Tài liệu Skkn formative assessment to enhance student performance

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FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT TO ENHANCE STUDENT PERFORMANCE How does ongoing assessment encourage task participation and enhance learning performance? By Tran Dinh Quyet What classroom techniques can help? How do we mark student performance on the spot?  RATIONALE Skill integration and on-the spot performance testing are the current teaching approach adopted in Vietnam nowadays. Greater focus and emphasis are being put on students’ communicative performance in the language classroom. Ongoing assessment serves various purposes. For the student, they can help attract their attention, encourage learners to participate in tasks, build up their confidence and allow them to assess themselves. For the teacher, they help you to access the extent to which your students understand the course content and they can provide you with information about the effectiveness of your teaching methods. Most are designed to be quick and easy to use and each activity provides quick assessment for different skills and competencies. ( Guskey, 2003) Ongoing assessment provides formative evaluations of text books, teaching methods, and, ultimately, student learning. Such formative evaluations are done frequently to encourage learning and enhance performance as well as to effect immediate adjustments in the day-to-day teaching. More and more classroom teachers incorporate continual testing into everyday class session. ( Guskey, 2003)  REVIEW How does ongoing assessment encourage task participation? Below is a collection of implications suggested by several authors as cited in the references. Formative ongoing assessment in class …  Sets a competitive tone to the class to get to the top by awarding bonus marks  Provides the chance for team work and healthy cooperation  Helps to foster good working relationships ( Stiggins, 2002)  Provides instant feedback in forms of grades, formative correction and positive comments  Reduces feelings of isolation and impotence, especially in large classes  Shows your interest and appreciation about their success in your classroom ( Barton, 2002)  Fosters an attitude that values understanding and initiatives in problem solving  Encourages students to understand that learning is an on-going process that require full participation.  Enables you to record student progress and to assign on-the-spot marks  Saves your time for preparing tests or reading student papers. ( Bloom et al, 1981) How does ongoing assessment enhance learning performance? When OA is used frequently, it can have the following impacts:  Students learn when to work individually, in pairs or in groups for the utmost time and cost efficiency.  Helps develop self-assessment and learning management skills  The various ongoing incentive assessment ensures the development of all-round learning skills of critical analysis, creative synthesis as well as application and performance. ( Stiggins, 2002)  Helps students to get prepared for a task, have an overview first and orientate themselves before doing a task.  Students learn from others at work and make comparisons and contrasts.  Teaches learners how to work in a team for the best way to solve a problem ( Barton, 2002)  Students learn how to initiate, ask for help from peers and teachers, discuss a problem and come to a solution  Students learn how to present and discuss a problem in a group and in front of the class.  Students learn about time efficiency and how to make a good presentation. ( Bloom et al, 1981)  Students discover on the spot what they have learnt and can do and what they cannot do yet.  Students get instant feedback about their misconceptions or lack of understanding in a timely way  METHODOLOGY There are 2 experimental classes and 2 control classes of grade 10 Classes 10A2 and 10A13 are experimental classes paired with the control ones of 10A3 and 10A14. All these four classes are of the same level of proficiency and consist of allability students. Table 1. Comparison of first and second term papers results. Term 1. average or higher 10A2 Experimental 10A13 Experimental 10A3 Control 10A14 Control 65% 60% 60% 51% Term 2. average or higher 83%* 70%* 62% 54% Table 2. Comparison of first and second terms score average. 10A2 Experimental 10A13 Experimental 10A3 Control 10A14 Control Term 1 70% 64% 62% 55% Term 2 85%* 72%* 64% 57% Observations and records of mark improvement from semester 1 to semester 2 Observations of grade improvement are done on the basis of comparing the improvement in grade scores of the two experimental classes with those grades of all the other classes. Table 3. Comparison of speaking test scores in term 1 and term 2 10A2 10A13 Term 1 70% 62% Term 2 85%* 73%* Table 4. Percentage of Active participants and Confident presenters recorded during class observations Term 1 67% 60% 10A2 10A13 Term 2 81%* 73%* Following is a partial chart of OA tasks I used on daily basis, showcasing a variety of teacher work and student task in each stage of a particular class session based on the text books currently used in Vietnam. SET 1. For the reading session READING TEACHER WORK Leading in  Set the situation and 5 min. Classcommunication Briefing needs 5 min.  