Education Week - November 11, 2015 - Special Report - (Page S4)

S4 | EDUCATION WEEK â–  November 11, 2015 Understanding Formative Assessment > & F orm at i v e-A ssessm en t M i scon cep t i on s By C at her in e G ew er t z So what do you think the biggest areas of misunderstanding are about formative assessment among educators? RICHARD J. STIGGINS Former President Assessment Training Institute RICHARD J. STIGGINS is w id ely k n o w n as an ad vo cat e o f classr o o m assessm en t s in t he ser vice o f st u d en t lear n in g . H is lo n g car eer in t est in g b r o u g ht him t o t hat van t ag e p o in t : H e ho ld s a d o ct o r at e in ed u cat io n al m easu r em en t , has w o r k ed as t he d ir ect o r o f t est d evelo p m en t at A C T , an d ser ved o n t he f acu lt y at sever al ed u cat io n scho o ls. A s t he p r esid en t o f t he A ssessm en t T r ain in g I n st it u t e in P o r t lan d , O r e., f r o m 1 9 9 2 t o 2 0 1 0 , he help ed t eacher s d esig n classr o o m - assessm en t t o o ls an d st r at eg ies. H e j o in s E du cat i on W eek A sso ciat e E d it o r Catherine Gewertz to define what formative assessm en t is- an d isn ' t - an d ex p lain it s p u r p o ses, benefits, and how it's distinguished from other t yp es o f assessm en t . T he in t er view has b een ed it ed f o r sp ace an d clar it y. Listen to the complete interview online. F orm at i v e-A ssessm en t V i deos Watch how formativeassessment techniques play out in the classroom. At right, Jefferson City, Mo., teacher Melissa Vernon discusses what strong and weak models of writing look like with her 1st grade class. In the segments beginning with the third panel, Crystal Thayer uses a "commit and toss" activity that allows her to get a read on her 4th graders' misunderstandings about mammals. Thayer teaches in Lewis County schools in Tollesboro, Ky. Watch these videos. STIGGINS: I think one big misunderstanding is among policymakers at all levels. [It's] the mistaken belief that somehow annual accountability standardized testing improves schools. It's not that I'm opposed to assessment at that level, but the obsessive belief that somehow this is the application of assessment that will improve schools flies in the face of everything we know. A second misunderstanding is that people are tending to think about formative assessment as an event, rather than a process. The way we have to think about it is that we engage in the ongoing, dayto-day classroom-assessment process to give teachers and their students the information they need to understand what comes next in the learning. It isn't a one-time event. There's another misunderstanding-again, a lack of understanding-that may surprise most people when I mention it. That is our failure to understand the role of the emotional dynamics of being evaluated from the student's point of view. For formative purposes, those dynamics have to center on keeping students believing in themselves. It isn't merely about getting teachers more information so they can make better instructional decisions. Good formative assessment keeps students believing that success is within reach if they keep trying. Tell us a little bit more about this idea about students being engaged in the process. This idea arises from a researcher and assessment expert in Australia; his name is Royce Sadler. What he said to us is, we use formative assessment productively when we use it in the instructional context to do three things. One is, keep students understanding the achievement target they're aspiring to. The second is, use the assessment process to help them understand where they are now in relation to that expectation. And the third is, use the assessment process to help students understand how to close the gap between the two. Do you see where the locus of control resides? It's with the student. Should formative assessments ever be graded? Because we certainly hear about them being graded. Here's how I think about it. Anything and everything that students do by way of their work, or their performance, needs to be evaluated, to be sure, in terms of very specific, preset performance criteria that are known to the teacher and the student. So for example, in diagnosis, the judgments about student performance in relation to those criteria help to identify students' strengths and weaknesses. And, of course, diagnosis is, how do you rely on the strengths to overcome the weaknesses? To provide feedback, we need to help students know how to do better. Judgments about how they're doing in relation to those performance criteria will reveal that to them and to their teacher. We need to keep good records so that we can track student changes over time. But [in the formative] context, there's really never a need to assign a letter grade in this context. My admonition to teachers is, while the learning is going on, and we're diagnosing and providing that good feedback, the grade book remains closed. There is a variation on this theme that is important. That is, can formative evidence ever serve summative purposes? And the answer is clearly, "yes." If I have information from the formative application of assessment in my classroom that reveals a higher level of achievement than was revealed by, for example, a unit final exam, then it's my responsibility to use the best evidence I have to determine, for example, a student's report-card grade. So yes,

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