Participatory Assessment

I have been toying with an idea in my head for some time… its finally spilling out my ears, around how to make assessment more meaningful for students, parents, and manageable for teachers.

So much of what separates good quality assessment from bad hinges on the quality of the feedback that (1) teachers provide (2) students receive AND understand (3) students act on and (4) teachers reflect on. If we could somehow improve the timing and nature of our feedback, the benefit is that we improve the quality and accuracy of our evaluation, and theory, should improve student learning.

It’s the last part of this complex assessment equation that seems to be the hardest to track though…

While we may already define the learning goal, co-create the criteria for success, find time to assess student work, and write good feedback for learners, the true test is whether students can internalize the feedback and apply it to their understanding, thinking or application. We often scrutinize the success criteria, but do we take a close look at the quality of the feedback? Finding the time for teachers to reflect holistically on how the quality of the feedback impacted students’ subsequent learning and teachers’ subsequent teaching is so challenging. Do we provide different opportunities to ‘try and try again’?

One way to overcome this challenge is not to do it alone. Imagine more of a participatory approach to assessment ( and, not to worry, I will pause here to emphasize that the teacher is the one who eventually applies his / her professional judgment when it comes to evaluation ). First off, I’d love to advocate for teacher collaboration because when I work in grade level teams it forces me to reflect on and improve my practice; I would like to think that my colleagues find peer-peer collaboration helpful as well. So now that we have set our long range plans together, imagine a model where students (and even parents???) feel they play an integral part of meaningful assessment for learning.

As noted above, some educators have figured out how to create a solid AFL program by involving student voice in co-constructing success criteria and putting rubrics and other assessment tools into parent friendly language. But I am taking about more than this…

Could students play more of a direct role in planning the when? and how? the expectations will be taught and learning after they receive the feedback (essentially, helping with the sticky second part of the equation that I referenced above-the middle of the AFL process, before evaluation). The Ministry expectations (the what?) are pre-determined, but the how? and how well? is left up to the teacher ( and maybe the students) to determine, no?

Might more of a participatory approach to classroom assessment, where together we regularly revisit and re-direct/inform how well we are dong as individual students, groups, educators and even leaders, give us the time we need to provide higher quality ‘just in time’ feedback. And wouldn’t this have the potential to increase our efficacy and teachers and learners?

How do you engage multiple participants in your assessment practice? Is the a role for technology somewhere in the mix? Does it improve the quality of your feedback? student learning?

Tania

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4 thoughts on “Participatory Assessment

  1. Hi Tania! This post about participatory assessment is timely! Systems thinking and a ‘reciprocal flow of influence’ is crucial (but tricky as we all know). Increasing quality feedback by consciously building in feedback and feed-forward loops helps us monitor growth and learning so we learn from mistakes, sustain change, and ‘track success’ toward both a system’s selected goals and our own ongoing professional learning.

    For more thinking about ‘reflective conversations’ and striking a balance between alignment and flexibility for the greatest impact on student learning and achievement, see two new resources to be published in the spring of 2013: Leading the Way to Assessment; and Transforming Schools and Systems Using Assessment – from Anne Davies and Sandra Herbst (Connections Publishing).

    Option for Professional Learning: Check out the Connections Publishing website at http://www.connect2learning.com in February 2013 for more about the Assessment Institute in Canmore, BC this summer – August 2013!

  2. Hi Debbie!
    Long time to see and thanks for the reply. These 2 new resources look interesting-will definitively check them out. Anne Davies is someone many teachers look to for guidance when constructing their success criteria with students, so I’m always intrigued by what new things she’s tanking and writing about.

    This article “The Secret of Success Criteria” http://www.cpco.on.ca/News/PrincipalConnections/PastIssues/Vol14/Issue3/SuccessCriteria.pdf by Michelle Geenan, edited by Denis Maika is also helpful.

    Take care,
    Tania

  3. Interesting piece, Tania. I am pondering the notion of holistic assessment in mathematics. I think the best option is performance-based assessment with students working on real-world problems (social justice issues maybe?) is the idea I am thinking about right now. I might turn this over to my graduate students and see what they come up with.

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