assessment as a tool, I usually do what I imagine (hope?) many of my colleagues are doing: choosing the type of question that is easiest to grade. No, I do not really hope other teachers are doing that, other than the fact that would mean "I'm not the only one taking the wimpy way out!"

It is really difficult to sit back and look at your practice and find that you have not been doing things as you should. It hurts. It makes me feel bad for my students and I wonder what kind of potential they could have lived up to had I been doing things in such a way as to show I am "assessment literate". I am sitting here thinking about last year and the manner in which I gave assessments. The amazing part of it is that it would only take one small change in my method to make a major difference in how students are able to get their data on assessments. The best part is that the small change takes basically no effort on my part!

When I give assessments, I use googledocs and embed the tests into my school webpage. Students enter their answers by clicking a radio type button on a a form of my creation if it is multiple choice/true false or by entering their answer in a text box. This information comes to me in a spreadsheet with student answers going across in rows. Each column is a different question. I take the test first, so the first result is (should be) the correct answer. I then print out the spreadsheet and grade the columns. Look at the first answer (make sure I answered correctly) and mark student's answers they must have feedback. That was my hesitancy with sharing this method with other people: the lack of feedback of an online format test. Now that will change!

This article really got my brain going in what I hope was the intended direction. I did feel that the article is simply a review of chapter 2 in our text. In fact, I marked up my copy of the article accordingly. The part on pages 5 & 6 of the article are nearly word for word from the text. I guess that means it must be important! This article really does point out some good points to think about when designing assessments. As a teacher, you do design them, don't you? If not, you should check what you are doing and change it. I'm definitely pointing to myself here folks.

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