“Assessment is the zipper between teaching and learning.” Doug Mauger, PIDP 3230.
Oprah Winfrey often says that “When you know better, you do better.” I will now be able to do better by my students because I have the skills and tools required to create appropriate assessment tools that I will be able to justify to students, colleagues and administrators.
The biggest way in which this course has changed my practice is that I will now assess FOR learning during the teaching and learning process, as opposed to after it. Equally as important is the practice of ensuring that assessments are valid and reliable and aligned appropriately to the course content. If there is no alignment between the three pillars (I.e. what we plan on teaching, how we teach it, and how we assess learning) there is no validity.
“Assessment should build a commitment to learning goals and an understanding of the criteria used to assess these goals. Students must know what they are trying to achieve and why (or why it’s relevant). Provide lots of room for formative assessment regularly. Make it transparent. Show them the rubric and criteria so they can rise to the standard” (Doug Mauger, PIDP 3230).
At times, I have been scared of issuing exams or assignments to students for fear of questions or backlash. I now understand that I didn’t have confidence in my tools for assessment as they were not always strategically or intentionally aligned to the course outcomes. In addition, I wasn’t incorporating informal tools for self-assessment along the way so that students could monitor their progress and focus themselves accordingly.
“Each one of us is where we are at because of assessment of learning” (Doug Mauger, PIDP 3230).
I realized through this course that many of the teachers I had throughout my education did not possess the tools and knowledge to carry out proper assessment of students. This had a major impact on me and how I view assessment and evaluation. I am not alone in this experience, and realize that many of my students may be coming to class with the same fear of continued unfair or emotionally damaging assessment. I owe it to them to provide a positive, future-forward evaluation of their skills that reflects course outcomes and individual performance.
There have been many ah-ha moments throughout this course for me. I have learned that teachers in the K-12 system are given minimal training on assessment; unfortunately, it shows. Many instructors, like me, are teaching course due to their experience in the field, with minimal experience on how to teach and evaluate.
Another great learning throughout this course was modelling done by the instructor. There were things he did like always starting right on time, outlining the session’s content on the board, personally greeting each student, showing thought-provoking videos like Austin’s Butterfly, writing the one-minute essay, hot potato and other self-assessment techniques, and using criteria-based marking.
Going forward, I will create assessments that are more supportive, ongoing and less intimidating for learners. I will start each course by creating a valid evaluation plan by reviewing the course description and outcomes and aligning them with the various assessments and assignments. This will help students see why I have chosen specific activities to evaluate learning.
I will create knowledge instruments such as exams and quizzes using the best practices learned in the course to capture cognitive learning. These documents will not discriminate. They will include tables of specifications, scoring guides, and each item/question will be valid and reliable. The review of the “content free” multiple choice test was a real eye-opener for me and I want to avoid making the same mistakes.
I will ensure that each assignment or authentic assessment will accurately evaluate learning. I often issue projects such as communications plans, blogs, and audits, Students will now know the rationale behind what is being assessed, how they are being scored, why it’s valid and reliable, what the standards are, and how each standard is weighted.
I am definitely going to use the “coffee shop” tool for informal assessment in my classroom where students educate themselves on a topic and then meet with their group, outside of the classroom to educate peers on the topic. The students will self-reflect on their learning and assign their own grade.
Overall, students are not lazy. I now trust the process of self assessment and will embrace it in future courses as part of the overall assessment process. I believe in student-centered learning that praises the process, not just the result. When students will succeed when they have control over their own destiny and work hard.