Assessment Design Checklist 2.0

In a previous blog, I began to think about the questions that I should be asking myself. Previously, my list included just two questions, but now, my growing list of questions includes these four:

QuestionsEvidence of Understanding
Have I started by articulating the needs of all students?– My assessment was created after taking inventory of my students’ needs.
– My assessment reflects the variety of needs in my classroom.
Have I made specific plans for using this assessment to impact the instructional design of future learning?– I haven’t made concrete, irreversible instructional decisions before receiving the results of the assessment.
– Maintaining choice for student representation of knowledge and multiple means of expression.
Does my assessment provide timely feedback that will promote the transfer of skills to a new context?– Students have demonstrated understanding of the key skills or concepts in a new context.
– I have planned for ongoing feedback opportunities to allow for cycles of revision and improvement.
Have I ensured my goals are explicit and my students are able to self-assess their progress against the goals?– Students clearly identify the goal of the learning.
– Self- assessment opportunities allow for reflection on the goal and identification of concrete steps for improving performance.

You can read about questions one and two here.

Question 3: Does my assessment provide timely feedback that will promote the transfer of skills to a new context?

Students need to receive feedback at points where revision and improvements are able to take place. Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick (2006) quote Boud (2000) to emphasize that “unless students are able to use the feedback to produce improved work, through for example, re-doing the same assignment, neither they nor those giving the feedback will know that it has been effective (Boud, 2000, p. 158).” As students actively construct their knowledge, they must be given feedback that will push them to make connections and transfer their new skills to new contexts. Wiggins & McTighe (2005) highlight the importance of understanding learning as the application of skills to new situations. They state that “the ability to transfer our knowledge and skill effectively involves the capacity to take what we know and use it creatively, flexibly, fluently, in different settings or problems, on our own” (p.40). Planned assessments should offer opportunities for the student to receive feedback throughout the learning process, take this feedback and use it to refine their thinking and eventually apply new skills creatively and effectively to new situations.

Evidence of Understanding

To demonstrate understanding of new skills and concepts, students must apply their knowledge in a new context. As expressed in Understanding By Design, “transfer involves figuring out which knowledge and skill matters here and often adapting what we know to address the challenge at hand” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). To show evidence of understanding, I must plan for ongoing feedback opportunities to allow for cycles of revision and improvement. Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick (2006) describe “feedback as dialogue [which] means that the student not only receives initial feedback information, but also has the opportunity to engage the teacher in discussion about that feedback” (p. 210). Through that dialogue with teachers and peers, students construct their understanding of the concept.

Question 4: Have I ensured my goals are explicit and my students are able to self-assess their progress against the goals?

According to Black & Wiliam (1998), teachers are not explicit when identifying the learning goal and “the main problem is that pupils can assess themselves only when they have a sufficiently clear picture of the targets that their learning is meant to attain.” When students do not have a clear picture of the goal, they still assess their work, but not against an exemplar, and therefore the process of self-assessment does not provide useful information for future improvement. Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick (2006) agree that “intelligent self-regulation requires that the student has in mind some goals to be achieved against which performance can be compared and assessed.” For self- assessment to be beneficial, it is essential that the goals are explicit and students have exemplars for comparison. 

Evidence of Understanding

Black & William (1998) explain that “when anyone is trying to learn, feedback about the effort has three elements: recognition of the desired goal, evidence about present position, and some understanding of a way to close the gap between the two.” Without a clear goal from the teacher, students cannot possibly be expected to make connections between their own achievement and the goal nor identify ways to close the gap. With young children, this can be as simple as knowing that the goal is to pedal a tricycle independently. From this goal, the child can self-assess whether or not they have achieved this goal and can identify that they need more practice. Van den Berghe, Ros, and Beijaard (2013) emphasize “that the purpose of feedback is to reduce the discrepancies between the students’ current understanding or performance and the understanding or performance that is aimed at” (p. 345). Assessment, particularly opportunities for self-assessment, should start with a clear goal and result in a better understanding of how to improve performance.

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