The general principles of good assessment and the examples from Ms. Rodriguez’s class provide a starting place for thinking about how to implement a classroom-based assessment system. Here are additional suggestions:
- Focus assessment on the most important outcomes in the curriculum. Although teachers informally assess every time they interact with students and every time students work on an activity, you do not have to document every interaction or every lesson. Daily lessons and activities are often building blocks or means to more complex goals. Collecting too much information is as problematic as not collecting enough. Determine the most important goals you have for each unit. Select only a few artifacts as your assessment evidence; be sure they are dated. The same is true for anecdotal notes or checklists. Use these judiciously depending on the situation and the particular students.
- Be clear about the goals of instruction and make them explicit to the students. For example, if students will be reading about environmental issues and will be asked to take a position, they will need to learn how to distinguish fact from opinion, synthesize information, and draw conclusions. Both you and the students have a better chance of achieving your goals if you make clear to them the relationship between the skills they are learning and the task they are completing.
- Make self-assessment a dependable, integral part of your classroom. Begin with non-academic activities, such as judging how well the class is working in groups or discussing favorite artwork. The first of these activities requires students to consider qualities of good performance; the other requires judgments based on personal criteria. Both, however, require students to step back from their work or their behavior to think reflectively. You will need to develop these abilities over time with your students.
- Help students understand what good reading and good writing look like by providing them with examples, examining work, reviewing portfolios, and discussing criteria. For example, help the class develop criteria for a good research report or book talk and then have children evaluate their work according to the criteria. Use criteria and scoring rubrics provided with instructional materials with the children instead of using them just for grading.
- Schedule portfolio visits with your students. These are times when you and your students can review accumulated portfolio work, stepping back to look at work over time. Sometimes these visits should be collaborative, sometimes independent. By spending time with several portfolios each week, you will be able to keep track of individual students’ progress and to make sure that no students are slipping through the cracks. Use portfolios to celebrate accomplishments as well as to identify needs. In addition, by looking across portfolios, you will be able to analyze your instruction. For example, you will easily identify the kinds of activities on which students are spending most of their time and the kinds of criteria they are using to make their personal portfolio selections.
- Use classroom assessments and portfolios to help with grading. You do not need to grade every piece of work or even the portfolio as a whole. The evidence you collect will provide the basis for the grades you assign. Some of the more formal assessments, such as tests, performance activities, and projects, are easier to grade. Other assessments, such as oral discussions, response journals, and rough drafts of writing, are more difficult to grade but still provide useful information. Together, these graded and ungraded artifacts provide strong evidence for your grading decisions.
- Begin classroom assessment slowly. It will take time for you and your students to develop a system for using and keeping track of classroom assessment. The time you spend with students organizing and reviewing portfolios or classroom work is time well-spent. Through these activities students learn about qualities of good work.