The Educator's PLN

The personal learning network for educators

I just finished reading a post from my good friend and co-author of The Relevant Educator, Steve Anderson. His recent post, “Why Formative Assessments Matter” got me thinking about assessments in general and how often they are misunderstood and often abused by well-meaning educators.

We have all been taught that there are two categories of assessment, Formative and Summative. Formative assessment is done during a particular lesson to gauge student learning and understanding as the lesson progresses. This often takes the form of quizzes, but there are less formal forms that are as effective. The summative assessment is usually, but not always an exam of some type. It is to determine how much the student learned and understood from the overall experience. This could be a unit exam with various types of questions, or possibly some type of report done by the student.

With my education students I would explain assessments with a cooking metaphor. As a chef prepares a meal he or she would taste it along the preparation process. Based on those tastings adjustments are made. Spices may be added. Cooking time may be lengthened. Some components of the meal may even be eliminated. All of this is formative assessment. This assessment is for the chef to read the results of his or her preparation in order to adjust for the best outcome.

The summative assessment has nothing to do with the preparation, and everything to do with the final outcome. The summative assessment happens when the diner experiences the dish by eating it. How successful was the preparation in the final outcome?

Now, how can such a simple concept get corrupted? Grades! We are all held accountable by some measure. We have determined that grades are what we will use to hold students accountable. We will measure their every effort to learn and assess it with a grade. I guess if the chef assigned a grade to the dish with every tasting and averaged the grades it would not be an outstanding average. But then again how can the dish be measured when it has not yet been completed in the preparation process. Similarly we hold students responsible for quiz grades on assessments, which were originally intended for the teacher to consider in order to make adjustments to a lesson. If the kids do not get it, is it their fault or could it be a shortcoming in the lesson? Yes, students do have a responsibility to bring something to the table as well, but the bulk of the responsibility lies with the teacher.

Grading formative assessments to measure students understanding makes little sense. They all learn in different ways and arrive at learning specific things at different times. To use formative assessment to grade a student is a misuse of the assessment. It is expected that some will get it others won’t, but that is for the teacher to understand and adjust accordingly. That is the purpose of formative assessment.

Of course grading the summative assessment might have some value, as long as the summative assessment is assessing the learning. Too many unit tests however are nitpicking questions for content recall. I guess that lends itself well to Scranton testing. We all know how quickly we can bang out those Scranton test results. It is as easy as ABCD. Essays take too long to grade.

Of course not every teacher does this, but how many is too many? We need to better understand why we do things as educators. Often times the only reason for doing something is because that’s how others do it, or that’s the way it’s always been done.

If we better understand how to utilize assessments, maybe we can better our delivery of lessons without penalizing kids for things that they have little control over. Formative assessment comes in many forms and none really require grades. Summative assessments come in many forms as well. We need to choose those forms that show what individual kids have learned overall. To aim for the low hanging fruit of content questions is missing the mark. They have their place, but they should not be the focus of any test.

This should be a topic of faculty or department meetings. These are the things that need to be addressed by educators more than the usual fare of such meetings. We need to better understand what we do, and why we do it as educators. We need to be more reflective and critical within our own profession.

Views: 101

Comment

You need to be a member of The Educator's PLN to add comments!

Join The Educator's PLN

About

Thomas Whitby created this Ning Network.

Latest Activity

Profile IconKaren D Honeycutt, Jessica J Lenhart, Erin and 11 more joined The Educator's PLN
50 minutes ago
Thomas Whitby's blog post was featured

Where’s the Silver Lining for Education?

With the cloud of the Corona Virus hanging over us and growing by the hour, it is difficult to see any silver lining. Health and safety are our greatest concerns. The stakes are high and the consequences may be fatal to too many. Anything I discuss here shouldIn the past, many discussions by several education leaders have sometimes suggested the idea of education reform…See More
yesterday
Thomas Whitby posted a blog post

Where’s the Silver Lining for Education?

With the cloud of the Corona Virus hanging over us and growing by the hour, it is difficult to see any silver lining. Health and safety are our greatest concerns. The stakes are high and the consequences may be fatal to too many. Anything I discuss here shouldIn the past, many discussions by several education leaders have sometimes suggested the idea of education reform…See More
yesterday
Christine Hinkley posted an event

OLC Accelerate 2020 at Walt Disneyworld Swan & Dolphin Resort

November 17, 2020 at 8am to November 20, 2020 at 5pm
The OLC Accelerate conference emphasizes the most innovative and impactful research and effective practices in the field of online, digital and blended learning. Supporting administrators, designers, and educators alike, Accelerate offers a comprehensive list of sessions and activities tailored to addressing the challenges and goals of our entire community. Our curation of conference tracks and exhibits promises a cross-section of the prime topics in our field, offering exciting programming…See More
Mar 18
Christine Hinkley updated an event

OLC Innovate 2020 - Virtual Conference at Online

June 15, 2020 to June 26, 2020
Together we will build new foundations for stronger, better higher education environments. And because innovation scales best when ideas are shared, our work sessions will explore digital technologies and adapted teaching behaviors aimed at informing policy, inspiring leadership, and evolving practice at all levels impacting institutions, universities and colleges.See More
Mar 18
Daniela McVicker liked Thomas Whitby's blog post Is Online Learning The Answer For The Coronavirus Closed Schools?
Mar 16
Thomas Whitby's blog post was featured

Is Online Learning The Answer For The Coronavirus Closed Schools?

With the rapid spread of the Corona Virus, there has been a clarion call for schools to close and immediately shift to online learning in the interest of health and safety. With all that has been written and talked about in regard to “online learning” over the last decade, the perception is that now is a great time to put tech to work and implement this modern methodology to address our current situation and limit face-to-face exposure in order to self-quarantine a huge portion of our…See More
Mar 10
Thomas Whitby posted a blog post

Is Online Learning The Answer For The Coronavirus Closed Schools?

With the rapid spread of the Corona Virus, there has been a clarion call for schools to close and immediately shift to online learning in the interest of health and safety. With all that has been written and talked about in regard to “online learning” over the last decade, the perception is that now is a great time to put tech to work and implement this modern methodology to address our current situation and limit face-to-face exposure in order to self-quarantine a huge portion of our…See More
Mar 9

© 2020   Created by Thomas Whitby.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service