TWT Assignment 3
Determining Acceptable Evidence - Assessment

As you complete Assignment 3, keep in mind that you will be asked to list all the assessment tools that will determine if the students have met the standards targeted in your online Unit of Instruction Template.

Key Questions:

1. Where does standardized testing fit in with assessment?
2. What does it mean to “determine acceptable evidence?”
3. What student assessments will be acceptable evidence for my unit of instruction?

1. Where does standardized testing fit in with assessment?

There may be teachers who respond to standardized testing and the “No Child Left Behind” Act (www.nochildleftbehind.gov) with concern. Some educators fear that they need to make revert to more drill and practice activities so that their students score well on the standardized tests. This is not true. If teachers maintain a rigorous and multifaceted assessment system in measuring student progress, their students should also do well with standardized tests. Multiple methods of assessment are much better for gauging student learning and can be much more rigorous than required for standardized testing.

Quality assessment, developed by teachers (and students), should reflect standards and the curriculum. When there is flexibility and variety, students can show what they have learned in multiple ways. Standardized tests do not set academic standards. They can be used to gauge overall school performance for purposes of resource allocation and other policy decisions, but never to decide the fate of an individual student.

2. What does it mean to “determine acceptable evidence?”

At this point in the design process, teachers must determine what would be acceptable evidence that the students have reached understanding. When involved in this part of the unit planning process, focus on these questions: “What will I accept as evidence of student understanding and proficiency?” and “How will I know that the students have achieved the desired results and met/exceeded the standards?”

This is not a natural process for most teachers and may be uncomfortable. Teachers are being asked to bypass their usual instinct, which is to jump directly to planning student learning activities. It is far easier for teachers to design activities and then test or evaluate student performances.

Wiggins and McTighe (Understanding by Design) encourage teachers to think like assessors before designing specific lessons instead of thinking like activity designers, which may be more comfortable. By reading the following chart, you can see how they compare the two different approaches—“Thinking Like an Assessor” and “Thinking Like an Activity Designer.”

TWO DIFFERENT APPROACHES

Thinking Like an Assessor

Thinking Like an Activity Designer

What would be sufficient and revealing evidence of understanding?

What would be interesting and engaging activities on this topic?

What performance tasks must anchor the unit and focus the instructional work?

What resources and materials are available on this topic?

How will I be able to distinguish between those who really understand and those who don’t (though they may seem to)?

What will students be doing in and out of class? What assignments will be given?

Against what criteria will I distinguish work?

How will I give students a grade (and justify it to their parents)?

What misunderstandings are likely? How will I check for those?

Did the activities work? Why or why not?

3. What student assessments will be acceptable evidence for my unit of instruction?

Traditional and authentic assessments each have their place in the transformational learning environment; both have their strengths and weaknesses and their place in assessing student performance. The goal of authentic assessment is to provide students opportunities to demonstrate their learning in real-world contexts. Authentic assessment focuses on students' ability to integrate what they learn, demonstrate their creativity, work collaboratively and perform tasks applying their learning. Authentic assessments are particularly powerful when students are involved in higher-level thinking activities such as conducting research to create a multimedia presentation or developing an experiment to test a hypothesis.

Look at the comparisons between traditional and authentic assessments.

COMPARING TRADITIONAL AND AUTHENTIC ASSESSMENTS

Traditional Assessments

Authentic Assessments

Instruction and testing are separate.

Assessment is embedded in the learning process.

Learners are treated in a uniform way.

Learners are treated individually.

Emphasis on weaknesses or mistakes.

Emphasis on strengths and progress.

One-shot exams are used.

Ongoing assessment is used.

Focus on the "right answer."

Possibility of several perspectives is accepted.

Judgment without suggestions for improvement.

On-going information is provided for improving learning.

Focus on lower-order knowledge and skills.

Emphasis on higher-order learning outcomes and thinking skills.

Interactions with learners is discouraged and competition is promoted.

Cooperative learning, as well as comparing the learner's past performances is encouraged.

Certain types of learning activities lend themselves to popular tools that assess authentic learning activities such as rubrics, portfolios, and self-reflection journals. Instead of having students identify the correct parts of a formal letter, have them write an actual letter to an employer about summer opportunities and assess the letter with a rubric. Or, instead of grading individual reports on the effects of The Great Depression on the world have students do collaborative research projects comparing the economic situation today to that of the 1930s. Then, have the students present their findings to the local Chamber of Commence with the students doing a self-reflection on the performance. Good assessment is about expanding the assessment repertoire because no single form is sufficient.

In an assessment-focused classroom, the role of the teacher shifts in a number of ways. The teacher begins a unit of instruction (curriculum) with a vision of what ALL students are expected to achieve (standards).

Teachers need to consider how to determine whether students are able to use their knowledge in context or the real-world environment. Do the students understand what they have learned? When the unit (or lesson) is anchored by performance tasks and authentic assessment, it is much easier to determine if the students are able to use their knowledge. The more traditional assessments (quizzes, tests, and prompts) can round out the picture by assessing essential knowledge and skills that contribute to the culminating performances.

When planning to collect evidence of student understanding for your TWT unit of instruction, consider a range of assessment methods: informal checks and observations; quizzes or tests; questioning; and performance tasks and projects. A more extensive explanation of these methods is described below.

Informal Checks and Observations

Informal checks and observations are important tools in the assessment process. Teachers are generally comfortable with those tools and use them frequently in the classroom. Informal checks and observations:

Quiz and Test Items

As you would imagine, the quiz and test items relate to the simple, content-focused questions that pertain most closely to recall. Quizzes and tests:

Questioning

Open-ended questions or problems require the student to think critically, not just recall knowledge. Students prepare a response, product, or performance as part of this assessment type. Generally, they involve the students in higher order thinking skills. Questioning:

Performance Tasks and Projects

Performance tasks and projects align with authentic assessment. This form of assessment involves complex challenges that mirror the issues and problems faced by adults. Consequently, they are authentic. Ranging in length from short-term tasks to long-term, multi-staged projects, they require a production or performance. Performance tasks and projects:

Popular tools that assess performance tasks and projects are rubrics, portfolios, and self-reflection journals. (You may want to check out the RubiStar website at http://rubistar.4teachers.org/index.php. Rubistar is a tool to help the teacher who wants to use rubrics but does not have the time to develop them from scratch. RubiStar provides generic rubrics that can simply be printed and used for many typical projects and research assignments. The unique thing about RubiStar, however, is that it provides these generic rubrics in a format that can be customized. The teacher can change almost all suggested text in the rubric to make it fit his/her own project.)


It’s time now to think like an assessor! You will continue to develop your unit of instruction by identifying an appropriate variety of assessment tools.

Remember to focus on the questions: “What will I accept as evidence of student understanding and proficiency?” and “How will I know that the students have achieved the desired results and met/exceeded the standards?”

 

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