Toward a Clearer Picture of Assessment: One Teacher’s Formative Approach by David Peter Noskin (2013)

David Peter Noskin’s article “Assessment: One Teacher’s Formative Approach” (2013) provides a wonderful English-based example of a unit with a formative assessment focus. Noskin used Hawthorne’s text to discuss big questions and accomplish curriculum outcomes. Within the unit, assessment was “formative and frequent with timely feedback” and students were evaluated at the end of the unit after they were given ample practice time (Noskin, 2013, p. 73). Noskin talks about the importance of letting students know the purpose of the learning but he created the rubrics on his own, something I think his students would have benefited from. However, I loved that the initial pre-assessment of a journal response was the basis of the final essay. Students engaged in journal responses, short essay responses and grammar lessons that focused on student areas of need, like inserting textual evidence, until their final essay was created. Activities built off each other and students received ample feedback instead of just receiving an essay topic and being told to do their best.

One thing I really took to heart is the idea that “the text is not the unit” (Noskin, 2013, p. 72). I think as English teachers we often forget this but we need to consider why we are studying a text and how it relates to the curriculum outcomes and our big questions. I also like Noskin’s honesty when he says he now realizes “that using an activity because it is fun ought not to be my sole or even main criterion: it must foremost align with one of my learning objectives. Then, I can determine how to make it fun and engaging” (2013, p. 74). In the age of Pinterest, this is something all teachers need to be cautious of.

For more information: Noskin, D. P. (2013). Toward a clearer picture of assessment: One teacher’s formative approach. English Journal, 103(1), 72.

Creating Coherent Formative and Summative Assessment Practices

Lorrie A. Shepard’s article “Creating Coherent Formative and Summative Assessment Practices” outlines formative assessment practices that are more effective than exams. When students are faced with exams, or one time to shine, they are more worried “about what will be on the test rather than thinking about learning” (Shepard, 2006, p. 41). Grades, which are extrinsic rewards, “can reduce intrinsic motivation” (Shepard, 2006, p. 42). Thus, we need to create a learning culture instead of a grading culture, where students guide instruction and make connections to their interests and prior knowledge (Shepard, 2006, p. 41). Shepard suggests that teachers use pre-assessment, such as KWL charts, provide feedback that relates to the outcomes, allow students to self-assess, and plan with the end goal in mind (2006, p. 42-4). Furthermore, students need time to make changes based on feedback and apply knowledge to new skills and understandings (transfer knowledge) (Shepard, 2006, p. 44).

Shepard (2006) suggested that “replacement assignments and replacement tests or throwing out test scores when learning is verified in later assignments,” allows students to be evaluated fairly (p. 44). I never thought of this but really like the idea; everyone deserves a second chance and some students will take longer to complete an outcome but the goal is simply to complete the outcome, not necessarily all at the same time.

One thing that I have heard often but think is easier said than done, is creating “formative and summative assignments” that are “conceptually aligned” (Shepard, 2006, p. 43). Furthermore, I wonder how much time proper, fair and accurate assessment and evaluation takes. I think it would be best for me to start small and try to implement two proven researched assessment/evaluation practices at a time. I also have to accept that I will get better with practice and time but may need administrative and collegial support at the start.

For more information: Shepard, L. A. (2006). Creating coherent formative and summative assessment practices. Orbit, 36(2), 41.