Teacher: "Here are your unit tests back. As you can see, we didn't do very well. You obviously haven't put the time in to your studying."
Student: "But... Mr. (insert a name), we all did well on our assignments. Why did we do poorly?"
Teacher: "You obviously haven't put the time in to your studying."
Teacher thinks to self ("Why did they do poorly, if they did do well on their assignments?")
Student: "We didn't know what to study, we threw all our assignments away after you handed them back."
Teacher: "Maybe you should have kept them!"
Student thinks to self ("But we never talked about what I did right or wrong, we just kept on moving")
Student: "Okay, I'll try harder next time"
This scenario happens very often to teachers who do not utilize formal assessment in their classroom. These teachers do not provide students with feedback regarding their learning. Do students learn in this type of environment? Sure. They are presented with information and will grasp to some of the new content. However, fully understanding the standards that are taught will not happen. The good students will find a way to understand the content. The middle students will get some of it and show that they can work hard enough to get a decent grade.
To be honest, this was my classroom. When I started teaching eight years ago, that's what I thought, students who want to learn and work hard enough will get it and the others will follow along. After being introduced to formative assessments and utilizing them in my classroom, I see the light! Students need to know where they're coming up short and when they get it. My job as teacher, our job as educators, is to guide students in learning. We are not just content presenters. We need to engage students in learning. Give them feedback about what they need to improve on and provide positive reinforcement too.
This selection from Stephen Chappuis and Jan Chappuis in the December 2007/January 2008 edition of Educational Leadeship really hits home to me:
When teachers assess student learning for purely formative purposes, there is no final mark on the paper and no summative grade in the grade book. Rather, assessment serves as practice for students, just like a meaningful homework assignment does. This is formative assessment at its most valuable. Called assessment for learning, it supports learning in two ways:
- Teachers can adapt instruction on the basis of evidence, making changes and improvements that will yield immediate benefits to student learning.
- Students can use evidence of their current progress to actively manage and adjust their own learning. (Stiggins, Arter, Chappuis, & Chappuis, 2006)
Formative assessment is meant to be a two way street. Teachers gather data regarding where students stand and students get feedback about where they are. Hopefully if implemented successfully a new scenario will be heard in classrooms throughout the world:
Teacher: "Students here are your unit tests. As you can see there were some areas that we struggled in."
Student: "Mr... (insert name) why did we do poorly in those areas?"
Teacher: "Well, as we look back, how did we do in those areas in our learning time? I provided feedback about those areas, what do you think?"
Student: "Well, I thought I understood it, but obviously I didn't. What can we do now?"
Teacher: "We will be having a review session to freshen up on those parts. I will give you a chance to retake the portion of the test we review to demonstrate that you know it"
Student: "Thanks!! "