Saturday, November 20, 2010

How can I assess student learning?

Ms. Dorothy-
I have three students that I work with. They are home-schooled and are in 7th and 8th grade. They are taking the work seriously, and do a great job meeting all the criteria of the assignments. I'm just not sure that the information we cover is really being learned, or if they have just gotten really good at taking tests. Is there a difference? I need some way to grade them for what we do that is fair, and I want to be sure I'm measuring what I think I'm measuring. What do you think?
- Middle School Teacher

Finding out how much of what you've taught is really owned by the students is so different from counting how many questions were answered correctly on a test!

I think that completing an assignment well has to be about more than having accurate spelling and grammar, or even a well structured argument. To me, producing something for a teacher is about pleasing one person, and usually the person who has already directed you in how they wish to be pleased.

Justification is a powerful critical thinking skill that changes assignments from something you have to do to something you have to stand behind. I don't think it is possible to present your knowledge of a topic to an expert on that topic unless you have truly gained some mastery of the content.

If a student writes a paper about the plight of the black-footed ferret I would expect that student to present this paper to people who are interested in black-footed ferrets, and be convincing to someone to whom ferrets matter.

When it is done right, the authentic audience evaluates your success or failure in achieving your curricular goals.

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