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Assessing Learning – A Guest Post

This week, I am thrilled to feature my first ever guest post! One of the teachers on our staff, Justin Wendorf, recently wrote our weekly staff S’More blog on the topic of alternative ways to assess students. As we strive to move beyond traditional paper/pencil assignments, my principal and I are finding teacher-leaders who are knowledgeable in this area and who can help teachers step outside comfort zones, challenge thinking, and lead our campus in transformation. There are many agents of change on our staff. Today I am honored to share one with you, and thankful that he allowed me to reprint it here for all of you…

Different Ways To Assess Learning – Testing With A Twist
by Justin Wendorf, Elementary Educator

class
Image from Texas Tribune

“This test was supposed to be easy!” exclaimed the teacher as he wrote another failing grade in the top, right corner of the paper. This is the tenth one, and from what I’ve previewed, I’m sure there’ll be more, he thought. All that the students had to do was choose the best answer. It was simply a multiple-choice test, no short answer. Not even an essay! “I wouldn’t dare do that to them,” the teacher joked to himself.

Why not? – One of my favorite songs, “Bored of Education” by Propaganda, says this: “Remember when we were in kindergarten, and you had to learn about worms, yeah, you went outside and you played with worms, what a novel idea!” Education has changed over the last 20 years and I don’t believe that you could find anyone that would argue against this point. But we need to ask ourselves, “What about education has changed?” If you were to single out the processes, then yes, they’ve changed drastically. But the purpose has not.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way they should go; even when they are old they will not depart from it.” Aside from the biblical implications, there is functional truth to this. We, as educators, are called to “train” our students. That is our purpose, our drive. If a teacher loses sight of this mission, this next part is made almost insurmountable.

Alternative assessments are those in which the students create something as a response to their learning. It is not merely choosing a given response. One forces higher-level thinking, the other tests memorization skills. Some examples of alternative assessments are:

· Essay answers
· Oral presentations and/or demonstrations and exhibitions
· Performance assessment (social skills: assessed on the process)

Now, if we are purpose-driven teachers, then we will do anything possible to ensure that our students learn. That is the passion of teaching. This means possibly allowing our students to choose how they would like to prove their learning, or knowledge, to us. Give options (determined ahead of time) so that students can use their strengths. Allow our “talkative” students to hold a formal discussion with criteria (this is where our grade comes from), or our artistic students to create an iMovie or stop motion film to show us their understanding of a story we’re reading. Let a group of students create a lesson, including an assessment, to teach the rest of the class about a math topic (group performance assessment).

This will take original effort on our end, but for the passionate teacher, this is part of the fun. The joy of teaching comes as a result of seeing our students succeed in their own right.

You can reach out to Justin via email at Justin.Wendorf@gmail.com I know he would love the conversation and would greatly appreciate your feedback!

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