What is in a name? Connotation weighs more than denotation. My son is currently in middle school, and any child in his school will tell you that words matter. It’s about at that point in life that we humans learn that lesson if we have not learned it sooner.
I struggle with the word ‘assessment’ mostly because it seems to call attention to something that teachers are doing all the time, and in calling attention to it, it suddenly feels weird. It’s like how normal teaching can be until you realize that you have had a string of mucus laying alongside your nostril for the entire class period. That happened to me last week. It was such a good class until I got back to my office and met my horror. Suddenly, it wasn’t a good class at all, all for a lack of self-knowledge and a tissue. I wondered why someone hadn’t told me that I needed to wipe my nose. Then, I realized I hadn’t asked. With assessment, it’s true you often have to ask to see if you’re getting the results you want.
Notice that I don’t say that I struggle with assessment. I don’t. I only struggle with the word, and, since I am a word person, that matters to me.
I would say that when I’m teaching I’m assessing every moment. I am reading my students’ faces, their body language, I am listening to what they say and what they don’t say — every gesture and utterance can be a clue when you are teaching for determining how the moment/the lesson/the material can be done better. Then, of course, you can also ask, and oftentimes, I do.
I wish assessment could be called ‘what we are all learning with some specific details’. But I expect that’s too long a phrase. I wish it could be called “overt questions with answers about learning.” I wish it could be called, “check point of understanding.” I wish it could be called “measuring student growth.” Or, “measuring instructor growth,” as it’s that, too. I wish it could be called anything but ‘assessment.’