A few hours ago I was involved in a very lively discussion on the twitter chat #dojochatANZ about the role of Assessment. In particular, we examined what ‘Quality Assessment’ meant. During the chat there were a number of views that really stood out!
Rachel Gallagher: Assessment should spark: “intellectual curiosity, student accountability for learning and student empowerment.”
Dean Kuran got us off to a very interesting start when we asked, “What is Quality Assessment?” He answered with the etymology of the word ‘assessment’. It is Latin in origin, as many words are, and comes from the word “assidere” meaning “to sit beside”
The metaphorical link here implies that the teacher sits with the student, gets to know them and truly understands them. In this ancient scenario, the teacher is aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the student. You get the feeling that here the teacher would constantly pitch the lesson to the right level and move the difficulty of the lessons along as their pupil’s skills grew and developed. This ancient pedagogical methodology is precise! It is individualised! It evolves and adapts to the needs of the learner and it creates an authentic relational bond between teacher and student.
In our constant desire to be ever moving forward and growing it is important to look back and learn from the quality of past methodologies!
The trap is when Mr Maximus was teaching young Commodious his Latin verbs, society was different and I think class sizes may have been smaller. In those days a 1:1 teaching environment didn’t refer to the school’s BYOD policy.
In the modern classroom I think Jo Prestia summed it up well, “Quality Assessment is where everyone gets a chance to show you what they’ve got and then be challenged to do a little more.” One thing that came through very strongly was that feeling that wherever possible teachers had an obligation to minimise stress and alleviate any anxiety that could affect our students!
So the question needs to be asked, why don’t change? Why do we keep doing this? The answer seemed to be system or school expectations, compliance, speed, ease and necessity. Now, far from climbing an Ivory Tower and pontificating from high let me be the first to admit that I still do a Friday spelling test, and I do whack up quizzes and righty or wrongly (and definitely unintentionally) I’m sure many children have had a restless sleep the night before one of, “Sir’s big tests!”
As we analysed features and shared examples of ‘best practice’ two constants began to emerge. Feedback for the student was essential (and the more immediate the better). Assessments should inform the student just as they inform the teacher. The other was deeper. We should always be open to the fact that quality assessments should inform us as to the effectiveness of out teaching practice. We should learn what we need to do better in the same way the student needs to understand their own strengths and weaknesses.
We ALL need to know how we can grow, develop and improve!