Activate topic-based Presentation useful expressions Skim-reading  Get students read for 5 min. Pairgist: topics, share paragraph points and 5 min. organization Presentation  Keep class communication going Scan-reading  Engage students in 5 min. Pairinteresting detailed STUDENT WORK / TASK TYPES 1. Describe pictures to the class Where / When / Who / What / How 2. Brainstorm global questions: A topic to discuss or a problem to deal with 3. Practice useful expressions before reading Topic-based vocabulary 4. Explain word meaning Using situations and paraphrasing 1. Survey the title, skim paragraph 1 and predict the central idea of the passage. 2. Skim the whole passage, look for the topic sentence of each subsequent paragraph and find out the main point that the writer makes. 3. Think aloud, telling your partner about the main points of the article. 1. Scan specific parts of the article to answer given questions. Check with share 5 min. Presentation game-like information and quiz-like inferential questions  Keep students working and give support where relevant  Reclaim the lesson Summarizing aims (content and 5 min. Classlanguage) and check share with students 5 min. whether the aims are Presentation achieved  Over-to-you wrapping up: What would you do in the same situation? your partner and support your answers by answering the question ‘How can you tell?. Say in paragraph X, line Y, it reads / says … 2. Answer some text-based interesting questions. Inferential questions get you to start thinking logically and trying to express your ideas and make yourself understood. 3. Time efficiency, logical thinking and expressing oneself are the main sub-skills to practice with game-like or quiz-like scan-reading. 1. Complete this table / spiderdiagram with keys words and phrases from the text. ( Content summary and Language awareness are central to this stage of reading) 2. Pick out useful expressions from the article that mean … 3. How would you put / say it another way? 4. What would you do in a similar situation? SET 2. For the speaking class SPEAKING  Prepare pictures of a target Snapshot language function. 5 min. Pair-  Think of useful expressions share and collocations for the 5 min. target communication Presentation situation Setting  Prepare a sample dialogue  Think of situation questions 1. Describe the pictures with the given topic vocabulary 2. Imagine what people would say in that situation with given useful expressions. 3. Match common collocations 1. Listen to the dialog and then ask and answer the situation 5 min. Pair share 5 min. Presentation  Think of comprehension questions  Pick out the main function Language and communication needs of function the sample dialog. 5 min. Pair-  Call students’ attention to share target language functions 5 min.  Prepare some typical Presentation conversational exchanges with gaps for appropriate responses  Prepare some change in facts Role playing and figures for simulation 5 min. Pair  Assign roles to interlocutors share  Provide an outline and key 5 min. notes for a small talk Presentation questions 2. Practice the dialog with appropriate intonation and ‘feeling’ gambits and interjections. 1. Ask students to sort out the sentences that perform the main language function, say, ‘ What does Jane say to advise Tom about how to keep fit?’ 2. Complete some exchanges with appropriate questions or responses. 1. Practice a similar dialog with some change in facts and figures with sensible backchanneling and turn taking. 2. Give a short talk with an outline and key words and phrases and expand the answer to a reasonable extent. SET 3. For the Listening session Situation and  Set the background situation language Who / where / what 5 min. Pair-  Introduce some key words share and phrases 5 min. Presentation  Prepare task 1 by listening Listening for for gist yourself and find out gist what is central to the 5 min. Indi. recording. work  Prepare a framework or 1. Work in pairs / groups discussing the situation and the need to communicate 2. Predict the answers / what speakers say in that situation 1. Listen for general topics or ideas: What are they talking about? 5 min. Presentation scaffolding for students to present the main ideas.  Prepare task 2 for detail Listening for listening, sub-skill 1 details  Prepare task 2 for detail 5 min. Pairlistening, sub-skill 2 share  Prepare a framework or 5 min. scaffolding for students to Presentation present the classified details.  Prepare a framework or Summarizing scaffolding for students to 5 min. Pairpresent an oral summary of share the content 5 min. Presentation 2. Present the main points with a given framework 1. Listen for specific important details: where / when / how / why 2. Listen for some interesting facts / expressions: “Time and tide wait for no _______.” 3. Present the details and facts you hear in your own words. 1. Answer some round-off questions from your teacher 2. Report today’s story SET 4. For the writing class  Call students’ attention to a Sampling an situation or a communication outline event. 5 min. Pair-  Have students get access to a share sample piece of writing. 5 min.  Have students work out a Presentation typical outline. 1. Discuss the situation and the need to communicate. 2. Study the sample and answer some questions about text organization 3. Work out an outline with a given frame  Set a similar communication Brainstormin situation g  Have students brainstorm the 5 min. Pairideas and jot down key share words within the outline. 