A message about assessment and evaluation…

As I continue working on my philosophy of education and taking a critical look at the “I believe” statements I created, today I need to look at one that has been on my nerves lately as I compare evaluation methods between education classes and a non-education elective.

I believe in holistic and natural assessment and evaluation.

I really do… I think that this is a crucial part of my philosophy, so I am going to go ahead and dive into this one. I have been lucky enough to have many professors in the faculty of education who understand this, and do a great job of modeling authentic assessment through project work with a focus on the process not the product. I don’t believe in traditional testing methods, they benefit students who do school well, who have the ability to memorize facts, they create a stressful and uncomfortable environment. I don’t think exams show what you know, they only show how good you are at writing a test. There are a few students who this benefit from this, but largely this is not true.

I recently watched a TED Talk by Sir Ken Robinson called Bring on the learning revolution! He speaks to the idea that schools are built on an industrial model, a linear system thats goal is to get students into collage. I think traditional testing as a direct reflection of this model, the problem as Sir Ken Robinson says is that “life is not linear, its organic.” He suggested that in order to partake in this learning revolution, we need to move away from the industrial model towards an agricultural model where we provide students with the personalized conditions they need to flourish. For me, this means we need to engage our students in the process of learning.

I consider myself a very passionate person, I love what I do and if you spend much time around me you will learn that I also love to talk about education. So, I was not surprised when my Mom called me in January to tell me about my little brother, Ryley, challenging his teacher. As Ryley was sitting in his Gr. 10 classroom reviewing for his upcoming final exam he raised his hand. Ryley proceed to tell his teacher and class that final exams were not an authentic way to show what they know, only to show how well they can write tests. His teachers repose was simple…”Did you hear that from your sister? All those young graduates are being taught that.” I think thats good news… maybe we are about to see that learning revolution come to life through these young graduates.

I usually welcome various opinions in my blog to allow myself to critically think about my philosophy, but I am not sure that I am willing to change my mind on this one. What do you think? Personally I have never given students a “test” I use tools such as project work, anecdotal records, and rubrics to generate grades. Am I hurting students in some way by not giving tests? Or, is this the beginning of the learning revolution?

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6 thoughts on “A message about assessment and evaluation…

  1. I really enjoyed this post! And I also am excited by how your brother stood up to his teacher about authentic assesment methods and that his teacher ( even if it was in a sort of sarcastic way?) aknowledged that assesment practices is about to change via us newbies 🙂

    I also have never given a “test” ( other then in math) , even in the middle years level, but I still feel that I have holistically assesed each students. I always think about what it was like/is like to be a student and the experiences that I personally and others have refelected on as being the most valuable… tests are never on that list.

    I do wonder about the place for “tests” in math. I deffiantly think that assinments and relevant projects show more understanding then test b math ( as it is often taught now) is accumulative and very fact orriented. Tests seem like the most , for a lack of a better word, natural way of monitoring student understanding. But I wonder, are math tests “testing” students understanding of concepts or their abilitiy to reguritate and memorize?

    Learning should be about the experiences and about the growth of each individual student. Assesment practices should reflect this.

  2. I feel the same as you!! Good for your brother because some people wouldn’t have been able to stand up to their teacher like he did! As I think back to my schooling so far, most of the content I remember have come from the classes where there were no EXAMS and my teachers/profs used different ways to assess the work I had done. I also believe that because of the ways they assessed me have allowed me to critically examine how I completed that certain project and how I think I did. I believe that exams do nothing but stress children out and show how well the student is at memorizing. I do not find tests as an authentic way for children to truly learn the material, they are only remembering it.

    In my internship, I had to give the children a bunch of different math assessments, similar to tests, which were expected by the school division. There were tonnes of questions and I felt so bad for having to give these young children a test. I felt that I was not truly seeing what my students know and that I was only doing it because I had to.

  3. I think it IS bringing on the revolution. I am glad new teachers are doing this. My only worry for now is that they will leave school and may have to face “the old system” somewhere with tests and all. As much as I believe in authentic evaluation, I am worried for them – will they be able to write a test if they have to?

    • Good point! My older brother is 100% for standardized testing because he believes when it comes times for University, there needs to be a better system for admissions. (He’s an engineer, who thinks in numbers) We fight about this all the time. Perhaps we need to teach test taking skills in high school and eventually the norm will be become authentic assessment? That is my hope!

      • I remember that when I was going to take my finals in English in high school, there was only one teacher who actually told us HOW to take the test. What I mean by this, she told us what kind of test questions are there and how to think to get them done easily (solving the patterns as in: what do they expect from you here) that is one way we could help with standardized testing, I guess…

  4. Pingback: Summary of Learning | Renae's Blog

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