Assignment 4-A-2 Assessment: How do we know what they know?

Ever since I entered my first education based class in college, assessment has always been one of the most discussed topics. Formal, informal, on-going, etc., there are so many theories and thoughts about which are better for our students and which are more beneficial for us as teachers.
I’ve always believed that a mixture of many different assessments is the best way to see what our students know, but find myself relying on formal assessments (tests) because they seem to be the easier and more efficient way of finding out what our students know. The question is, do these tests really show us what our students know?
On the other side of assessments is the informal assessment. I truly believe that we as teachers use these every day when we observe our students and have discussions with our students. I feel that informal assessment can also be a great asset to help teachers to gain information about their students, but also feel that it can be easy to “overlook” students sometimes. Although we try to include all students in class discussions and check in with all students throughout the day, it is very easy to look over that student who doesn’t want to raise their hand, or not be able to take the time to observe every students’ work for many different reasons (class size, students that need more help than others, etc.)
I feel like every kind of assessment is beneficial in some way to us as teachers, but also feel like there are “loopholes” that come with each one of them that we as teachers need to be aware of. What do you think is the best type of assessment to use? Do you use a mixture of both? Do you find issues with any of the types?

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12 thoughts on “Assignment 4-A-2 Assessment: How do we know what they know?

  1. This is really a hot topic in our schools right now. I truly believe that we should use several methods of assessment. Not all students test well the same way. I also believe that we can target our students learning style strengths. For example, I have a student who participates and engages every day in our classwork. I know he knows the material. When it comes time to test, he usually does poorly. I just started having him come see me during resource time to take his test verbally. He does fantastic! It can be time consuming, but it’s well worth it!

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    1. Sharon,
      I think it is so great when teachers know their students well enough to know that they understand the concepts, but just need to be able to show it in different ways. When our assessments are modeled based on our students’ needs, then I feel we can really know what they know!

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  2. I agree with Sharon that not all students test well or the same way. My son is not a good test taker especially in math. It is frustrating as a parent and a teacher when you know the student gets it but cannot pass a test. We read 4 trade books throughout the year in addition to our regular reading series. This year we have tried to make the trade books more project based rather than test them on what they know. The students enjoy doing something different and actually so do the teachers.

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  3. Hi,
    Teaching in PA, I am so used to hearing about four types of assessments: benchmark, diagnostic, formative, and summative. In my classroom, I tend to use formative and summative most frequently. The benchmark and diagnostic assessments are typically directives from our district office for students to complete.

    Even as we are rewriting our curriculum guides and maps, teachers are required to have one common task per module. We are not told if it needs to be formative or summative, yet our administrator would prefer it to be the summative task. My principal has given teachers the freedom to formatively assess students as they see fit, but the one task that is common needs to be scored and analyzed as a whole group. This calibration method helps us to see what students know and do not know.

    Are your assessments aligned to the standards and eligible content? The benefit of our common midterm and final is that each questions is directly correlated to anchors and eligible content, so I am able to see specifically where students are struggling.

    Thanks for bringing up this discussion!

    Shawn

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    1. Our assessments are aligned to the standards and eligible content for sure. We are in the process of creating the same summative assessments across each of the 5 middle schools for each unit exam. It does make sense, but with such a large district it gets a bit crazy!

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  4. Shawn,
    We follow the common core standards for Language Arts and Math. Our formal assessments are usually based off of the lessons for the week so they are definitely aligned with the standards for the week. It definitely does help to see where their weaknesses and their strengths lie.

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  5. This is a great topic that I always find myself reflecting on! Like you, I believe in a mixture of assessments to gauge best of what the student knows. In my classroom, I use a combination of objective and subjective assessments. It allows for my students to grasp the key concepts and display their knowledge of the topic. I think each type of assessment has value and should be used throughout a lesson. However, it’s extremely rare that I have a student fail one of the assessments and do well on another.
    -Justin

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  6. Jen –

    I agree with Justin that a mix of assessments should be used. I don’t alway use formal summative assessments in the form of a test in each of my units. They are summative but I’ve tried to get creative! One assessment gives them the option of what format that takes! They can choose to create a poster, a presentation, write a paper or use some other approved format. They have a rubric that they follow that was created by my students. It always amazes me the detailed work that most of the students will create! I feel that they are able to really dig into giving me the information I want to know if they choose the format!

    I also use a lot of informal assessments. Small group discussions is a big favorite of my students. Walking around and eavesdropping on the discussions always amazes me! I also have them write a short reflection of what they learned. When they quit trying to write “what I want to hear” and start writing what THEY remember, it turns out that they learned more than I thought!

    I guess the bottom line, in my opinion, is that mixing it up is good practice. There are so many ways to “test” kids that I don’t think it always has to be a formal written test!

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