Effective Instruction begins by determining your desired learning outcomes and then designing effective and varied assessments. There are countless ways to assess students–methods that are both traditional and non-traditional. I strongly recommend using both.
For hundreds of years “traditional” education & assessment has delivered objective data. Schools, universities, businesses, governments, and entire societies have placed value on the data from traditional assessments and on the individuals who perform well or poorly within that structure. These traditional methods have served a valuable purpose, but they are not the only effective form of assessment; in many situations they’re not even close to the most effective form of assessment. In fact, some pretty impressive names have done well in life—despite their “failure” in our current system that leans heavily on traditional assessment. Consider these success stories: Richard Branson [Virgin Records], Bill Gates [Microsoft], Thomas Edison [the good ol’ light bulb], Jack Kent Cook [owner of 3 major sports teams], Simon Cowell [TV producer], Harvey Kroc [McDonalds] and a few actors we know like Drew Barrymore, Pierce Brosnan, Tom Cruise, Jim Carrey, and Kate Winslet. There are lots. Thousands of them. Here’s a link to a few more: tootlee.com/bad-grades
Does it mean that traditional assessments don’t work? Nope. It means that traditional assessments don’t work for everyone. Assessments like surveys, wikis, discussions, portfolios, tactile project-based, or even “practical” real-world-business-centered assessments have tremendous value. Different assessment methods can help instructors get to know/evaluate individuals in a more personal way, and they can inspire and motivate students … differently. However, in the same way that traditional assessments can skew results toward those who perform well within those parameters, alternative assessments can also skew results. As instructors, we must use different forms of assessment to inspire and challenge our students in different ways.
But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.
Author Todd Rose suggests in his book The End of Average that we would benefit the greater good by eliminating standardized assessments. He promotes discouraging the use of standardized testing or any single form of assessment because if focuses on the needs of the many, rather than the needs of the one. “If our goal is to identify and nurture individual excellence . . . we will only succeed if we pay attention to the distinct jaggedness of every individual” (91). I disagree with his recommendation to scrap standardized testing. Standardized assessments are efficient. Let’s keep them. Let’s also find alternative ways to measure, reveal, and reinforce a student’s value while helping them survive (or thrive) with standardized assessments.
Using a variety of assessments, we can help each learner determine where their strengths and weaknesses are; help each learner find the strategies that will help them be successful in the career they’re interested in; and we can help each individual feel valued—and be valued—even if they’re not good at whatever form of assessment rolls down the pike next. At the same time, as long as students ARE being assessed using standardized testing, we have a responsibility to teach them how to be successful when the are assessed that way and how to be successful DESPITE that form of assessment.
Though learning goals I develop often result in having a student create something (usually a video), I try to assess their comprehension throughout the process using a variety of assessment techniques. This usually involves scaffolding the work, so that students are already able to remember, understand, scrutinize, and then apply the content in order to create. Brief Q & As, short quizzes, or two sentence summaries, quickly allow me to see who’s tracking with my instruction. Technologies such as clickers or apps like AnswerGarden, PollEverywhere or event Twitter can also help me assess instantly.
Students should be assessing eachother, too. In my classes, they analyze and evaluate drafts of peer work and their own work before fine-tuning a final project. Film and Video is about creating, so once the vocabulary and techniques have been taught (and assessed), students are able to both critique and create . . . a lot. This is a strength of teaching in my subject area . . . and of my teaching style. The strategy I use frequently involves peers critiquing each other using a rubric. “Formative assessment is the coaching feedback provided before the final, or summative, evaluation” and having students analyze and provide that feedback is really important (Petersen, 5). An effectively designed rubric gives students clear expectations and the instructor a valuable teaching and grading tool. Here’s a link to the rubric that students will encounter in my training. As you’ll see, the specific learning goal can vary with this rubric, so it can be used for any number of assignments.
For example, one task students perform each term is to create an effective instructional video. This involves 1) becoming familiar with the process for performing the process or operating the equipment 2) developing a script using a Google Doc—and getting feedback on their script from a peer “expert” on the task/equipment 3) refine their script based on the input from the “expert” 4) filming the operation while correctly demonstrating and explaining its use 5) editing the video 6) uploading the video to our repository of videos that are then accessed by other students and our clients/users.
Not only do students become intimately familiar with the process/equipment, but they create a valuable instructional tool for others . . . that gets used. Along the way, I’m checking for understanding, assessing them using various methods, and I’m giving them feedback (my own or their peers) regularly. I even use a “standardized test” periodically. It is this variety that ensures I know how well my students are tracking, and it ensures that they are successful and comfortable with a variety of assessment types.
Andrade, Heidi Goodrich (2000). Using Rubrics to Promote Thinking and Learning. Educational Leadership (Volume 57, No. 5, February, 2000) 1-7.
Buhagiar, Michael A. “The Curriculum Journal.” The Curriculum Journal 2007th ser. 18.1 (2007): n. pag.Classroom Assessment within the Alternative Assessment Paradigm: Revisiting the Territory. Taylor Francis Online, 02 May 2007. Web. 31 Aug. 2016.
Petersen, Naomi Jeffery (2005). Cybercoaching: Rubrics, Feedback, and Metacognition, Oh My!. E.C. Moore Symposium “Putting Student Learning First,” (February 25, 2005) 1-18.
Rose, Todd. “Talent is Jagged.” The End of Average. HarperOne. 2016. Web. 12 Sept 2016.
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