As an educator, I believe that it is my job to provide a learning environment that caters to varying needs and learning styles. I value collaboration, respect, care, and lifelong growth and learning. I believe that my students deserve to be part of a classroom community that is equitable and reflects my values and beliefs, as well as their own. I also believe that assessment is an essential and fundamental component of teaching and learning and it is crucial that assessment reflects these values and beliefs.
Assessment Of, As, and For Learning
As educators, it is important to understand the three general types of assessment – assessment of learning, as learning, and for learning. Each of these types of assessment play an important role in the teaching and learning process. When people think of assessment, assessment of learning is typically what comes to mind. Assessment of learning is used to assess and evaluate what was learned; typically at the end of a unit. Another term for this form of assessment is summative assessment. However, it is crucial to understand that assessment is more than simply giving a grade and moving on. Assessment should be meaningful, informative, and should provide students with the opportunity and encouragement to excel – which is the purpose of assessment for learning. Assessment for learning is used to identify where students are academically in order to find ways to effectively support them. Another term for assessment for learning is formative assessment. Finally, assessment as learning is when assessment itself is used as a form of teaching. I believe that assessment as learning is important as it helps to foster independence and pushes students to take responsibility for their own learning. In addition, I believe that assessment as learning encourages students to practice metacognition, which is the ability of understanding, reflecting, and being aware of one’s thoughts. Bransford and Schwartz (1999) suggest in their article Rethinking Transfer: A Simple Proposal With Multiple Implication, that in order to be effective problem solvers and leaners, individuals must first learn how to be reflective learners, which is practiced through metacognition – emphasizing the benefits of assessment as learning.
Formative assessment is a form of assessment that informs both the teacher and the student about the students’ learning progress and the effectiveness of instruction. As previously stated, I value lifelong learning and I believe that formative assessment is an effective way of monitoring this. The Student Evaluation Teacher Handbook states, “Evaluation should provide opportunities for student development and improvement” (Saskatchewan Education, 1991, p. 2). With that being said, I believe that formative assessment is crucial in the learning process, as it highlights that assessment is not fixed. Formative assessment allows for growth and when implemented appropriately, should support students in this growth. Additionally, I believe that it is important to understand that assessment does not always need to be formal, especially when it comes to formative assessment. Talk About Assessment: Strategies and Tools to Improve Learning states, “Effective teachers are constantly assessing their students’ learning in informal ways by listening, observing, and conferencing with them, and then using the information they gather to adjust instruction to maximize learning.” (Cooper, 2007. P. 8). This demonstrates that formative assessment should be ongoing and can be done informally through various methods. However, in 2014, Alfie Kohn emphasized in his lecture at the Regina Teachers’ Convention that people should not be tricked by language and that just because something is formative, does not mean it is not standardized. I believe that in order for assessment to be effective, it should not be standardized, as standardized assessment is limiting and does not provide an accurate depiction of student learning.
Essentially, summative assessment is a summary of a student’s learning. I believe that summative assessment is just as important as formative assessment as they are designed to provide students, teachers, parents, and the board an idea of the learning happening in the classroom. Summative assessment is intended to provide students with an idea of what they have learned, which can then be used to reflect upon, apply, or even encourage them to extend their knowledge. However, I believe that it is also important to understand that summative assessment may be extremely stressful for some students. These feelings demonstrate the importance of adapting assessment to ensure that the final assessment is a reflection of the students’ learning and not of the emotions they were feeling when being assessed. The Student Evaluation Teacher Handbook states, “Evaluation should be fair and equitable, giving all students opportunities to demonstrate the extent of their knowledge, skills, and abilities.” (Saskatchewan Education, 1991, p. 2) With that, I believe that in order for summative assessment to be effective, it must be flexible enough to be adapted to meet the learning styles and needs of all students.
