• James Kerr

My Assessment Beliefs: Review and Changes: What I Have Learned

Updated: Dec 7, 2019


This post for the CEP 813 course will be synthesizing what I have learned about

assessment over the past semester through a process of study, reflection, and revision.

This post serves as a review of my initial post with the goal of offering a rationale for change in my originally articulated beliefs about assessment. The discussion that follows will reference specific resources and experiences that have influenced and sculpted my beliefs about digital technologies and assessment. The blog post will be divided into three sections:


1) A description of my current core beliefs (referencing my first blog post,

"Assessment: A Trio of Thoughts", connecting changes in my core beliefs to course objectives, materials, and experiences in the six module that have reshaped my understanding of assessment


2) A description of how my beliefs have changed based on moments and experiences that altered my initial thoughts


3) Examples of ways that I have applied these core beliefs to the varied creations of the course, including descriptions of how my core beliefs influenced the designs of my assessments


A Description of Three Things I Believe About Assessment (Revised)


I believe that assessment must be fully tied to clearly defined learning goals. Assessment must be a process, beginning with a pre-assessment that can reveal student preconceptions and misconceptions. A summative assessment at the end of instruction must record student growth. Assessment must be unbiased and based on clear and shared goals that can be implemented in the instructional process. Assessments must assure equitable access for a diverse student population.


My first alteration from my initial blog post, "Assessment: A Trio of Thoughts", was inspired by a reading in Module One. Shepard (2000) refers to research on needs for varied students: “A commitment to equal opportunity for diverse learners means providing genuine opportunities for high quality instruction and 'ways into' academic curricula that are consistent with the language and interaction patterns of home and community (Au & Jordan, 1981; Brown, 1994; Heath, 1983; Tharp & Gallimore, 1988)". I added the language concerning equitable access because I had not considered that my students might have special needs or modifications that would need to be addressed in the design of an assessment. It is important that this assessment affords equal access to learning opportunities and extends the learning to include real-world contexts. The assessment tool must be useful for all learners and considerate of personal and cultural interests.


In a September 14th tweet (Twitter Post 09/14/2019), I suggested an addition to the first paragraph of my core beliefs, based on readings in Module Two. In the text,"Understanding by Design", Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe write about the importance of considering student misconceptions that can block progress toward learning goals. I added this insight to my first paragraph to strengthen my pre-existing statement about the importance of pre-assessment.


Design for assessments must be based on big questions and evidence. Formative assessment must provide timely feedback to both the student and the teacher. Student self-regulation and self-assessment and teacher feedback simultaneously inform the student of next steps to grow understanding and to transfer learning. Teachers must use feedback from assessments to make pedagogical decisions based on gathered and analyzed information.


Perhaps the most significant change to my initial three thoughts resulted from a reading in Module Two, In the article,"Inside the Box, Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment", Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam explain: "We start from the self-evident proposition that teaching and learning must be interactive. Teachers need to know about their pupil's progress and difficulty with learning so that they can adapt their own work to meet the pupil's needs" (2003, William and Black pg. 140).


I added the words "timely feedback,"and "self-regulation" to my second paragraph based on an influential reading in Module Three. David J. Nicol and Debra MacFarlane-Dick (2006 p.208) quote Freeman & Lewis, (1998), “For example, most researchers are concerned that feedback to students might be delayed, not relevant or informative, that it might focus on low-level learning goals or might be overwhelming in quantity or deficient in tone (i.e. too critical). For these researchers, the way forward is to ensure that feedback is provided in a timely manner (close to the act of learning production), that it focuses not just on strengths and weaknesses but also on offering corrective advice, that it directs students to higher order learning goals, and that it involves some praise alongside constructive criticism".Nicol and Mcfarlane-Dick (2006 p. 209) further quote the work of Gibbs and Simpson (2004), ”They have shown that if students receive feedback often and regularly, it enables better monitoring and self-regulation of progress by students. In this formative assessment, students both provide and receive timely feedback facilitated by the synchronous online discussion”. Students perceive regular and timely feedback as relevant. They are enabled to improve self-regulation of learning. In their meta-analysis of 53 studies, Kulik and Kulik (1988) reported that, “At the process level (i.e., engaging in processing classroom activities), immediate feedback is beneficial (0.28).”