5 min. Presentation 1. Discuss a similar situation in pairs or groups 2. Brainstorm and note down ideas in a flow chart  Allow time for individual 1. Individual free writing Writing practice 5 min. Indi. work 5 min. Presentation Editing 5 min. Pairshare 5 min. Presentation free writing  Have some students present their own writing orally  Have pairs share their own work and edit.  Have a student present his / her writing on the board for class editing. 2. Present the writing in oral speech 1. Edit your writing in pairs 2. Present your complete writing on a flip board. SET 5. For language focus lessons  Enable students to work out Pronunciatio the pattern n  Have students practice the 5 min. Pairtarget pronunciation and find share out more from prior 5 min. knowledge Presentation Vocabulary in use 5 min. Pairshare 5 min. Presentation  Raise awareness of word formation  Raise awareness of word partnership  Grammar for a particular Grammar in communication need / event. use  Set a situation and 5 min. Pairframework for share conversational grammar 5 min. practice. 1. Work out a phonetic pattern 2. Practice the pattern in context 1. Practice ONE derivative at a time: The –ion noun / The – tive adjective 2. Match collocation halves or complete common verb / noun phrases. 1. Learn about the use or function in communication of the target grammar point. 2. Practice pairs of conversational exchanges with the target Presentation 5 min. Pairshare 5 min. Presentation Language awareness 5 min. Pairshare 5 min. Presentation  Prepare a Listen-andrespond exercise communication function.  Attract attention to common patterns in pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary  Call attention to notable exceptions in common use 1. Practice some special cases, especially those from students’ prior knowledge. 2. Complete some rules in grammar and vocabulary. IV. Some useful well-trialed classroom techniques ( University of Oregon, Spring 2014. Ways to assess students in the classroom: TEP http://tep.uoregon.edu ) ETS ( 2013). Linking classroom assessment with student learning: www.ets.org) 1. Think-Pair-Share – ( Task time: 5 to 15 minutes / Group size: 2-3) For the speaking – writing class  Take a hot topic in the community that is related to the lesson and have students reflect on it individually and then discuss it further  Think phase: Students work independently and note down their thoughts/arguments  Pair phase: Students discuss their response with a partner  Share phase: Elicit responses from all members of the class and ask students to explain their ideas. 2. Round Robin – (Task time: 5 to 15 minutes / Group size: 4 to 6) Pre-reading / Pre-listening / Post reading / Post listening activities. To practice vocabulary – topic-related key words  Small groups of students are engaged in key-word brainstorming  Each student takes turns to say one word or phrase surrounding a central concept or topic  The next person is given the opportunity to add a word or phrase to the list  Each group can list their four to six main thoughts as a means of discussing and summarizing the topic.  The activity concludes after all members have participated in presenting their thoughts to the class. 3. IF-AT Cards (Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique.) (Task time: 5 to 10 minutes / Group size: 3-5) For language focus or revision classes after a chapter or before a major test or examination  IF-AT cards function like multiple choice questions. A group of learners answer the question out of their knowledge and then they scratch the card to reveal the correct answer.  Students can begin by answering the list of questions on their own without using an IFAT card.  Afterwards, students work with a group to go through the questions, convince one another of the correct answer, and then scratch the card to uncover what is right.  Ideally used to provide immediate feedback to students about concepts related to the target lesson. 4. Fishbowl discussion (Task Time: 15 to 20 minutes / Group size: 3 to 5 inside, remaining class outside of circle) For the speaking class or pre-writing and post writing activities.  Small group of students sit in a circle or around a desk and engage in a peer-mediated discussion (with the teacher’s intervention as required)  Remaining students sit in a larger outward circle and watch the discussion, taking notes and critiquing the content and logic of the discussion  The outer circle can then discuss the interaction of content that has just occurred and provide additional insight into the topic and provide constructive feedback 5. Simulation / Role Play – (Task Time: 15 to 20 minutes / Group size: 2 to 5) Ideally for conversational practice in everyday communication.  Simulation comes first, where learners play character parts saying their exact ‘words’ as in the sample dialog and experience their ‘feelings’.  Role play follows to demonstrate varying perspectives on a topic. In role play students can play a role from different view points, which give them chance to apply to real life situation as well as to practice their English creative and natural manner.  Students assume different roles in small groups and act out the parts with the varying perspectives they would have. 6. Think-Aloud Pair-share Problem Solving – (Task Time: 15 to 20 minutes / Group size: 2) For all classes that involve students in a discussion For the speaking class / After you read or listen / Before you write  Present students with a realistic problem that requires multiple steps to solve.  