The Adaptive Dimension
The Adaptive Dimension for Saskatchewan K-12 Students suggests, “Students are best able to engage in learning when they feel supported, encouraged and have teachers who recognize their learning strengths.” (Saskatchewan Education, 2017, p. 5) This quotation demonstrates the importance of creating a supportive, encouraging, and nurturing environment. However, it should not end there – assessment should be reflective of the classroom environment. Moreover, assessment should also support the varying needs and learning styles of the students, as The Adaptive Dimension for Saskatchewan K-12 Students states:
“Just as teachers adapt instruction to meet the needs of the students, assessment must be adjusted so individual needs are met. Any assessment should be fair and equitable, giving all students opportunities to make connections and demonstrate the extent of their knowledge, skills and abilities in a variety of ways.” (Saskatchewan Education, 2017, p . 9)
Since assessment plays a huge role in the teaching and learning process, it is important that each student has equal opportunity to strive and succeed. Some ways that I believe equity can be achieved in assessment is by ensuring that assessment is flexible, sensitive to differences, and reflective of the learners being assessed. However, it is also important to understand that equity does not mean lowering expectations for some students – it means adapting instruction and assessment so that students are able to meet the same expectations. This is highlighted in the Student Evaluation Teacher Handbook where it states, “When making adaptations to reflect specific student needs, it is important to remember that curricular objectives should not be modified. Therefore, although instructional strategies and assessment techniques may differ, all students are working toward attaining similar learning outcomes.” (Saskatchewan Education, 1991, p. 19).
There are several reasons as to why students may benefit from adapted assessment. I believe that as educators, it is important that we take into account and are sensitive and understanding of all the factors that play a role in a student’s academic achievement. Some of these factors may include varying abilities, different cultural backgrounds or language barriers, socioeconomic status, lack of support or resources, or difficult home circumstances. I believe that in order to be an effective, responsible, and good educator, I must find ways to support all students despite these factors.I believe that flexibility is a key component in implementing the adaptive dimension in assessment practices because flexibility ensures that assessment is responsive and appropriate for all students. Cooper (2007) highlights that flexibility is essential in assessment because of the high possibilities of a planned assessment approach needing to be adapted or modified. Some examples of ways to make assessment flexible include offering students choice or involving them in the assessment planning. I believe that including students in the assessment planning, allows students the opportunity to voice their needs and ensures that they are reflected in the chosen method of assessment. In addition, offering students alternative approaches to compensate for a particular exceptionality can also be beneficial. Finally, simply offering students extended or bubble deadlines to complete tasks can benefit all students, because sometimes unexpected events do occur in everyone’s lives.
Connections To My Philosophy of Education
My values and beliefs are embedded within both my philosophy of education and philosophy of assessment. I believe that it is important that these two philosophies are interconnected, as they depend on one another in order to be authentic and effective. As previously stated, as an educator, I believe that it is my role to provide students a learning environment that caters to their varying needs and learning styles. I also believe that it is important to build relationships with my students and their families through communication and by working collaboratively with them. In addition, I also value respect, care, and growth. I believe that when assessment reflects these values and beliefs, each of my students will have the opportunity to grow and strive.
I believe that in order for assessment to be effective, relationships with the students and parents or guardians must be established. The article, Talk About Assessment: Strategies and Tools to Improve Learning states, “[…] one of the essential characteristics of the teaching-learning process is the human interaction that occurs between students and a caring, sensitive, skilled teacher.” (Cooper, 2007, p.10) With that, I believe that relationships are the root to getting to know students and finding ways to best support them and help them reach their full potential. Through these relationships, trust is also built. Building trust with students and parents or guardians is important because it allows them to trust the decisions we make in both lesson and assessment planning. Moreover, trust also allows for parents and students to open up about any concerns or questions they may have regarding assessment.
Collaboration is another component that I believe is important when it comes to assessment and I believe that collaboration is easier with established relationships and trust with both students and their parents. Assessment should be collaborative because when students are given the opportunity to take part in the planning and/or decision making process of assessment, they are more likely to fully understand what they are being assessed on. In addition, The Adaptive Dimension for Saskatchewan K-12 Students states, “The Adaptive Dimension recognizes the importance of collaborative planning which is fundamental to structuring adaptations to maximize students’ potential as independent learners.” (Saskatchewan Education, 2017, p. 3) I believe that this statement suggests that collaboration also fosters the independence of students in order for them to take responsibility over their own learning. Furthermore, collaboration can be more than planning assessment together – collaboration can also include practicing collaborative assessment. Collaborative assessment can include self-assessment and peer-assessment. I believe these two processes are beneficial to students as it allows them to reflect on their own work, as well as learn how to give feedback to their peers.