I added the words "big questions" and also "evidence" based on what I learned by reading about backwards design in Module Two. Grant Wi.ggins and Jay McTighe's model for the Assessment Design Checklist (A.D.C) that served as a template for the A.D.C. that I designed. I found that in my initial thoughts, there was no reference to "big questions", and I felt that aspect of assessment design should be included.


I believe that assessment must be varied and that learning goals must be measurable and clearly stated. Assessment should embrace digital options, supporting a Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Multiple forms of assessment afford diverse opportunities for students to demonstrate understanding. As students may choose multiple avenues to represent and express learning of defined goals, the assessment methods must also be fair and appropriate to student choice. Learning is more likely to transfer if students have the opportunity to practice with a variety of applications. For example, students may choose online games, dynamic portfolios, tests, quizzes, surveys, exit notes, rubrics, and self-evaluations to convey growth or mastery in learning of content. The assessment of these diverse student choices must be flexible, evolving, and continually refined according to the environment in which learning grows.


I edited my third paragraph to include added emphasis on assessment using Universal Design for Learning. A PDF from Module Five inspired this change. I read that successful assessment design must take the environment of learning into consideration. The words "Learning is more likely to transfer if students have the opportunity to practice with a variety of applications was inspired by the following quotation, "As instructors increasingly incorporate UDL into their course design, students are increasingly able to comprehend information, engage with it, and act on it in ways that allow them to demonstrate what they know; and the data on their performance and achievement in the course becomes increasingly accurate and actionable". Assessment design must include multiple opportunities and venues for students to express their learning, and the classroom environment must be supportive of diverse student contexts.


As a science teacher, I was very interested in the SimScientists link that was presented in Module Four. SIMScientists is comprised of a portfolio of research and development projects that focus on the roles that simulations can play in enriching science learning and assessment. I added the word "digital" to my initial thoughts in paragraph three because I wanted to emphasize the importance of the diverse options of digital assessment. The

SimScientists activities provide an excellent example of a "portfolio" of diverse digital science assessments. Additionally, these online STEM projects allow modifications of simulation-based activities to offer accommodations for English learners and students with disabilities.


After reading and reflecting on David Niguidula's article in Module Four,

"Documenting Learning with Digital Portfolios"( Niguidula, D. 2005), I wanted to emphasize the importance of constructing a "dynamic" portfolio to support ongoing assessment. I added the word dynamic to specify the importance of the portfolio for students and teachers to share ongoing feedback and to record growth. The digital portfolios must be wrapped in a shared vision for the student and instructor where clear learning goals are established. Portfolios when properly employed can help students with initiative, responsibility, self-discipline, and perseverance. Self-regulation has already been mentioned in my second paragraph, but all of the skills listed here fall into self-regulation. Also as referred to in the first paragraph, teachers can use the portfolio content as feedback and adjust instructional strategy.


In Module Six, I read a chapter from James Paul Gee's book "What video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy". My third paragraph initially contained a list of assessments that a student might choose to demonstrate learning of content. I added online games to the list of assessments that a student might choose. My semiotic domain is Physics, and students might wish to design their own game as an assessment to demonstrate learning. I learned that video games are not just for fun, but they can also be designed as assessments.


How My Core Beliefs Changed


My understanding of assessment has been greatly changed by the creations and support materials of the CEP 813 course. The modules have fed a weekly diet of growth for me in a progression of practical applications designed to support my learning. My core beliefs about assessment, and in particular digital assessment, have been reframed and clarified. In the beginning, I thought of assessment as a tool that would help me to record a grade, a representation in points of what student had achieved based on a standard. I thought that I was practicing formative assessment when I gave quizzes or homework assignments and assigned appropriate grades for completion of the assignments. I learned that a productive assessment considers the relationship between self-assessment, transfer, and prior

knowledge, providing feedback for a teacher to know "what questions to ask", and "when to ask", in next steps for instruction (Twitter post: 9/01/2019).


The most useful growth for me centered around the creation of the Assessment Design Checklist (A.D.C.). The process of thinking about "big questions" and "evidence" in assessment produced the greatest impact on my understanding of assessment design. Building this tool reshaped my definition of assessment in multiple ways. I learned that an assessment is not just for a grade, even though the assessment goals must be clearly defined. I grew in my understanding that assessment must provide feedback to the student to help the student to grow toward attaining the learning goals. I learned that there is a close relationship between truly understanding a concept and being able to transfer learning. I learned that effective assessments support transfer when a variety of applications support student learning (Twitter post: 09/01/2019). I learned that self-regulation and feedback result in greater student engagement when goals are measurable and assessments varied (Twitter post: 09/06/2019).


