Last week I had the opportunity to work with Damian Cooper, author of Redefining Fair: How to Plan, Assess and Grade for Excellence in Mixed-Ability Classroom.
It is interesting how my professional practice has changed from being a young teacher in the 1990s wondering why we were starting to talk about “assessment” at all, to my thinking now where I look at Assessment FOR Learning and Assessment AS Learning as being the most critical thing we can do to improve and enhance student learning.
Damian had us consider consider “Five Imperatives” that should guide teachers’ work:
- Curriculum must be meaningful, coherent and relevant
- Instruction must be responsive to students’ needs
- Assessment must be informative
- Grading must blend consistency with professional judgment
- Communication about learning must be truthful and transparent
One comment that really stuck out that he shared was:
If our assessment practices do not demand THINKING on the part of students, they are probably a waste of time…
He went on to explain by asking this phenomenal question:
“Who do kids learn more from, the COACH or the JUDGE?”
To me, this was a 10.0 comment! Is it the number at the end that the judge gives me on my performance that I learned from? Or, if thinking about professional sports players, is it the hours of video watched and critiqued, the work with the coach to improve, the formative feedback from coaches and teammates, the intent to improve their abilities and skills, and the discussions before, during, and after the practice or game that make all the difference? Or the score in the end? Without the other stuff, the score will not be affected…
Seems like a pretty easy question, but we need to make sure that we are utilizing this thinking with all of our students.
So, how can we support each other in this work? We, as teachers, need to take the time to talk about assessment and how it looks daily in our classrooms. I can help by ensuring that time and structures are in place to enable teachers to:
- Collaborate with colleagues to agree upon essential learning
- Collaborate with colleagues to agree upon the assessment tasks students must produce as evidence of essential learning
- Communicate clearly to students what comprises critical evidence of essential learning
- Collaborate to come to an understanding that this work is a major part of learning, and not just an add-on!
After all, this reflective thinking is the whole point in why I create this blog!
As an administrator, I need to ask myself some questions that have come out of this thinking:
- “Who do TEACHERS learn more from, the COACH or the JUDGE?”
- How can we be (learning) coaches, not judges (or just “principals”) for our teachers?
- If we expect kids to get it wrong the first time… What about us as professionals? Do we encourage and support each other when we do make mistakes?
- Is this work optional for teachers? Is it part of our teams? Our PLCs? Our own Professional Practice?
Easy questions to ask, harder to implement, but at least we are on the journey!