Education Week - November 11, 2015 - Special Report - (Page S18)

S18 | EDUCATION WEEK â–  November 11, 2015 Understanding Formative Assessment > L earn i n g Prog ressi on s: R oad M ap s f or Teachi n g I n Den ver an d elsew her e, t hese g u id es clu e t eacher s in o n w her e st u d en t s ar e, an d w her e t hey n eed t o g o By H o lly Y et t ick A Den ver lexandra Overby is sleuthing the selfies she assigned to her Digital Photo 1 class during the first week of school this year at East High School here. Student A fluently describes the statement he is trying to make with a playful picture depicting himself alongside a vintage car. Student B clearly used the camera on the classroom computer to snap a shot he had not cropped, titled, or resized. "Not very familiar with using the computer," Overby ventures to guess. "He didn't understand the technical steps-this is a kid I'll watch." As for Student C, he's a mystery. His sentences are simply structured, and he did not really respond to the guiding questions that Overby assigned, leading the 17-year teaching veteran to hypothesize that he does not have much experience with art. But when she turns to his selfie, it is sophisticated and unique, with slivers of his face floating in a sea of bulldog motifs. Overby's selfie assignment is her first formative assessment of the year. This means that it is kind of like that moment on a road trip when you pull the car over to figure out where you are: Her goal is to locate each student on a set of districtwide maps tracing educational trajectories through the arts. After all, it is difficult, if not impossible, to know where you need to go if you are not quite certain where you are. Once Overby's formative assessment has pin- pointed her students' positions, she can then adjust her instruction accordingly. Variously called "learning progressions," "concept progressions," and "concept maps," the developmental signposts that Overby and her district colleagues are helping to develop provide directions to guide students' progress toward the educational standards, objectives, or goals that educators hope will be their final destination. "A learning progression to me is a prerequisite for an effective formative assessment because a learning progression is [a series of ] building blocks you think kids have to have before they acquire terminal curricular outcomes," said psychometrician W. James Popham, an emeritus professor in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. "If you don't have a learning progression, how do you know when it's time to make a decision to adjust your instruction? If you're doing formative assessment without a learning progression, you're not thinking it through carefully. ... You're not going to get the most mileage out of it," Popham said. Assessment 'Sea Change' The use of learning progressions represents a sea change of sorts for Overby. "Before, we just knew the end goal of what we wanted kids to do and understand, and we would just pick and choose projects that interested us, that interested the kids," Overby said. "There wasn't always a purposeful focus on why we chose that project, why we chose that skill set. You assumed students didn't know very much and you wanted them to be very competent at the end. There wasn't a lot of assessment in the beginning because you assumed they were missing a lot of skill sets to be successful artists and you were going to get them there, and how you got them there was up to you." For more than two years, the district's physical education and arts department has been working with the Center for Assessment, Design, Research, and Evaluation, or CADRE, at the University of Colorado at Boulder's school of education to use learning progressions to guide assessment and instruction from kindergarten to grade 12. Some History Like most big ideas in education, learning progressions are not new. Australia, the United Kingdom, and other nations have used them for decades. A 2008 Council of Chief State School Officers helped to popularize learning progressions in this country. Before that, a landmark 2006 National Research Council report on science education described learning progressions as "a promising direction for organizing science instruction and curricula across grades K-8." "The United States has come late to the table," said Margaret Heritage, a senior scientist at the research group WestEd who wrote the CCSSO report. "In Australia and the United Kingdom, the assessment system is built on a progression. And then here, you meet or don't meet the standards. I think [other nations have] a conception of learning that's more to do with the development of expertise relative to important ideas over time. Often, teaching and learning [in the United States] is conceived of as discrete objectives-you learn something, then move on to something else." Overcoming that conception is a goal of the Denver learning-progression project, which originally started as a framework for implementing student-learning objectives for the purpose of educator evaluation. "In a nutshell, we were eager to see if we could move teachers from a perspective that kids either 'get it or they don't' to a perspective in which there is greater interest in understanding the 'messy middle' that exists between a novice understanding of some big-picture idea ... and the target understanding of that big-picture idea after some defined instructional period (e.g., proficiency)," the University of Colorado's CADRE team wrote in a 2014 report. "Without this more nuanced understanding of student learning, there is very little that can be done when a student demonstrates a lack of proficiency other than reteach the same material and hope for a better outcome." Learning progressions have historically been more common in subjects with "clearly identifiable sequences of learning that seem pretty darned obvious," said Popham, adding that "mathematics and science immediately come to mind." Learning progressions, for instance, are incorporated into the

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - November 11, 2015 - Special Report

Education Week - November 11, 2015 - Special Report
Table of Contents
Bringing Clarity to a Cloudy Idea
Formative-Assessment Misconceptions
Should Formative Assessments Be Graded?
Common Core: Tools to Check Students’ Grasp
Putting Students in Charge of Their Own Learning
An Arizona Initiative Sets Sights on Teachers
Learning Progressions: Road Maps for Teaching
Tech-Powered Teacher Tools

Education Week - November 11, 2015 - Special Report