I learned that I need to consider student diversity as I design my assessments. Student personal context can be a source of misconceptions that block progress toward student learning goals. Effective assessment design must include a pre-assessment (Twitter post: 09/14/2019). I learned that backwards design is a productive strategy that requires constant revision but produces great feedback sources for the students and the teacher (Twitter post: 09/14/2019). In my professional context, that means I must find alternative support for students who do not have Internet access at home, or who have specific disabilities that require additional support. Students with disabilities need to have equitable access to assessment, and this access must be included in the assessment strategy and planning (Twitter post: 10/11/2019). I had understood that students need self-regulation, but I had not considered how feedback from assessments could encourage and support self-regulation (Twitter post: 10/06/2019).


I learned that the timing of feedback is very important to support student growth, and also to inform the teacher of the next steps of design in instruction (Twitter post 10/06/2019). This was a new concept for me. I had designed curriculum that followed prescribed timelines with specific objectives and associated supportive structures, but I had not considered that feedback from an assessment could profoundly influence the next steps to be taken. I had not known much about assessment tools that support online learning, and after evaluating a Content Management System (C.M.S.) and creating an online quiz, I learned that I needed to expand my understanding of assessment to include "online" learning (Twitter Post 11/03/2019). I learned that appropriate use of feedback from an assessment could inform individualized instruction, employing a Universal Design for Instruction strategy.


How I Applied My Core Beliefs to Course Creations


My first creation for CEP 813 was a three paragraph post that included my core beliefs or thoughts.The creations that followed served to modify those initial thoughts. As the course progressed, my core beliefs were changing. I applied my modified beliefs in the creations that followed.


My second creation was a Formative Design Assessment (F.A.D.). This document went through a polishing process that continued throughout the length of the course. The F.A.D. applied my evolving core beliefs in the following manner: Relating to my first core belief, "I believe that assessment must be fully tied to clearly defined learning goals," I clarified learning goals by adding a rubric that can be used for feedback to guide student learning and to inform the teacher's future pedagogical choices. The first paragraph of my core goals also states, "Assessments must assure equitable access for a diverse student population". I added options for access to the F.A.D. to support the needs of a diverse student population. Referencing the third paragraph of my core beliefs. "Assessments should embrace digital options", this assessment required the students to engage in digital options using the Google Classroom discussion board. Also from my third core value statement, I added, "The assessments of these diverse student choices must be flexible, evolving, and continually refined according to the learning environment". The choice of an online discussion was reflective of a supportive, respectful, and trusting environment in an honors classroom.


My third creation was my A.D.C. This creation went through a series of three iterations and continuing refinement. Based on feedback, the first "big questions" and "evidence" were altered and later additional questions were added. This document reflected my core beliefs as the "big questions" that were added tied directly my core beliefs. The A.D.C. begins with a question, "Are the assessment goals specific?". This supported my first core belief,"Assessment must be fully tied to clearly defined learning goals". The second question on my A.D.C., "Does the assessment factor in the needs of varied students?", also refers to my first core belief,

"Assessments must assure equitable access for a diverse student population". The third A.D.C. question, "Does this assessment require students to practice self-regulation?". relates to the second paragraph of my core beliefs, "Student self-regulation and self-assessment and teacher feedback simultaneously inform the student of next steps to grow understanding and to transfer learning". The fourth A.D.C. question, "Is the feedback in this formative assessment timely?", is supported by the second paragraph of my core beliefs, "Formative assessment must provide timely feedback to both the student and the teacher".The final A.D.C. question, "How does the assessment inform my teaching going forward?", is supported by second paragraph of my core belief statements, "Teachers must use feedback from assessments to make pedagogical decisions based on gathered and analyzed information".