I value lifelong learning and growth and I believe that when assessment is meaningful, it can promote positive learning that constructs a strong foundation for lifelong learning and growth. Talk About Assessment: Strategies and Tools to Improve Learning (2007) suggests that in order for assessment to be helpful and meaningful to students, it must be informative – meaning it goes beyond a simple numerical or letter grade. Moreover, meaningful and informative assessment should demonstrate to the students their strengths, as well as their areas of improvement, which can be communicated through descriptive feedback. I believe that feedback is important because it gives students ideas of how to extend their learning. In addition, another way of making assessment more meaningful is by varying it. In the textbook, Assessing Students’ Ways of Knowing, Alfie Kohn makes the statement, “Even well-designed assessments can have an adverse impact on teaching and learning if they’re given too often.” (Sawa, 2009, p. 109). This quotation emphasizes that there are several different forms of assessment and by changing it up, it gives students more opportunities to succeed. I believe that assessment should not be limiting, as students demonstrate their learning in different ways; therefore, limiting assessment also limits students.
Due to the fact that assessment takes several different forms, I believe that one of the challenges that I may be faced is contrasting beliefs and opinions on assessment – specifically differing beliefs regarding standardized testing. I believe that it is important that we respect the beliefs of others, however, it is also important that our students are being respected. Assessing Student’s Ways of Knowing highlights a statement from Alfie Kohn:
“To take the cause of equity seriously is to work for the elimination of tracking, for more equitable funding, and for the universal implementation of more sophisticated approached to pedagogy. […] But standardized testing, while bad news across the board, is especially hurtful to students who need our help the most.” (Sawa, 2009, p. 25)
This statement demonstrates how assessment ties into equity and when assessment is standardized, it goes against equity as it limits students’ opportunities to succeed; which I believe, is a form of disrespect towards them. Although I believe this, I may be faced with colleagues with differing views, which is where the challenges arise. Moreover, this issue is exhibited in Alfie Kohn’s statement, “Many educators are leaving the field because of what is being done to schools in the name of ‘accountability’ and ‘tougher standards’.” (Sawa, 2009, p. 20) This statement demonstrates the effects of different beliefs regarding assessment, in particular, standardized testing. However, Kohn (2009) emphasizes that standardized testing are only used for two reasons: “to collect information about the performance of individual students and to monitor the performance of entire schools or districts.” (Sawa, 2009, p. 107). With that, when it comes to meaningful, accurate, and effective assessment and feedback that promotes ongoing learning and growth, standardized testing does not do students justice.
Finally, classroom demographics are rapidly evolving, however adequate support, funding, and resources are lacking. Although as pre-service teachers, we are being taught effective ways of implementing and adapting assessment to cater to the diversity and needs of students, the government does not provide adequate funding to support them. With that, some of the challenges that underly assessment are the lack of funding, support, and resources. I believe that in order for both instruction and assessment to be effective, teachers require the support of educational assistants, up-to-date materials and resources, professional development opportunities, and bigger classrooms and smaller class sizes. However, despite these challenges, I believe that there are ways to work around them. I believe that educators should work collaboratively to find assessment techniques that can support all students.
Bransford, J. D., & Schwartz, D. L. (1999). Rethinking Transfer: A Simple Proposal with Multiple Implications. Review of Research in Education, 24, 61.
Cooper, D. (2007). Talk about assessment: Strategies and tools to improve learning. Toronto, Ontario: Nelson.
Saskatchewan Education. (1991). Student evaluation: a teacher handbook. Retrieved from http://publications.gov.sk.ca/documents/11/15375-Student-Evaluation.pdf
Saskatchewan Education. (2017). The adaptive dimension for Saskatchewan K-12 students. Retrieved from http://publications.gov.sk.ca/documents/11/100225-The%20Adaptive%20Dimension.pdf
Sawa, R. (Ed.) (2009). Assessing students’ ways of knowing. Saskatchewan: CCPA
Spooner, M., & Kohn, A. (2014, March 7). Alfie Kohn at the Regina Teachers’ Convention 2014 [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blhh6W4QCoY