Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Assessment as an Accurate Reflection of Grades

By Mark Heintz

I missed a few weeks of school due to the birth of my second son.  Meanwhile at school, the students continued their work on their understanding of the Classical Era in history.  Before my leave of absence, the students worked on thesis statements, short answer, and document work.  I had a good understanding on progress towards those skills.  Once I was away, their in class work and homework was geared towards content knowledge and mastery of the objectives of the Classical Era.

Here is a sample of one of the objective:

There is a lot of information about Buddhism in the classical era.  There are books written on just one aspect of the faith in the early years.  However, for the sake of this class, I codified the essentials.

For years, I have debated the best way to assess.  I worry about the validity of the test in its ability to assess a students knowledge of the core objectives.  I worry if it is too easy or too difficult.  But I have to make a decision.  For this assessment, its purpose was to test low level content knowledge.  Its targets were extremely clear.  In its design, I limited the use of academic vocabulary in the question stems.  I also limited the skills involved in the assessment, such as change over time, comparative, cause/effect, and periodization.  I wanted to test their content knowledge and that is what I tested.  Here are two sample questions:

The results were great! Prior to the summative assessment, the students took benchmark tests that assessed their understanding of the content knowledge.  From the student performance on the formative assessments, I thought they would do well.  In the end, the students felt the assessment to be fair and assessed what they were asked.

In the future, I wish to keep this type of assessment and add more essays and stimulus based assessments to test their skills.  I also would like to find a better way to communicate which standards they faltered on.  Also, I need to find a better way to put the score in the grade book.  Do I put the three big standards in the grade book? Do I put each objective in the grade book?   These are things that still need to be addressed.

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