Issues of testing and authentic assessment are often controversial. Clearly, developing and implementing effective assessments is a difficult task. By following guidelines and focusing on goals, however, teachers can make sure that the assessments are useful learning experiences for all involved.
► Teachers’ Voices
At my school, when we display student work, a rubric must also be displayed (tied to Washington State K–12 Learning Standards or district curriculum learning goals). Our assistant principal introduced Rubistar—great tool. You may use the rubric as provided or customize your own. What we have found at our school is that those of us using Rubistar are now better at writing/creating our own rubrics and aligning the expectations/assessment with the learning goals.
This can be a part of a reading unit. After students read several books, they can choose a favorite theme or quote from a story and design it in Photoshop. Once the design is complete, they can print this on t-shirt paper and then iron the design on t-shirts. This is a fun way to evaluate their understanding of some themes or quotes from books.
Educational assessment should follow the principles of integration, autonomy, guiding, critical thinking, and process as well as product. My sixth graders are still mastering the keyboard; therefore, any assessment must take into consideration their lack of keyboard experience. The reading assessment we use at our school requires students to type a one-letter response to comprehension questions. I have noticed some students are taking up precious seconds looking for the correct letter (limited to a, b, c, d). I am thinking of somehow highlighting these letters for them. Would this be considered cheating?
I have used role-plays in the past with my adult ESL students. Usually I used them at the end of a unit on health or jobs. Students role-played going to the emergency room or a doctor’s appointment. Also we role-play interviewing for a job and in other units as well. I realize that it is a good idea to use role-playing to assess prior knowledge (at the beginning of a unit) and for identifying any gaps in content knowledge. This type of assessment would be a good indicator for me as the teacher as well as for my students on what knowledge, both concept and vocabulary needs, exists. It would also drive my lessons and make my instruction more intentional and focused on what my students would really benefit from.
The whole concept of learner autonomy in assessment is news to me. As far as I was concerned, state, administrators, and teachers had the only say in how to assess students. I’ve now learned that portfolios, peer reviews, and self-assessments can empower and motivate the students. But I do agree that empowering students is not an easy thing to do because learner and teacher must both change their attitudes and the way they interact with each other. Learner autonomy: Wow, what a concept!
Most assessments that are computer created and taken on the computer are fill-in-the-blank, multiple-choice, true-false. I have used the website FunBrain for these types of “tests” and the kids are motivated to do well. FunBrain sends me the results (I do not have to grade) with comments about which questions most students missed. There is a section for essay, but I would have to assess. Essays and other critical thinking assessments are possible on the computer; however, my students’ typing skills are limited—and time becomes a factor. Our school uses a reading and math computer-based assessment. Again students have to make a choice from the offered selection. But, the program monitors their reading speed and level—adjusts the difficulty of the reading materials, provides in-depth reports for teachers/ parents about strengths/weaknesses and strategies/suggestions on how to help the student improve. This is just an additional assessment tool and we do not use it as the only tool.
I am not really the expert in electronic portfolios but a friend of mine uses them with her second graders and has great results. She uses electronic portfolios created out of a program called The Portfolio Assessment Tool Kit. I intend to set this up for my first-grade students next year and have it follow their progress till fourth grade.
I have recently started using a concept-mapping application called Popplet on class iPads. The students are so excited about it. For class activities, I usually divide the class into groups of three and task each group to create a concept map based on what they learn in the class. I think it is a very good tool to both help students’ learn the concepts better and assess them on their learning.