Have you ever held your child’s report card and felt in your gut that your child’s real abilities weren’t being adequately assessed? If too much emphasis was placed on either a single test or a single type of test, you might be right.
“Your grade for this semester will be based largely upon this 150 question, objective test. Completely fill in the answer block on your scan sheet. Start now.” How many of us have heard this frightening speech? Were the test results always relevant as a reflection of real learning and understanding?
Objective testing is important, but it cannot serve, alone, as an adequate 21st century skills assessment tool. Not all learners are linear; does your child’s report card take in consideration non-linear, creative learners and how they best demonstrate understanding? And, as you consider the skills necessary for 21st century success, is your child being tested for the correct and full spectrum of needed skills?
Test assessment tools, no matter how accurate, should not be a stand-alone occurrence. True learning assessment is a natural, organic process.
Your child’s report card
The report card you hold needs to evaluate and reward students for in-depth achievements based upon perspectives that include key factors
- multiple intelligences
- collaborative learning interactions
- cognitive process
- demonstrated competence of applied understanding
Assessment approaches need to evaluate not only objective competence, but also the on-going nature of engaged intelligence, individualized process, curricular goals, and planned product.
Five Points to look for and consider
Will you, as a parent, know a good evaluation when you see it? What should you consider? First, go with that gut feeling enough to consider the full process of assessment and what makes a good evaluation of learned skills. As you do that, look for these five points in the assessment and its surrounding process.
- The best assessment tools will be natural outgrowths of a learning process that builds and integrates skills.
- A good assessment process includes necessary stages of revision, trial and error, and exploration for the learner.
- Assessment should be surrounded by an active environment of working toward a continual honing of skills, a process of product development, and engagement in conscious goals.
- Strong assessment is continual within a process of meaningful use of skills and project development.
- Based on engagement in learning goals and the process of achievement, the student views assessment as helpful feedback that is relevant, fair, and assistive.
In the classroom
Dan VanAntwerp, a literature and writing teacher at Hunterdon Central Regional High School, a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, in Flemington, New Jersey, feels poor evaluation tools reflect “one-way patterns of instruction” that are teacher-focused and narrowly applicable. Bad tools don’t recognize the interactive, purposeful, and applied nature of the “active participant’s learning process.”
To build a rich environment that allows for the integration of curricular content and Information Age skills, Dan incorporates in-depth use of multimedia into the learning process. As he evaluates student multimedia work, he employs an assessment structure built upon five areas: Vision, Integration, Relevancy, Interpretative Complexity, and Functionality.
- For Vision, Dan asks “Does the project present a clear message? Does the project represent a fully realized idea? Is the product a true reflection of the student? Are the product and the approach original?”
- For Integration, Dan queries, “Does the project appeal to multiple senses? Has the student utilized a variety of skills in producing the project?”
- For Relevancy, Dan explores, “Are the multimedia components relevant to the concept being presented? Do the multimedia elements serve to enhance the overall theme? Does a conceptual link exist between all aspects of the project?”
- For Interpretative Complexity, Dan examines, “Is the concept presented on a variety of levels? Do the multimedia components add to the depth of the conceptual presentation? Does the program offer significant meaning to a diverse audience?”
- The final element of Functionality cannot be ignored. Dan asks in this assessment, “Does the project function correctly?” Is the project simple to access? Does the user have control when viewing or presenting the project?”
Dan’s purposeful structure addresses valid goals within the educational use of multimedia presentation as a learning tool. His learners have choices, target clear goals, and apply integrated knowledge in meaningful ways. His assessment structure supports the modern nature of learning where “the student learns by becoming an active participant in the learning process through making decisions and exploring areas of personal interest.”
Dan’s structure is an excellent one. But, he knows it’s not the only option. The sharpest guidelines for assessment will be collaborative – institution, teacher, student, and parent – all involved in establishing goals that are recognized and pursued in a meaningful process by the learner.
The final analysis is up to you
That gut feeling mentioned earlier? Were you correct? Within the required curriculum, was the assessment fair in allowing your child to demonstrate understanding? Did your child’s assessment recognize the applied nature of modern learning? Did it inform you about a spectrum of learning?
And, vital and critical, was the learning process that led up to assessment right for your child?
As a parent and as a learner, good assessment can be recognized. It’s aligned to curriculum and relevant while remaining personalized and meaningful. In the integration of an engaged learning process coupled with a meaningful assessment structure, the student acknowledges skills successfully attained, skills being built, and areas of future growth; the student feels achievement and builds a satisfying process of lifelong learning.
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