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Pedagogical comments: Personal Philosophy on Assessments Personal Philosophy on Assessments

I believe that as educators, it is our responsibility to assist students in their ongoing journey of becoming lifelong learners. It is this endeavor that I seek to pursue every avenue out there, to support their lifelong learning. Even as I pursue these avenues, one avenue that I would like to zoom in on is the true value of assessments. Over the years, assessments have been used in varied capacities, but the true nature of assessments needs to be unpacked to understand the true value that it possesses in supporting students on this journey of becoming lifelong learners. Unwrapping Assessments: In doing so I intend to express and reflect my personal beliefs and experiences with regard to key components that I believe are required for an effective approach to assessment in schools. I believe, that the key to an effective approach to assessment in schools begin with a clear understanding of the purposes and impact of effective assessments. Assessments are prevalent at varied stages of the learning process, and at each stage its unique functionality needs to be understood and captured to effectively support students in their learning. It is in this light that I believe that the purpose and use of formative, interim and summative assessment need to be understood, streamlined and effectively carried out for it to be effective. Summative assessments function primarily to assess if students have met the learning targets. As stated by C, Stephen & C, Jan (2008), Summative assessment, sometimes referred to as assessment of learning, typically documents how much learning has occurred at a point in time; its purpose is to measure the level of student, school, or program success. It functions purely as an indicator of learning, and if its only purpose is to indicate what students have acquired, then I believe that a bigger purpose and opportunity is being missed.

Pedagogical comments: Personal Philosophy on Assessments


As stated by the authors of Nine principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student learning (AAHE), Assessment is not an end in itself but a vehicle for educational improvement. If this is to be true then summative assessment should function in a larger capacity. These assessments have the potential to serve a bigger purpose, where, if used effectively can serve a valuable source of information to inform teachers of student achievement, and thereby make alterations to their planning to further improve the learning of students. As stated by C, Stephen & C, Jan (2008), When teachers know what specific learning target each q uestion or task on their test measures, they can use the results to select and re-teach portions of the curriculum that students haven't yet mastered. These assessments can also serve as a valuable source of information to students to make alterations in their learning to enhance their learning. Above all, all of this does not make sense if teachers do not allow students to retake the test to ascertain the growth of their learning. In our schools, we should recognize the important role that summative assessments play. As explained by the authors of Northwestern Health Sciences University in the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Assessment, assessment is a cyclic and ongoing process of setting higher standards for student learning, measuring progress toward established learning outcomes, and providing a basis for reflection, discussion and feedback to improve outcomes. Even as we reflect on this, we should take opportunities to engage assessments of every form in this cyclic process of continued learning of students. Even as I began to express my position on the value of assessment, the true value of assessments only come to light as I address assessment For Learning, more commonly known as Formative assessment. There is enough information to support the value of formative assessment in enhancing student learning. As stated by Marzano (2003), the impact of decisions made by individual teachers is far greater than the impact of decisions made at the school and district level (p.71). It is in this light that I look beyond summative assessments

Pedagogical comments: Personal Philosophy on Assessments


and the role of administrators, and district and state level authorities to illuminate the true value of teachers and their role in assessments in impacting student learning. As explained by J., A., Chappius, & Chappius, (2010), the most intriguing result is that, while all students show achievement gains, the largest gains accrue to the lowest achievers. Everyone wins, with those who have the most to win, winning the most. It is these facts that cause me to focus on the power of AFL.As stated by (Greenstein, 2010), one of the primary functions of formative assessment is to inform instruction. By providing information about student understanding relative to goals, objectives, and standards, formative assessment helps teachers to target their instructions for greater effectiveness and make responsive instructional adjustments. Therefore, even as I unpack formative assessment or assessment for learning (AFL), indicators of effective AFL are reflected in Black and William (1998), who explains that assessments (1) must result in accurate information, (2) feedback must be descriptive rather than evaluative, and (3) students must be involved in the assessment process. In this endeavor I would like to focus on the Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning by Stiggins, R., Arter, J., Chappuis, J., & Chappuis, S. (2009), to further illustrate the role of assessments. These strategies are specific steps to help students answer AFLs three questions: (1) Where am I going? (2) Where am I now? and (3) How can I close the gap? even as I elaborate on these strategies, my position on the key components of an effective approach to assessment in schools become clear.

Where am I going? Strategy 1-provide a clear and understandable vision of the learning targets. We should use student friendly language and make sure that they understand the learning targets. For example: within the Primary Years Program of the IB, each Unit of Inquiry requires that we have a central idea that governs the unit. These central ideas need to be simplistic for students

Pedagogical comments: Personal Philosophy on Assessments


to understand what is expected of them to learn and achieve. The inability for students to understand what is expected of them reduces their ability in identifying where the learning is taking them. Strategy 2: Use Examples and Models of strong and Weak Work. This is a very important aspect of student learning. During my gymnastics unit I demonstrate skills that need to be performed. I demonstrate skills correctly as well as incorrectly so students can understand what is and what is not expected of them. These exemplars allow students to model good practice and eliminate improper practice. I also break down the skill into stages so students can understand how to improve parts of the skill which together form the whole.