Pair up students and ask them to discuss an effective strategy and develop a practical solution.  The partners listen to each other and offer suggestions if there are difficulties, or expresses confusion should there be difficult parts to understand.  After the first problem has been solved, ask the students to switch roles and begin again V. FINDINGS AND RESULTS Findings have shown that implementation of formative assessment in the two experimental classes led to numerous encouraging results as follows > Greater student participation and performance > Considerable grade improvement compared with control classes > Greater students’ confidence, satisfaction and self-fulfillment > More time saving and cost efficiency on teacher’s part E. RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS Marking schemes:  Whether it is pair work or group work, written or spoken form, marking is based on individual performance.  Marking is done on the spot and promotion bonus is based on each individual’s progress and effort for the greatest motivation.  A small difference in marks given to group members, say 0.25 point, really counts for them, so that they could compare with each other.  Second chance bonus policy is adopted so that students are never discouraged from making efforts and getting over themselves all the time.  Assessment is done at random, not in the order of the name list, so that students get to learn that they just work hard and testing will come naturally.  Assessment should be done holistically, i.e. overall performance in communication is measured, not discreet points.  Be flexible  Add spices and more variety  Holistic marking and second chance bonus policy should always be adopted. F. REFERENCES AND SUGGESTED READINGS Barton, P. E. (2002). Staying on course in education reform. Princeton, NJ: Statistics & Research Division, Policy Information Center, Educational Testing Service. Bloom, B. S., Madaus, G. F., & Hastings, J. T. (1981). Evaluation to improve learning. New York: McGraw-Hill. Guskey, T. R. (2000b). Evaluating professional development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. Kifer, E. (2001). Large-scale assessment: Dimensions, dilemmas, and policies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. Stiggins, R. J. (1999). Evaluating classroom assessment training in teacher education programs.Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 18(1), 23–27. Stiggins, R. J. (2002). Assessment crisis: The absence of assessment for learning. Phi Delta Kappan, 83(10), 758–765. Wiggins, G. (1998). Educative assessment. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. University of Oregon, Spring 2014. Ways to assess students in the classroom: TEP http://tep.uoregon.edu ) ETS ( 2013). Linking classroom assessment with student learning: www.ets.org) Implemented by TRAN DINH QUYET, 2015 THONG NHAT HIGH SCHOOL, DONG NAI THE END Recommended Further reading How Classroom Assessment Improves Learning “Teachers who develop useful assessments, provide corrective instruction, and give students second chances to demonstrate success can improve their instruction and help students learn.” Thomas R. Guskey Teachers who develop useful assessments, provide corrective instruction, and give students second chances to demonstrate success can improve their instruction and help students learn. Large-scale assessments, like all assessments, are designed for a specific purpose. Those used in most countries today are designed to rank-order schools and students for the purposes of accountability—and some do so fairly well. But assessments designed for ranking are generally not good instruments for helping teachers improve their instruction or modify their approach to individual students. First, students take them at the end of the school year, when most instructional activities are near completion. Second, teachers don't receive the results until two or three months later, by which time their students have usually moved on to other teachers. And third, the results that teachers receive usually lack the level of detail needed to target specific improvements (Barton, 2002; Kifer, 2001). The assessments best suited to guide improvements in student learning are the tasks, quizzes, tests, writing assignments, and other assessments that teachers administer on a regular basis in their classrooms. Teachers trust the results from these assessments because of their direct relation to classroom instructional goals. Plus, results are immediate and easy to analyze at the individual student level. To use classroom assessments to make improvements, however, teachers must change both their view of assessments and their interpretation of results. Specifically, they need to see their assessments as an integral part of the instruction process and as crucial for helping students learn. Despite the importance of assessments in education today, few teachers receive much formal training in assessment design or analysis. A recent survey showed, for example, that fewer than half the states in the whole United States require competence in assessment for licensure as a teacher (Stiggins, 1999). Lacking specific training, teachers rely heavily on the assessments offered by the publisher of their textbooks or instructional materials. When no suitable assessments are available, teachers construct their own in a haphazard fashion, with