By Johanna Klinman
Assessment: Types and Goals
As a science teacher, my summative assessments will generally fall into three categories: labs, projects and tests. I hope to create labs that have purpose and meaning where students learn from their mistakes. Throughout the year, I will follow Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development to scaffold students to a place where they design their own experiments. Similarly, I hope to create projects based on Novemeber’s (2013) Learning Farm model, in that my students feel autonomy and motivation to do valuable work and projects that contribute to society which also show their understanding of key scientific theories. Finally, I hope to create tests that accurately assess my students’ understanding as aligned to instructional goals and standards as Stiggins and Chappius advice. Stiggins and Chappius (2012) explain “records need to tell us and others how each student did in mastering each relevant standard or classroom learning target, depending on the context” (p. 219), which will “provide enough evidence – enough demonstrations of competence –to allow us to infer how each student did in mastering each established standard” (p. 221).
Summative and Formative Assessments
As of right now – and I am well aware that my stance on grading is subject to much change in my future years as a teacher – I am firmly on board with the idea that learning during a unit should not count as a major part of the grade. I completely agree with Rob Fried’s mantra that “We should have fewer grades, tied to substantial, longer term student performances in the essential skills and knowledge areas of the course” (2001, p. 256). In that respect, in my ideal classroom, I would have classwork and practice problems only count as 20% of the grade. Similarly, I hope to one day create a classroom where all homework is done only for practice and does not count as a grade, but rather, is reflected on test scores. For the major summative assessment grades I hope to count labs as 40% of the grade and tests or projects as the remaining 40%. I have seen in my classroom that students who understand the material but fail to compete the homework may end up with a far worse grade in the class while students who comply with all the teachers instructions do well on assignments but demonstrate no understanding of the material in the class. I hope, based on my weighted grading system, that my classroom will be set up in a manner that facilitates students understanding the material as opposed to complying with directions in order to succeed.
Assessment as Part of Instruction
Since I plan on using a lot of practice problems to help my students learn, I will primarily rely on formative feedback to guide students. Especially in science, it is important to given students the opportunity to practice applying new concepts with nongraded worksheets. For example, in chemistry students have to be given time to play around with chemical reactions and learn how to do them. In situations like that is even more important not to grade student work but instead have them do the work FOR learning.
To Zero or Not to Zero - That is the Question
I hate the idea that students have 6 different ways to fail and only 4 ways to succeed, thus I love the idea of moving away from a percent grading system to a 4 point scale or even giving incompletes to students and requiring them to repeat their assignments until they demonstrate understanding. However, I recognize that in Centerville for the next year, neither of my mentor teachers, nor the school system I work in, will be on board with removing zeros from the grading system. Thus, in my future years as an independent teacher, I will absolutely try to give the minimum grade of a 50%. This will only be possible if I make homework ungraded but necessary for success and use a lot of scaffolding to help my students understand what they need to do to succeed. If I get to a point teaching in a school that allows me to give incompletes and require students to make-up missed work at a later dates, then I will embrace that system, but until then, I will try to make sure that my rubrics follow a 4 point scale and that students are encouraged to turn in all assignments by making them in-class work, rather than homework.
Prepare Students for Academic Success
It is essential to teach students the skill needed to perform well on assessments of any kind. From lab reports, to projects, to tests, I need to give my students the tools to succeed. Key to my students’ success is clear objectives and goals. As Wiggins and McTighe (2005) explanation of rubrics details, “a rubric for understanding must provide concrete answers to our key assessment questions: What does understanding look like?” (p. 175). I will try to show students good examples of projects and always give them a rubric prior to beginning any assignment. For lab reports, I will scaffold the essential skills and items students need to include in order to perform well. I will explicitly teach them how to format their lab reports in a precise manner to show understanding and critical thinking. Finally, I wish to follow Stiggins and Chapius’s advice about how to help students perform best on tests. Specifically, I will follow their advice to “develop a pretest version of a multiple-choice final exam,… have student work in teams to draft practice test items… [and] have them develop scoring guides for evaluating their own performance” (2012, p. 86). Review packets and games are especially important as they help students understand what material will be on the test and what to study.
- Fried, R. L. (2001). The passionate teacher: A practical guide. Beacon Press.
- November, A.C. (2012). Who owns the learning?: Preparing students for success in the digital age. Bloomington, Ind.: Solution Tree Press.
- Stiggins, R. J., & Chappuis, J. (2012). An introduction to student-involved assessment for learning. Boston: Pearson.
- Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development