Where am I now? Strategy 3: Offer Regular Descriptive Feedback. This enables students answer the question as to where they are now? in the learning. Timely feedback is imperative. In class, when students perform a skill it is important that I go beyond saying that you did a good job! What students need to know is what elements of their practice reflect that good job. It is only when they know what they did well or not so well that helps them identify good practice and areas for improvement. Strategy 4: Teach Students to Self Assess and Set Goals. Teaching students to self assess and set goals help students answer the question, where am I now? In my tumbling unit I engaged students in self assessment and goal setting. To do that I initially had to ensure that learning targets were clear and understood. I provided exemplars and modeled good practice. I then modeled self assessment by making comments on the examples of good and poor skills that I showed to students. This exercise allowed me to demonstrate to students how to identify good and poor practice in performances. I then introduced a new example and allowed students to participate in giving feedback on the performance. Even as students

Pedagogical comments: Personal Philosophy on Assessments


commented with feedback, it allowed me to steer them into effective feedback that they could later use to self assess their own performances. This proved to be an effective tool in students assessing where they were in the learning process and further assist them in setting future goals to improve performance.

How Can I Close the Gap? Strategy 5: Design Lesson Plans to focus on One Aspect of Quality at a Time. This is another important aspect while setting learning targets. It is important that the learning targets are broken down into smaller pieces so that students can work on one section of the skill before they move on. For example: when we teach swimming, there are several components in each skill/stroke that are required for students to effectively before they are assessed on swim stroke on a whole. In performing a breast stroke, components such as the whip kick, arm action, breathing and gliding are all components of the stroke that can be taught separately and mastered before we tackle the stroke as a whole. Once each of these individual skills are learned, they can be put together in performing the breast stroke. By breaking down the parts of the skill, it helps students focus on one aspect at a time. This not only helps them focus on specific skills but also improves their chance of success, especially with struggling learners. Strategy 6: Teach Students Focused Revision. In this case also, demonstrate what focused revision looks like. Model it and allow students to work individually in groups in developing the skill of focused revision. In my Tumbling Unit I engaged students in self and peer assessment. Students viewed their performances that I recorded. Using the rubric, they were able to make quality judgments on work produced and suggest strategies to improve. Once they strategized, they went back and practiced the skills using the strategies that they identified to improve performance. The results were amazing and students performances improved. They were taking control of their own learning.

Pedagogical comments: Personal Philosophy on Assessments


Strategy 7: Engage Students in Self Reflection, and Let Them Keep Track of and Share Their Learning. As stated by (J., A., Chappius, & Chappius, 2010) any activity that requires students to reflect on what they are learning and to share their progress both reinforces the learning and helps them develop insights into themselves as learner s.(p.45) In my classes, students are continuously engaged in self reflection of their practice. In Kindergarten, students keep track of their learning through self-assessment sheets; however, as teachers we can also help them do that. A good example of this would be in Student Led Conferences. During these conferences students share their learning with their parents by using their assessment sheets. As explained by Darling-Hammond, Ancess, and Falk (1995), Stiggins (2005), and Wiggins (1998), this opportunity to showcase work encourages students to put their best work down and therefore motivates them to improve performances. As their teacher, I documented their reflections and growth in the form of videos on both verbal communications and performances over time. These tools assisted them to reflect on their learning, identify growth, deepen their understanding and above all, feel in control of the condition of their success. These consequences positively impact student learning and enhances student motivation. The power of AFL which includes the Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning has hugely influenced my practice as a physical education teacher. There are varied assessment strategies out there to support and enhance acquisition of the learning targets of students categorized as knowledge, skill, reasoning and products. I am continuing to strive to pursue avenues to further assist students in becoming better lifelong learners. As stated by J., A., Chappius, & Chappius, (2010), the research on motivation, how we learn, and feedback come together to support assessment for learning as the best use of assessment in the service of student learning and wellbeing.(p.46)

Pedagogical comments: Personal Philosophy on Assessments


In conclusion, I believe that as students, teachers, parents, administrators and governing bodies understand the true value and purpose of assessment and partner in using it as an effective tool to enhance student learning, as well as engage in exploring and developing new strategies in assessment, the journey of learning has the potential to be promising, engaging and empowering to all those who partner in this endeavor.

Pedagogical comments: Personal Philosophy on Assessments


References: Greenstein, L. (2010). What teachers really need to know about formative assessment. ASCD. J., R, A., J, Chappius, J, & Chappius, S. (2010).Classroom assessment for student learning: doing it right-using it well. Allyn & Bacon. Marzano, R,J (2006), Classroom assessment and grading that work. Alexandria, VA; ASCD Article on Nine principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student learning (AAHE), retrieved on April 10th, 2011. http://www.nwhealth.edu/ctl/asmnt/ninepgp.html Article on the purpose of assessment- retrieved on April 10th, 2011. -- http://www.nwhealth.edu/ctl/asmnt/whatis.html Article on The Best Value in Formative Assessment by Stephen Chappuis and Jan Chappuis (December 2007/January 2008 | Volume 65 | Number 4 - Informative Assessment Pages 14-19) retrieved on April 4th, 2011.

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