My fourth creation was an evaluation of an existing online assessment from Explorelearning Gizmos. I reviewed "Period of a Pendulum". I based my evaluation on my A.D.C. and my three core beliefs. The Gizmo clearly defines the learning goals (See my core beliefs paragraph three,"I believe that assessment must be varied and that learning goals must be measurable and clearly stated"). The Gizmo has several segments including a pre-assessment. (See my core beliefs paragraph one, "Assessment must be a process, beginning with a pre-assessment that can reveal student preconceptions and misconceptions"). Feedback for the Gizmo assessment is timely, including an online quiz that provides answers and explanations for each question. (See my core beliefs paragraph two,"Formative assessment must provide timely feedback to both the student and the teacher"). The Gizmo requires students to manipulate variables, prompting significant self-regulation. Based on the feedback from completed Student Exploration forms and quiz results, teachers can make decisions about next steps in instruction. (See my core beliefs paragraph two,"Teachers must use feedback from assessments to make pedagogical decisions based on gathered and analyzed information"). The Gizmos are an online resource that students and teachers alike may choose to support learning goals. (See my core beliefs paragraph three, "For example, students may choose online games, dynamic portfolios, tests, quizzes, surveys, exit notes, rubrics, and self-evaluations to convey growth or mastery in learning of content").


My fifth creation was an online quiz. For this creation, I evaluated Google Classroom and created an assessment using the Google Quiz feature. To start, I thought that it was important to position the assessment considering what the students had already learned, and also to provide some direction for future applications of what would be learned in the assessment. The Videos used in this quiz assessment include a closed captioning option that can be activated by the students. The ChomeVox option for the student Chromebooks or the TalkBack option for mobile devices support the use of the online quiz by diverse learners. (See my core beliefs, paragraph one,

"Assessments must assure equitable access"). Google Quiz also meets one of my core beliefs from paragraph two,"Formative assessments must provide timely feedback to both the student and the teacher". The quiz meets a core goal from paragraph one based on clear learning goals, "Assessment must be unbiased and based on clear goals that can be implemented in the instructional process". Finally, the online quiz supports my third core belief paragraph, "Multiple forms of assessment support diverse opportunities for students to demonstrate understanding". The online quiz questions are "fair and appropriate to student choice".


My sixth and final creation was an online game. The game as an assessment fits into my core beliefs, paragraph three, "Students may choose online games, dynamic portfolios, tests, quizzes, exit notes, rubrics, surveys, and self-evaluations to convey growth or mastery in learning of content". When students play the game as an assessment, self regulation will be required. My core belief in paragraph two refers to self-regulation and

self-assessment. "Student self-regulation, self-assessment, and teacher feedback simultaneously inform the student of next steps and how to transfer learning". The assessment game requires a set of student worksheets that students must complete, tying the game to required assessment calculations. The teacher receives immediate feedback from the worksheets, and shares feedback with the students based on the data provided. Within the structure of the online game, students encounter challenges that require calculations specific to the learning goals. Options within the game afford "diverse opportunities for students to demonstrate understanding".


References


Au, K. H., & Jordan, C. (1981). Teaching reading to Hawaiian children: Finding a culturally appropriate solution. In H. Trueba, G. P. Guthrie, & K. H. Au (Eds.), Culture in the bilingual classroom: Studies in classroom ethnography (pp. 139-152). Rowley, MA: Newbury House.


Black, P. & Wiliam, D. (1998). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. The Phi Delta Kappan, 80(2), 139-144, 146-148


Brown, A. L. (1994). The advancement of learning. Educational Researcher, 23, 4-12.


CAST (n.a.). LMS data and continual course design, Retrieved from http://udloncampus.cast.org/page/assessment_data#.VEq4B5PF8rk.


Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.


Heath, S. B. (1983). Ways with words: Language, life, and work in communities and classrooms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Nicol, D., & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), 199–218.


Kulik, J. A., & Kulik, C. C. (1988). Timing of feedback and verbal learning. Review of Educational Research, 58(1), 79–97.


Niguidula, D. (2005). Documenting learning with digital portfolios. Educational Leadership, 63(3), 44-47.


Shepard, L. (2000). The role of assessment in a learning culture. Educational Researcher, 29(7), 4-14


SimScientists, (n.d.), What is SimScientists, Retrieved from http://simscientists.org/home/index.php.


Tharp, R. G., & Gallimore, R. (1988). Rousing minds to life: Teaching, learning, and schooling in social context. New York: Cambridge University Press.


Wiggins,G and McTighe, J., 2005, Understanding by Design, Alexandria, VA. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.




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