Topic: General


Group by Need, Not by Number

Let us talk about shopping for shoes. I am not one of those people who meanders through shoe stores, struggling to narrow down my choices (no judgment for those who do—that is just not me). Rather, I am a very pragmatic shoe purchaser. I have specific kinds of shoes I favor, and I am clear about my shoes size. So when I head into a store, I get what I need and get out. Read more


What’s in a 4? DOK and Proficiency Scales

When it comes to measurement, four is a popular number; rather, a range of 1 to 4 is a common scheme. Two different powerful measurement systems use a range of 1 through 4 scores to clarify levels of quality. The Depth of Knowledge [DOK] framework by Webb, 2005, uses a 1 through 4 scale to rank the cognitive complexity of an assessment task. The Proficiency Scale framework by Marzano and Kendall (2008) uses a 1 through 4 scale to rank students’ performance levels on individual standards. Read more


Can Assessment and Open-Ended Contexts Coexist?

When we consider all of the ways to ensure successful learning outcomes, knowing the criteria for success definitely tops the list. When we know where we are going, our chances of reaching that destination increase dramatically. But what about those times when we are trying to invite open-ended experiences: creativity, play, and imagination? How does criteria-setting fit within that paradigm? Can assessment practices, such as criteria-setting and self-assessment, live in harmony with these open-ended or emergent outcomes? Read more


Is Assessment Having a Moment?

A recent job change has extended my daily commute and as a result I have been listening to audiobooks to pass the time and minimize the frustration with road construction.  I know that I am late to this party, but audiobooks are a pretty great way to both decompress after a challenging day and get excited about a new one.  I recently listened to The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath and it has been rolling around in my head for a while since I finished it.  (This poses a new challenge with audiobooks.  With a traditional book, I would flip through the pages and reread different sections.  I haven’t quite figured out how to do that with the audio version.)  I have been a big fan of the Heath brothers since reading their book Switch, which contained one of my favorite metaphors about the change process and proved incredibly helpful in a variety of settings.

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Beware Normative Tendencies in the Classroom

Ask any group of teachers if they grade on the curve and you will receive an almost universal, resounding no! Now, I believe teachers when they say they don’t grade on the curve; however, what has become apparent in recent years is that shedding some of our traditional habits—our normative grading tendencies—is easier said than done. Even those who have moved to a more standards-based approach to grading can, if not mindful, fall back into habits misaligned with a modern assessment system. Read more


Your Job … Is to “Show What You Know”

Even now, after many years, I can hear these words: “Your job today is to show what you know.”

Following my passion to support learning spaces with quality evidence of learning has allowed me to visit a variety of settings where student learning was being assessed. From quick checks for understanding, to high-stakes tests, let’s just say I have seen it all.

Yet, one day stands out. Read more


Using Assessment to Change a Student’s Mind

Grading and assessment is often very personal—to students, to parents, and to teachers. I wear (as many of us do) many hats: parent, trainer, facilitator, author, and learner. And, I am all too aware of how my own children’s confidence and motivation is impacted by assessment.

In the absence of clear descriptions, students often make their own meaning of what those comments, symbols, or quantities mean. Those interpretations influence what students believe about their abilities. Read more




Do We Really NEED Common Formative Assessments, Too?

Recently, I had the opportunity to work with collaborative teams in a school whose principal had asked them to add common formative assessments to their arsenal of assessment practices.  Many of these teachers had worked hard to develop classroom formative assessments that were used to diagnose student learning issues.  This school also had a sophisticated response system that used benchmarking and progress monitoring assessments to identify and monitor students who were not yet at grade level in reading and math. Each of the teams I met with included teachers who were worried about the amount of time it would take them to write common formative assessments, give them to their students, and work collaboratively to plan how to respond to the results of these assessments.  Early in our workshop, I asked teachers to talk together and brainstorm a list of their best hopes and worst fears about this work.  Not surprisingly, several teachers articulated their concerns about adding more assessments in addition to those they were already using. My next step, then, had to be to explore the “why” behind this work. Read more