Standards Based Testing
This is not your ordinary standards based testing. Rick suggested using the “big” standards for continuous testing and adding the lesser standards along the way to check for more in depth learning. By including the “big” standards and testing for them throughout the year, there is a never ending process to testing the important skills that they should know before leaving the course. He suggested all instructors teaching the same course should agree on what the most important standards should be (ie “big”). Questions should be quality not quantity. He stated that ‘learning is an episode not linear’ and testing should follow suit. The main goal of the testing is that it shows evidence of knowing the standards. There are several ways in which students can show their understanding and instructors should not stick to the standard ways of teaching or testing. Students have different pathways to learning and should be allowed to express their knowledge in their own way. The main goal should be that students understand their goals and can do a status check in regards to where they stand. Finally, Rick stated that a test that started as a summative test should always have the capability of changing to a formative test if needed. The main theme throughout is to continue testing over the same “big” standards to make sure students maintain the concepts.
Formative assessment is the best way to evaluate where your student’s knowledge base stands on the learning journey to mastery. Formative assessments are meant to address where the student’s needs are for additional instruction or further practice to speed up learning and reach mastery. Formative assessment is in contrast to summative assessment which Rick Wormeli refers to as the “final declaration of mastery or proficiency.” He also stated that a summative assessment can turn into a formative assessment and assist in the identification of misconceptions. Teachers often spend more time creating and preparing for summative assessments whereas time is best spent on formative assessments to provide feedback and guide instruction. Formative assessment and descriptive feedback provide the greatest impact on student learning versus a final score on summative assessments. The information provided by a summative assessment provides little information to students, and it does little to increase learning. Formative assessment that addresses specific areas of concern or clearly acknowledges the parts of the assessment that were done well gives students valuable information to use as the student works to increase mastery and show growth on another assessment. Formative assessments are ongoing tools that aid teachers and students to increased learning and mastery.
Feedback and Assessment may seem to be the same but they vary in a fundamental way. Assessment is the gathering of data to make decisions. Feedback has no evaluative component. This is difficult as educators because our focus is to help students improve by showing where a mistake exists. Rick Wormeli encouraged us to rephrase our statements by using, “I noticed….and as a result….” or “let’s look at the decisions you made, can you explain them to me”. These statements allow the learner to see the mistakes and explain their thinking, giving you a better perspective on their misconceptions. This is the Point and Describe style of descriptive feedback. A second way to give descriptive feedback is, Goal, Status, and Plan for the Goal.” This identifies the objective, where the student is in relation to the objective, and a plan for closing the gap. A third way to teachers can use data is “Here’s What, So What, Now What” protocol. This makes a factual statement, identifies patterns, and makes a plan. One important reminder is that ½ of descriptive feedback should focus on what was done well. According to research by Marzano, providing descriptive feedback has shown to increase student achievement by 20 percentile points. If our ultimate goal as educators is to help students achieve, then we are compelled to provide more descriptive feedback.
Homework seems to be an issue that divides educators, administration and parents. There are district policies and guidelines for each grade level and classroom consequences if it is not completed in a timely manner. The role of homework and its’ value has much to do with your own personal experiences and pedagogy. Some educators believe that by giving homework each night you are preparing students for the next grade. Others might say that it is a necessary extension of the school day in order to complete curriculum, review concepts and should be counted heavily toward a final grade. When Rick Wormeli posed questions regarding homework extremes and if they crossed a line, we needed time to reflect upon our own belief system. He asked us, “Is homework transformative?” and “Why should students be invested if it doesn’t transform them?” Rick Wormeli believes that homework should matter and that you should not assign it if students can’t do it by themselves. He also stressed that teachers should mark and grade against standards, not the routes students take to achieve those standards. If homework is marked, it should be in its own separate column and never be used in the academic report of what students know and can do. Fellow educators, it is time to evaluate our “hidden curriculum”. Why do we give homework? Should we continue? What is the impact on families if we stop giving homework? I doubt that there is a “one size fits all” answer to this debate, but I know that we need to continue the discussion.
Re-Do's and Re-Takes, Are they okay?
This may seem like a radical concept to some but the answer is, not only are they okay, they’re necessary. Recovery from failure is where the real learning takes place, therefore if we do not allow students to re-do work, we deny the growth mindset so vital to student maturation (Wormeli). However, retesting can feel like a daunting task and frankly be more work for the teacher if it is not conducted properly. Rick Wormeli has provided helpful procedures for educators when it comes to Re-Takes so that we do not lose our sanity. First and foremost, students need to be responsible for their own learning/remediation. Wormeli suggests taking class time in order to develop 25-50 strategies/tools students can use when remediating (this discussion should be student led). Next, evaluation of one's own work and an action plan for improvement needs to be developed. One suggestion for doing this with students is to have them fill out an item analysis of an assessment and rate the categories in which they were successful as well as identify the standards in which they have not yet met. The student then writes their own plan of action (in the form of a letter) to the teacher before retesting. The teacher should set guidelines as to when Re-Takes may be conducted and give calendar deadlines. Another helpful tip is to only retest the standards that were not previously met. Students should be allowed to re-do any assessments until they achieve acceptable mastery, and they should be given full credit for having achieved such. These are just a few (of many) suggestions. In a world where failure leads to success, let's teach our students that it is okay to try, try again.
"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot, and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life.
And that is why...I succeed." -Michael Jordan