Testing/Assessments and Learning Standards, Professional Development
May 03, 2012

Educator's Voice V: Using Formative Assessment to Improve Instruction

Source: Research and Educational Services
educator's voice assessment

Authors present a range of approaches to day-to-day assessment of students' progress. Teaching teams assess academic and social skills while students are engaged in producing exciting displays and books which will be shared with the wider school community of friends and families. We learn how middle school students are taught to analyze high quality writing, determine criteria for success, and use rubrics to assess their works in progress.

Other authors focus on systematic ways to determine student objectives, take baseline data, and graph student performance. Teachers examine students' understandings of science concepts through the use of Lesson Study, and explore the insights gained from science notebooks. The importance of ongoing daily assessments is highlighted by authors - whether using a structured partner approach to ensure frequent feedback or describing how assessment is interwoven into the fabric of math instruction. The International Baccalaureate approach to assessment is discussed as a powerful tool for developing critical thinking skills.

What each of these descriptions has in common is frequent and meaningful data collection, and changing teaching practice as an immediate outcome of data analysis. These authors give us greater insight into the cycles of the teaching process, and the fundamental importance of using varied assessment practices.

Table of Contents

"Wow!" - Project-Based Assessment
This writing team describes a project for which the activities as well as the assessments are inherently differentiated - that is, designed to challenge students with a range of learner characteristics. Using both individual and cooperative group structures, students make progress in ELA, science and social studies through a long-term project on Animals in the Brazilian Ecosystem. This project highlights the power of teacher collaboration and culminates for the students in a presentation to family and friends at a Science and Literacy Fair. Amy Shaw Elsworth teaches third grade at Lake Avenue Elementary School in Saratoga Springs City School District. She is a member of the Saratoga Springs Teachers Association. Colleen Carroll is director of assessment and staff development in Saratoga Springs City School District. She has been an elementary principal as well as a teacher.

Collecting Practice-Based Evidence to Support Teaching and Learning
Collecting systematic data on student progress is the optimal way to match instructional approaches to individual students as effectively and efficiently as possible. These authors discuss their use of mastery measurement - a method teachers can use to monitor their students' progress with specific skills. In this example, authors describe a process for collecting and analyzing data to monitor student learning and offer specific questions that guide instructional decisions. A former teacher in the New York City school system, Spencer J. Salend is a professor in the Department of Educational Studies at the State University of New York at New Paltz. He is the author of Creating Inclusive Classrooms: Effective and Reflective Practices (Pearson, 2011) and Classroom Testing and Assessment for All Students (Corwin, 2009). Arleigh Baker is a graduate student at the State University of New York at New Paltz and a substitute teacher in the Arlington Central School District. Amanda Gardner holds teaching certificates in Childhood Education and Literacy Education. She is currently a substitute teacher in several school districts in the Mid-Hudson Valley.

Using Lesson Study to Assess Student Thinking in Science
Teachers examine fourth-grade students' understandings of magnetism through the use of science notebooks. Decisions about student learning outcomes, lesson design, and assessments are derived from the use of a Japanese lesson study approach. Lesson study leads the team through a process which includes a live research lesson with observers who gather extensive data on the lesson and outcomes. This forms a cycle of continuous improvement in all aspects of teaching. Sharon Dotger is an assistant professor of science education at Syracuse University, teaching pre-service teachers. F. Kevin Moquin is a fourth-grade teacher at Willow Field Elementary School in the Liverpool Central School District and a doctoral student at Syracuse University. Kathleen Hammond is a fourth-level teacher at Willow Field Elementary School in the Liverpool Central School District.

A Method for All High School Students: The IB Model
With the introduction of Common Core Learning Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy, there is a renewed emphasis on critical thinking and analyzing texts. An educator who teaches International Baccalaureate (IB) classes describes a model of assessment based on a long-term project of the student's choice, and systematic instruction in the skills of judging sources and synthesizing information. He argues that projects of this nature can be used across the content areas and across the high school years - and can be beneficial for all students. Michael A. Jeziorski is a social studies teacher at Commack High School.

Beyond "I Give Myself an A"
Students take responsibility for improving their academic skills by analyzing models, developing criteria for success and using rubrics to create, assess and revise their work - whether it be a persuasive essay or a mathematics challenge. In this way, students learn how to recognize and define excellence and use tools to achieve it. Heidi L. Andrade is an associate professor and the associate dean of academic affairs at the University at Albany, SUNY. Zachary B. Warner is a research assistant and an advanced doctoral student in educational psychology at the University at Albany, SUNY.

Ongoing Student Assessment: Approaches in Mathematics
The importance of continuous assessment using varied methods is described by this middle school mathematics teacher. She advocates for a flexible approach - particularly for students with unique needs. Martha M. Strever is an eighth-grade mathematics teacher as well as mathematics/computer instruction department chairperson in the Red Hook Central School District. She is a member of the Association of Mathematics Teachers of New York State and the New York State Association of Mathematics Supervisors.

Daily Formative Assessments in Second Language Acquisition
Brief partner activities are not only a great way to increase student engagement, but can also be a valuable strategy for providing students and teachers with frequent feedback on student growth. This author advocates a partner approach for daily speaking assessments to provide focused practice and ongoing information on skill development.Harry Grover Tuttle taught English and Spanish and was a district technology coordinator. A member of NYSUT Retiree Council 45, he has published three books on Formative Assessment (http://is.gd/tbook).

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