Friday, January 24, 2014

Practice, the Game, and the Series

Blogging Challenge Day 9
Something you are doing this week in class...

I posted recently about my assessment strategy and how I grade. My biggest surprise came when I got a question from my principal about the post.  First, he reads my blog? Crazy cool.  Only one of the many reasons he is a great principal, I think our staff is super lucky to have him.  I am not just saying that because I know he reads this. :) (i better clean up the grammar mistakes, he used to be a language teacher...)

His question was about the analogy of formative assessment as the practice and the summative assessment as the game.  My short answer is that I see where the analogy is handy when teaching someone about formative and summative, there are some problems with the analogy in general.  

Summative Assessment = The Game?
First, to me a grade should indicate the amount of learning the student has done in regards to the learning target.  

In sports, a game is a snapshot of how the team is doing at that moment.  There is a final score.  The result can not be changed.  (unless one team has cheated somehow and a governing body goes back and takes away wins from the cheaters)  This doesn't happen a whole lot in schools.  (hopefully)

So the summative assessment is the game?  Summative has such a 'final' connotation to it.  When I hear the word summative, it tells me the learning is over.  Which means there is a final score (grade) and the results can't be changed later?  I question this idea.  

Formative Assessment = Practice?
Practice is the main area where sports teams learn and get better. During practice there is constant feedback and repetition to help everyone get better.  Isn't this what is happening in a class at all times?  Formative assessment is a great non-graded way to give feedback, but shouldn't this be happening all the time?  There are many things in the classroom that are practice.  They are purely to get better at the learning target and are not graded.  In terms of assessment I use a 1-4 style on any "graded" assessment.  I also try to include feedback on how to "get to the next level."  I just recently found this picture on twitter that perfectly explains the 1-4 grading system.  I showed it to students and they finally fully understood the 1-4 system.  


Assessment = The Series
To continue the sports analogy of assessment, and the grade the students receives from the assessment, I propose that assessment is much more like a 7-game series.  The grade the student receives for a learning target is like being rated on a performance in a seven game series.  It involves preparation, practice, a game, adjustments, practice between games, another game, more adjustments, more, practice, more games, and so on.  The biggest point is that all the preparation, practice and games all contribute to the outcome of the performance.  

I would like to ditch the terms formative assessment and summative assessment completely.  I read the phrase "Assessment for learning" somewhere and have fallen in love with that term.  Whether the assessment is graded, non-graded, formative, summative or some other category, the assessment should be used to help student learning.  The student's final grade should consider all evidence, with emphasis on the most recent (whether it summative or formative).  

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