questions and essay prompts similar to the ones that their teachers used. They treat assessments as evaluation devices to administer when instructional activities have been completed and to use primarily for assigning students' grades. To use assessments to improve instruction and student learning, teachers need to change their approach to assessments in three important ways as follows Make Assessments Useful For Students: Nearly every student has suffered the experience of spending hours preparing for a major assessment, only to discover that the material that he or she had studied was different from what the teacher chose to emphasize on the assessment. This experience teaches students two un-fortunate lessons. First, students realize that hard work and effort don't pay off in school because the time and effort that they spent studying had little or no influence on the results. And second, they learn that they cannot trust their teachers (Guskey, 2000a). These are hardly the lessons that responsible teachers want their students to learn. Nonetheless, this experience is common because many teachers still mistakenly believe that they must keep their assessments secret. As a result, students come to regard assessments as guessing games, especially from the middle grades on. They view success as depending on how well they can guess what their teachers will ask on quizzes, tests, and other assessments. Some teachers even take pride in their ability to out-guess students. They ask questions about isolated concepts or obscure understandings just to see whether students are reading carefully. Generally, these teachers don't include such “gotcha” questions maliciously, but rather—often unconsciously—because such questions were asked of them when they were students. Classroom assessments that serve as meaningful sources of information don't surprise students. Instead, these assessments reflect the concepts and skills that the teacher emphasized in class, along with the teacher's clear criteria for judging students' performance. These concepts, skills, and criteria align with the teacher's instructional activities and, ideally, with state or district standards. Students see these assessments as fair measures of important learning goals. Teachers facilitate learning by providing students with important feedback on their learning progress and by helping them identify learning problems (Bloom, Madaus, & Hastings, 1981; Stiggins, 2002). Critics sometimes contend that this approach means “teaching to the test.” But the crucial issue is, What determines the content and methods of teaching? If the test is the primary determinant of what teachers teach and how they teach it, then we are indeed “teaching to the test.” But if desired learning goals are the foundation of students' instructional experiences, then assessments of student learning are simply extensions of those same goals. Instead of “teaching to the test,” teachers are more accurately “testing what they teach.” If a concept or skill is important enough to assess, then it should be important enough to teach. And if it is not important enough to teach, then there's little justification for assessing it. For Teachers: The best classroom assessments also serve as meaningful sources of information for teachers, helping them identify what they have taught well and what they need to work on. Gathering this vital information does not require a sophisticated statistical analysis of assessment results. Teachers need only make a simple tally of how many students missed each assessment item or failed to meet a specific criterion. State assessments sometimes provide similar item-by-item information, but concerns about item security and the cost of developing new items each year usually make assessment developers reluctant to offer such detailed information. Once teachers have made specific tallies, they can pay special attention to the trouble spots—those items or criteria missed by large numbers of students in the class. In reviewing these results, the teacher must first consider the quality of the item or criterion. Perhaps the question is ambiguously worded or the criterion is unclear. Perhaps students mis-interpreted the question. Whatever the case, teachers must determine whether these items adequately address the knowledge, understanding, or skill that they were intended to measure. If teachers find no obvious problems with the item or criterion, then they must turn their attention to their teaching. When as many as half the students in a class answer a clear question incorrectly or fail to meet a particular criterion, it's not a student learning problem—it's a teaching problem. Whatever teaching strategy was used, whatever examples were employed, or whatever explanation was offered, it simply didn't work. Analyzing assessment results in this way means setting aside some powerful ego issues. Many teachers may initially say, “I taught them. They just didn't learn it!” But on reflection, most recognize that their effectiveness is not defined on the basis of what they do as teachers but rather on what their students are able to do. Can effective teaching take place in the absence of learning? Certainly not. Some argue that such a perspective puts too much responsibility on teachers and not enough on students. Occasionally, teachers respond, “Don't students have responsibilities in this process? Shouldn't students display initiative