Reflective Assessment Practices

I try to stress one lesson when teaching pre-service teachers about assessment: your assessments should be be used to judge your practice more so than the abilities of your students.

After all it is almost impossible to know all that students know. So instead of warping assessment by conflating it with grading I try to encourage students to use assessments to improve practice. For me assessment should be about reflection, growth, and goals.

So when I design student assessments I also try to build in reflective practices to teach me about my teaching. I also try to build an assessments that will allow students to reflect on their own learning and set goals for future learning.

This, at least I hope, is evident in two of the assessments I assigned as part of the disciplinary literacies classes I taught at UCONN this summer.

The first idea I stole from a colleague Sue Ringler-Pet. Students had to complete a brief exit slip by writng a journal entry to this prompt:

“So why should I hire you?” The principal leaned forward in her chair eagerly awaiting the response from the newly graduated teacher. “The state has a new tough curriculum, adopted from the Common Core State Standards. And our kids are struggling in all of our subjects. Some of our kids can’t read or write very well. What can you do for us?” (Conley, 2012, p. 141)

It was great to see the growth of students each week. They moved beyond the idea of teaching content, and even content area reading into the realm of disciplinary literacies. Yet I wanted a summary of the responses.

Using Word Clouds as Reflective Assessment Tools

I took all the responses over the five weeks (it was an intensive 8 hour six session class, they completed the reflection for five of the classes, and popped them into Taxedo.

While totally unscientific, but high on awesome, the word clouds allowed me to look quickly at the patterns in their growth and reflect on my own teaching. I like that concepts such as modeling, vocabulary, writing, strategies grew each week while the dominance of teacher decreased in size. I also saw important teachign strategies such as annotations and note-taking show up with greater frequency as the class went on. I would have liked to see “disciplinary literacies” and think-aloud show up with greater frequency.

Using Reflective Think Alouds and Vialogues

The other reflective assignment we used as having students read a text on the first day as if they were to teach students how to read an article from the National Geographic on the Prime Meridian. The students were given time to first annotate the text and plan their videos. They then recorded a short video explaining how they would teach students to read the article.

They then repeated this task six weeks later. Across the board the students demonstrate growth. Most importantly it is evident that they all encourage students to read with a purpose.

Pre Think Aloud

Post Think Aloud

Pre Think Aloud

Post Think Aloud

Pre Think Aloud

Post Think Aloud

Conclusion

Do not make assessments extra work for you. As a teacher make an assessment WORK for you. They should give you insight into your practice and help you determine goals for your students.

    Greg McVerry

    Greg McVerry is a teacher, researcher and scholar at Southern Connecticut State University.

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