“Something to Talk About,” recorded by Bonnie Raitt in 1990, happens to be one of my favorite songs. While listening to it the other day, I began to think about the lyrics in a different context: meaningful assessment of student conversations. Tapping into student discourse is one of the most informative means of examining student thinking, particularly with students who might be culturally or language diverse. According to Zaretta Hammond, “One of the most important tools for a culturally responsive teacher is instructional conversation. The ability to form, express and exchange of ideas are best taught through dialogue, questioning, and the sharing of ideas.” (Hammond, 2015, p.149).
There is seemingly vast potential for educators to gather authentic evidence through the observation of academic conversations. Teachers can gain valuable insights into their students’ conceptual understanding and the language skills they demonstrate in real-time, authentic conversations. But as I reflect on the various assessment practices that I typically observe, I wonder if we are capitalizing on this powerful source of information? Are educators assessing the quality of rigorous academic conversations and providing support when needed to enhance that quality? Read more
It’s widely supported that using common formative assessments is one of the best ways to systematically improve student learning (DuFour et al. (2016); Reeves, 2004; Ainsworth, 2007). The impact of these assessments is best realized when teams collaboratively unwrap the essential standards into smaller learning targets, use formative measures to monitor student learning of those targets, and use the results to engage students with meaningful feedback and support to propel learning forward (Bailey and Jakicic, 2019). Read more
When I chat with teachers about the power of common formative assessments, the conversations are generally positive. Almost universally, teachers see the value of identifying whether students are learning the concepts and skills that they are targeting in their instruction. They conceptually agree with the practice and value the process of working with a collaborative team to design the assessments and analyze the results. Read more
Many researchers have identified formative assessment as one of the more powerful practices to raise student achievement (Black & Wiliam, 1998; Hattie, 2009). When speaking of its power, we often compare formative assessment to summative assessment using metaphorical expressions. For example, formative assessment is like “tasting the soup before serving one’s guests,” or the “practice before the big game.” Others have described formative assessment as the rehearsal before the performance, or the “check-up before the autopsy.” Read more
It’s here. The start of the school year—that crucial time when educators excitedly “set the stage” with their students and jumpstart their vision for a successful learning experience in their class. It’s an official opportunity to initiate a strong learning partnership with students that empowers them to grow in their independence and empowerment as learners (Popham, 2011). Sounds good, right? Yet, if we think about the typical approach to setting the stage at the beginning of the year, it often falls short of establishing a strong foundation for that partnership. Read more
Along with the change of seasons from winter to spring comes the anticipation of new growth—it may be seen in the budding of leaves or blooming of early flowers. But for many educators, when the calendar pages arrive at spring, it signals a different type of anticipation. Instead of “Ahh, spring!” the reaction is “Agghh! Spring!” The final stretch of the race is here, what some educators call “crunch time.” We might hear worried statements such as “We still have so much to teach before the end of the year”, “My kids aren’t ready for testing”, or “I can’t get everything done.” In our “busy-ness” and haste, we might not notice the many forms of new growth taking place right before us. Maybe we aren’t taking the time to “smell the roses.” Read more
It’s been well-established in the literature around professional learning communities that team-developed common assessments can serve as powerful tools to monitor students’ level of proficiency in the essential standards (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Many, and Mattos 2016). Read more