and personal accountability?” Indeed, teachers and students share responsibility for learning. Even with valiant teaching efforts, we cannot guarantee that all students will learn everything excellently. Only rarely do teachers find items or assessment criteria that every student answers correctly. A few students are never willing to put forth the necessary effort, but these students tend to be the exception, not the rule. If a teacher is reaching fewer than half of the students in the class, the teacher's method of instruction needs to improve. And teachers need this kind of evidence to help target their instructional improvement efforts. Follow Assessments with Corrective Instruction If assessments provide information for both students and teachers, then they cannot mark the end of learning. Instead, assessments must be followed by high-quality, corrective instruction designed to remedy whatever learning errors the assessment identified (see Guskey, 1997). To charge ahead knowing that students have not learned certain concepts or skills well would be foolish. Teachers must therefore follow their assessments with instructional alternatives that present those concepts in new ways and engage students in different and more appropriate learning experiences. High-quality, corrective instruction is not the same as re-teaching, which often consists simply of restating the original explanations louder and more slowly. Instead, the teacher must use approaches that accommodate differences in students' learning styles and intelligences (Sternberg, 1994). Although teachers generally try to incorporate different teaching approaches when they initially plan their lessons, corrective instruction involves extending and strengthening that work. In addition, those students who have few or no learning errors to correct should receive enrichment activities to help broaden and expand their learning. Materials designed for gifted and talented students provide an excellent resource for such activities. Developing ideas for corrective instruction and enrichment activities can be difficult, especially if teachers believe that they must do it alone, but structured professional development opportunities can help teachers share strategies and collaborate on teaching techniques (Guskey, 1998, 2000b). Staff meetings devoted to examining classroom assessment results and developing alternative strategies can be highly effective. District-level personnel and collaborative partnerships with local schools, colleges and universities offer wonderful resources for ideas and practical advice. Occasionally, teachers express concern that if they take time to offer corrective instruction, they will sacrifice curriculum coverage. Because corrective work is initially best done during class and under the teacher's direction, early instructional units will typically involve an extra class period or two. Teachers who ask students to complete corrective work independently, outside of class, generally find that those students who most need to spend time on corrective work are the least likely to do so. As students become accustomed to this corrective process and realize the personal benefits it offers, however, the teacher can drastically reduce the amount of class time allocated to such work and accomplish much of it through homework assignments or in special study sessions before or after school. And by not allowing minor errors to become major learning problems, teachers better prepare students for subsequent learning tasks, eventually need less time for corrective work (Whiting, Van Burgh, & Render, 1995), and can proceed at a more rapid pace in later learning units. By pacing their instructional units more flexibly, most teachers find that they need not sacrifice curriculum coverage to offer students the benefits of corrective instruction. Give Second Chances to Demonstrate Success To become an integral part of the instructional process, assessments cannot be a oneshot, do-or-die experience for students. Instead, assessments must be part of an ongoing effort to help students learn. And if teachers follow assessments with helpful corrective instruction, then students should have a second chance to demonstrate their new level of competence and understanding. This second chance helps determine the effectiveness of the corrective instruction and offers students another opportunity to experience success in learning. Writing teachers have long recognized the many benefits of a second chance. They know that students rarely write well on an initial attempt. Teachers build into the writing process several opportunities for students to gain feedback on early drafts and then to use that feedback to revise and improve their writing. So many teachers may at first balk at the idea or feel reluctant and uneasy, however—mostly because it differs from their personal learning experiences. Some teachers express concern that giving students a second chance might be unfair and that “life isn't like that.” They point out that that a surgeon doesn't get a second chance to perform an operation successfully and a pilot doesn't get a second chance to land a jumbo jet safely. Because of the very high stakes involved, each must get it right the first time. But how did these highly skilled professionals learn their craft? The first operation performed by that surgeon was on a cadaver—a situation that allows a lot of latitude for