October 12, 2006

Time for a Revolution Assessment Dynamics

Here are my notes from 2 sessions I attended here in Saskatoon. I’ve added my thoughts at the bottom.

Time for a Revolution Assessment Dynamics

Rick Stiggins Assessment Institute

Saskatoon, Sk October 11-13, 2006

We assess to inform us about instruction and to encourage students to try

  • How much do we focus on encouraging students?
  • These reasons do not talk at all about rank and order

Two keys to good assessment: accurate and effective use.

Always begin by asking:

  • What decisions? What comes next in the learning?
  • Who’s making them? Students, teachers, parents
  • What information will be helpful to the students? Continuous, on individual progress towards standards

It is more likely students will hit clearly defined still targets that are clearly articulated from the beginning. If these are not clearly stated and communication…success will be random.

Accuracy must have purpose, good design and clear targets

Effective use must have effective communication and student involvement

Reasoning Proficiency Foundation of knowledge is essential

2 ways of knowing

  • Know it outright
  • Know where to find it The distinction in curriculum must be made to determine how much should be known outright and how much should be around knowing where to find it.

Students are natural thinkers.

Clear learning targets are essential

They must relate to the real world

Create graphic representations

My thoughts:

I’ve attended a 3 day workshop in Portland with Stiggins and have read much of his work so I’m fairly familar with his approach. I was once again struck at how little we use assessment to encourage students. His initial address focused on creating confident learners. Seems fairly elementary by once again, there are too many instances in our schools where the opposite happens for some. He talked about how in our “data driven” world, the impact the data has on the learner is by far the most critical use. Too many forget this. I know I do. He also talked about winning streaks and losing streaks. Basically that we are compelled to help students get on winning streaks. This doesn’t mean false praise or weakened standards but holding a mirror up to students to recognize progress.

In his second address on reasoning, he did a great job of outlining the importance of knowledge. He also challenged our use of the phrase “higher order thinking” and how critical it is to have knowledge in order to reason. But he was clear in the way he distinguished knowledge into knowing it outright and knowing where to find it. He used the example of his doctor who would listen and observe symptons and based on prior knowledge could assign treatment. If past experience or knowledge didn’t help, the doctor knew where to find additional information. The critical piece is determining how much is needed to be known outright and how much to we teach students to find the information.