“What Might Assessment Look Like?” Part One

The word “assessment” is a loaded one. It can strike fear in the hearts of teachers and students alike. Does quality assessment look like neat bubbles filled in with No. 2 pencil, five paragraphs, a poster, or something else? Should all the hard work be laid out to see, or hidden? Unfortunately, there isn’t one right answer to these questions. But most educators would agree that assessment must be valuable to the learner.

So, as we move forward, what might assessment look like? To answer this question let’s start by looking beyond the classroom to the world that our students will one day inhabit and work in. Because isn’t success ultimately measured by how students use what they learn beyond the classroom?

Data shows the current modes of assessment are no longer accurate measures of what a “21st Century Learner” needs to know. “Employers are satisfied that the majority of college graduates who apply for positions at their companies possess a range of skills that prepare them for success in entry-level positions, but they are notably less confident that graduates are prepared for advancement or promotion.”(Hart)  


Room to Improve


Here in lies the problem. We know these college graduates didn’t spend four years doing nothing, so was all their hard work for naught? This  data calls to mind the old adage, use the right tool for the right job. It appears that some of our tools are outdated and this puts our students at risk of limited long-term success.Take a look at how essays tests and multiple-choice fared.


Assessments' Effectiveness


Not so good. Now, look at the modes of assessment that best transfer to the real-world: internships, projects and portfolios. These modes of assessment are the best indicators of success beyond the classroom because they force students to go far beyond “the right answer.” While all of this is helpful data, it still leaves questions about what specific skills and tasks can be used to assess a high school student’s growth and functional knowledge. I know so many great learning experiences occur in the classrooms around GHS. We are a school where students are regularly asked to go beyond bubbling in the “right answer” and recalling basic facts. Just imagine the learning experiences and assessments that could be done if limits such as the bell schedule and rigid separation of the disciplines were taken out of the equation.  

In Part Two of “What Might Assessment Look Like?” I will look at some “Real World, GHS” examples of Project Based Learning and Standards Based Grading. These examples will serve as a jumping off point to envision what more could be done if metaphoric walls were taken down and a more interdisciplinary approach could be taken.

Hart Research Associates. “How Should Colleges Assess And Improve Student Learning?.” Online Survey.http://www.aacu.org/leap/documents/2008_Business_Leader_Poll.pdf. Association of American College and Universities, January 9, 2008

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