mistakes. Similarly, the pilot spent many hours in a flight simulator before ever attempting a landing from the cockpit. Such experiences allowed them to learn from their mistakes and to improve their performance. Similar instructional techniques are used in nearly every professional endeavor. Only in schools do student face the prospect of one-shot, do-or-die assessments, with no chance to demonstrate what they learned from previous mistakes. All educators strive to have their students become lifelong learners and develop learning-to-learn skills. What better learning-to-learn skill is there than learning from one's mistakes? A mistake can be the beginning of learning. Some assessment experts argue, in fact, that students learn nothing from a successful performance. Rather, students learn best when their initial performance is less than successful, for then they can gain direction on how to improve (Wiggins, 1998). Other teachers suggest that it's unfair to offer the same privileges and high grades to students who require a second chance that we offer to those students who demonstrate a high level of learning on the initial assessment. After all, these students may simply have failed to prepare appropriately. Certainly, we should recognize students who do well on the initial assessment and provide opportunities for them to extend their learning through enrichment activities. But those students who do well on a second assessment have also learned well. More important, their poor performance on the first assessment may not have been their fault. Maybe the teaching strategies used during the initial instruction were inappropriate for these students, but the corrective instruction proved more effective. If we determine grades on the basis of performance and these students have performed at a high level, then they certainly deserve the same grades as those who scored well on their first try. A comparable example is the driver's license examination. Many individuals do not pass their driver's test on the first attempt. On the second or third try, however, they may reach the same high level of performance as others did on their first. Should these drivers be restricted, for instance, to driving in fair weather only? In inclement weather, should they be required to pull their cars over and park until the weather clears? Of course not. Because they eventually met the same high performance standards as those who passed on their initial attempt, they receive the same privileges. The same should hold true for students who show that they, too, have learned well. Similar Situations Using assessments as sources of information, following assessments with corrective instruction, and giving students a second chance are steps in a process that all teachers use naturally when they tutor individual students. If the student makes a mistake, the teacher stops and points out the mistake. The teacher then explains that concept in a different way. Finally, the teacher asks another question or poses a similar problem to ensure the student's understanding before going on. The challenge for teachers is to use their classroom assessments in similar ways to provide all students with this sort of individualized assistance. Successful coaches use the same process. Immediately following a gymnast's performance on the balance beam, for example, the coach explains to her what she did correctly and what could be improved. The coach then offers specific strategies for improvement and encourages her to try again. As the athlete repeats her performance, the coach watches carefully to ensure that she has corrected the problem. Successful students typically know how to take corrective action on their own. They save their assessments and review the items or criteria that they missed. They rework problems, look up answers in their textbooks or other resource materials, and ask the teacher about ideas or concepts that they don't understand. Less successful students rarely take such initiative. After looking at their grades, they typically crumple up their assessments and deposit them in the trash can as they leave the classroom. Teachers who use classroom assessments as part of the instructional process help all of their students do what the most successful students have learned to do for themselves. The Benefits of Assessment Using classroom assessment to improve student learning is not a new idea. More than 30 years ago, Benjamin Bloom showed how to conduct this process in practical and highly effective ways when he described the practice of mastery learning (Bloom, 1968, 1971). But since that time, the emphasis on assessments as tools for accountability has diverted attention from this more important and fundamental purpose. Assessments can be a vital component in our efforts to improve education. But as long as we use them only as a means to rank schools and students, we will miss their most powerful benefits. We must focus instead on helping teachers change the way they use assessment results, improve the quality of their classroom assessments, and align their assessments with valued learning goals and state or district standards. When teachers' classroom assessments become an integral part of the instructional process and a central ingredient in their efforts to help students learn, the benefits of assessment for both students and teachers will be boundless.
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