The Assessment Wheel Goes Round and Round

I would like to share a few thoughts on assessment, if I may.

I have to begin with a slight clause to this week’s blog by saying two things.  First, I am into assessment. When Julie Morrison came out in her “Get Your Assess in Gear” t-shirt, I had the biggest smile on my face.  What a great way to promote the positive aspects of assessment and how important it really is!  

Second, I am a big believer in refreshing one’s self. I make a point of regularly attending different professional development opportunities when they are available, in part because keeping my knowledge up to date is important, but also in part because I know I have forgotten some of the ideas I have picked up over the years as I have tried new things, ideas that work and that I want to try again. Last week, I attended the CTLE’s workshop on “Keys to Unlocking Effective Assessment” as a refresher on effective assessment approaches and to ensure that my understanding of assessment is compatible with GCC’s understanding of assessment. Therefore, assessment is right at the forefront of my mind.

It was a great workshop.  If you haven’t participated, allow me to encourage you to do so.  It is a workshop, not a lecture series, so it is involved and interactive, and I really enjoyed it. Thanks, Meghan!

Thinking back, I can recall horror stories about how hard the assessment course was in my Master’s program, but the class was not only interesting, it was fun and I really understood the way assessment worked as an intentional aspect of course implementation and how it operated in a way to promote student success.  The teaching practicum in my MA required students to come together and collaborate on ideas for incorporating formative assessments as well as the “big” summative assessments and using indirect and direct measures for different feedback in the composition courses we taught. I learned to think of assessment as a living breathing part of the teaching approach rather than a separate entity, a consistent feedback loop that allows performance to engage with working towards strategic objectives or learning goals and encourages self-awareness.  

As a result, I don’t see assessment Data (big D) as numbers. As an English faculty, my mind lends itself to words more easily than it does to numbers. Numbers don’t scare me, but I find it easier to work my way through information in a linguistic fashion. My experiences with assessment in my MA program approached the data more holistically in a way that encouraged my ‘English’ mind to weave the information garnered from the mixed assessments into the teaching and learning process as a whole. Not numbers, concepts and ideas. Data isn’t the numbers, it is what the numbers mean. 

So, in my experience, assessment is continuous. It enables adjustments to teaching-strategies and methods. It provides a constant feedback cycle that allows the students to become self-aware and encourages self-confidence as they learn what they know and what they don’t know and start asking the right questions to expand that knowledge. It helps me as a teacher properly support the student at the right time and in the right way.  It helps me to make adjustments to what I am doing in the classroom to make sure the students are achieving their goals as well as my own. 

The continuous assessment cycle doesn’t just impact my students, it impacts me. All that feedback, all that ‘Data’, provides me with the opportunity to improve, to grow, and to adapt as the educational environment changes around me.   With my students, I have a moment in time to “assess for success”, and yes that can have a huge impact. On the other hand, the continuous assessment also provides me with ‘Data’ on what is working for me in the classroom. What approaches are working? What methodologies are working for the current student population? What activities are providing the best interactions with the content? What areas do I need to approach differently? Which projects are the students embracing as a vehicle for understanding? To put it simply, what works and what doesn’t?  

The Keys to Unlocking Effective Assessment began with a quote, and I am going to end with part of it here.  “Perfection is always just out of reach, but continually striving for perfection contributes to keeping both our instruction fresh and our interest in teaching piqued.”  -E.S. Grassian

And that is why I embrace continuous assessment.

This week’s genially infographic on assessment can be found at this link if the embed code isn’t working.


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