- Education and Science
Assessment for Learning to Help Kids Succeed
Purpose of Assessment
When we think of assessment there are many personal connections that are conjured up, and they are not always pleasant. Nervousness at test time, stress before public speaking, and the agonizing hours of studying before the big final, all ring familiar for most people. Tests have many negative associations and are known to elicit anxious feelings. For instance, think about being evaluated. The natural reaction is to feel self-conscious and hesitant about the pressure to perform. These are important reasons why we need to be cautious about how we use assessment with children. We want to ensure that it does not become solely an evaluation of performance, rather than an investigation of strengths and areas for new learning. We also want to make sure that it does not create negative experiences for children, and hinder their ability to develop a love for learning.
In order to keep learning positive it is important to visit the core beliefs that exist regarding the purpose of tests and assessment. The beliefs need to highlight the learning cycle and emphasize assessment as a starting point, for determining important areas of instruction. Also called diagnostic assessment, it is unlike its counterpart summative assessment that puts a final stamp on things. Diagnostic assessment seeks to discover information for the purpose of knowing the child. It is an important part of instruction that takes the emphasis off evaluation and provides a more useful and positive lens with which to look at assessment.
We can not let the valuable information that comes from assessment be wasted on simply final grades and evaluations. Assessment must be used as a tool for programming at all stages in the learning process. When information about the child is gathered, in a number of developmental areas, the data and observations collected create a profile of the learner. The profile is a flexible document that changes as the child grows and experiences new learning. Observations and data are updated on a regular basis. The assessment profiles are used to guide instruction and provide valuable information for individualized learning. We do not want to restrict children by by what we dictate, rather, we want to support their unique abilities and provide the resources and instruction for the exploration of new horizons and skills. We want them to blossom. In order to support the unique abilities of children it is important to discover their individual strengths and talents, and then program with this information in mind. Assessment for learning ensures children are provided with opportunity to succeed and grow in the learning process.
Assessment Portfolio Pieces
- Anecdotal Observations
- Self Assessments
- Student Learning Logs
- Diagnostic/Summative Tests
- Sample Work Pieces
- Journal Reflections
- Personal Learning Goals
When creating assessment profiles for children there are a number of non-threatening ways to collect information, that are not going to create anxiety for students. Observations, self assessments, learning logs, journals, etc. are all forms of assessment that encourage students to examine their own learning. When formal tests are necessary it is helpful to teach children to value the learning that takes place, especially when they examine and correct their errors. It is also motiviting to provide students with positive reinforcement for learning from mistakes. It is clear that formal summative tests, the kind that make everyone nervous, are really just a small part of the big picture in assessment for learning. Empowering children, and helping them develop awareness of themselves as a learner, is an important way to gain information for instruction. It also helps give children deeper personal insight and ownership in the learning process.
Assessment for Children's Success
To help them blossom children require support and guidance in new learning opportunities. It is ok to let them take the lead, in order to discover their unique interests and ideas. What a great starting point to spark motivation and interest for learning. Then, with the right instruction, children can be empowered to take that extra step, figure out a problem, and discover new ideas, all in the name of learning. They are provided with experiences and situations that help them discover their strengths and succeed in their endeavors. Not just some children...all children! Assessment, when used effectively, will give valuable insight to ensure effective programming is provided It is like feeding a delicate flower. When nurtured correctly, and with just the right nutrients, it is going to grow and blossom so that its true beauty is revealed. When assessment is used to individualize instruction for children, and they are given the essential nutrients for learning, they too will blossom to reveal their own unique beauty, strengths, and gifts.
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