Yesterday I took part in a multi-division professional development day on assessment and critical thinking. My division has been enamoured with Assessment for Learning for the longest time, but I have not been able to effectively transfer that knowledge into effective summative assessment in my math courses. I have, for the most part, stuck with the traditional assessment methods.
My foray into Project Based Learning necessitates a shift, and that shift was finally solidified through my activity with peers at the sessions. I scratched down a form of project assessment, and labeled it “Continuum Assessment”. I called it this for three reasons:
- Placing something on a continuum requires a large amount of critical thinking.
- A continuum implies that there is room for growth. This “growth mindset” aligns perfectly with my department’s priority this year.
- It avoids an quantitative scale when reflecting.
The process goes as follows:
- I begin the assessment process by asking the students to tabulate a list of characteristics of a good project.
- Initially, each suggestion is placed on the board. I will suggest topics if they are overshadowed, and even bargain to include some aspects.
- Every characteristic that makes the final cut is assigned a continuum on the assessment. The continuum contains no marks or labels.
- Below each continuum, there are two spaces. One is for evidence of their assessment, and the other is for improvements on their performance.
- Examples of projects are presented to the students. They fill out mock assessments with good, written evidence and improvements. The assessments are discussed and the characteristics are altered, added, or deleted (if needed).
- Each student completes an assessment on their own project individually, and each group is assigned a partner group to complete an assessment on.
The process takes time, but it is time well spent. The goal of the class is to get students self-monitoring their mathematical progress. The project environment provides a large amount of autonomy, and the assessment continues this feeling. The absence of numbers (ie. from 1-10) requires students to further uncover the evidence of a job well done. My goal is to sit down with students at midterms and look through their assessments and chart their progress.
I plan on assigning their blogs a continuum on the assessment. The use of this reflective tool throughout will become yet another tool to build interconnectedness. Some students have taken to their blog right away; others need to get use to the fact of documenting their thoughts and struggles. The posts do not need to be long to show me that they are thinking about the class, the work, and their strategies.
For example, one student documents the slow implementation of the technology here:
While another student details her excitement to begin her first project. A description and initial strategy are included:
As the class continues, and freedom increases, the reflective blogs will become a very important part of the assessment.
My growth as a teacher has been largely centered around instruction. I attempted to build my lessons with a focus on deep student thinking. I just assumed that critical thinking ended when the task was done and assessment began; I imagine the years of mathematics instruction I received solidified that fact. Developing the continuum model for my projects has finally illuminated what it means to continue to learn throughout assessment. Assessment is as much as an ecology builder as instruction. An effective assessment model not only documents whats been accomplished, it links seamlessly into what’s to come.