Sunday, February 17, 2008

authentic teaching and assessing

In reading Wiggins' chapters on educative assessment, I remembered things that I supposedly learned in undergrad about the purpose of assessment and the use of formative assessments. Unfortunately, my limited learning did not translate into practice during my two years of teaching experience. Instead I simply covered material, tested students, and then moved on. This is how I was taught as a student, this is what is expected of teachers, and so I was brainwashed into doing it. I did not internalize the fact that the purpose of an assessment is (or should be) to educate and improve student performance. If a student needs more time, you give him more time. If a student needs to be challenged, you challenge him. You don't just have students memorize vocabulary, read a couple chapters, take a test, and move on. Very few students will be able to succeed and achieve their full potential in that kind of environment. Instead, students need frequent feedback to let them know how they are doing and allow them to adjust, improve, and be assessed again. If students are just given a test at the end of a unit, and afterwards move on to another topic, they don't actually have the opportunity to improve. If the purpose of schools is to TEACH and not just cover material, students should have numerous opportunities for revision and improvement of their work. Why should any student ever fail? Shouldn't they instead be guided until they achieve mastery? Perhaps this is another argument in support of nongraded schools -- students would have more time to move at their own pace instead of being pulled along by teachers who are set on covering a certain amount of material.

The type of assessment also needs to change to become more authentic and meaningful, to the student but also in the context of the real world and skills that will be needed in college or in the work force. I don't know of any profession or job in which answering multiple choice questions is a required skill. I find it very sad that many students leave high school (and I dare say even college) and never again use anything that they learned, or worse yet, not remember anything that they supposedly learned. The reality is that we only remember things that we use and things that are valuable to us. Content covered in schools should be content that is valuable for students to know and understand, and assessments should reflect this as well by asking students to complete authentic tasks rather than decontextualized superficial tests.

No comments:

Post a Comment