If You Hate Doing Assessment, You’re Doing it Wrong

Screenshot_4_27_13_11_30_AM-5For many teachers, grading and assessment are the duties of teaching most would rather avoid. I get it. For many these things get it the way of learning in that they are contrived , mandated, artificial and time consuming. My personal evolution with assessment is well documented here but as I continue to tweak my workflow and process have to come see this has a powerfully enjoyable experience. For my students final assessment here was their task:

Tech Tasks
A simple summary and assessment about the quality, consistency and timeliness of your work. Grade yourself between 20-30% percent of the course.
Grade yourself between 15-25% Use a rubric or your own standard based your favorite blogs. Be sure to reference the criteria discussed on the course assignment page.
This will be a challenging one for some of you but the core of this will be your interview with your mentoring teacher. I would like a report that highlights your involvement as well. Grade yourself between 20-30%
Social Learning
This will be about a one page report answering the 2 questions: What did I contribute to the learning of others? and What did I learn from others? 10-20%
Final Reflection
This will be a media presentation of your learning. We’ll talk more about the format of this next week. This will be the only assignment that I’ll grade exclusively. You decide between its value between 10-20%
As I review these final assessments it provides insight in both my students learning and my teaching. For many, I watch and read their responses with a smile as they document and share their personal learning journeys. I’m always pleased to see that for each student, different aspects of the course resonate and have more impact that others. That’s the way it should be. There are a few students in each of my classes that I can tell are simply going through the motions and playing school and I continue to take responsibility for decreasing that number. Teaching online is particularly challenging and this term with 38 students I have had a difficult time staying connected and supporting all my students in they ways I would like. If you want to hear me lament a little more about this, you can eavesdrop on the conversation I had with Zac Chase.

But by in large I continue to love the fact that I get to watch students truly awaken to new possibilities and connections that most had never considered before this course. My continued reliance on a great network of educators that support my teaching makes me feel incredibly blessed and fortunate to model and help my students develop their own networks. As much as I enjoy seeing them excited about new tools and new ways of communicating, I’m more jazzed about seeing them find people that will sustain and support their learning well beyond the time frame of this course. I love the fact that many of them chose different tools and methods of sharing their final reflection. Here are a couple of examples of varied ways they share their assessment of their learning. These are not necessarily exemplars but simply a cross section of tools and perspectives. But some of them are fantastic. Check them out:

Those of you who have allowed student choice for assignments have likely experienced the pleasure of students who are not just engaged but truly invested in learning. That’s the reason we teach. I’ve been fortunate to see this from the vast majority of my students. In some respects I felt I didn’t provide the quality experience for my students as I may have in other years and yet I saw some of the best work from students this term. I continue to learn that teaching is like golf. You never really perfect it but it’s great fun in trying to get better. While many a dreading the end of the year grading barrage, I love it. I know not every student loves this course but every student has to share with me and their classmates what they have learned. Whether it’s a great deal or a little, it’s about their learning and mine as well. I even enjoy when some are honest and open enough to discuss their struggles with the course and with me: that’s how I learn. I also provide feedback via audio for each student. After all, as Joe Bower says, “Assessment is a conversation, not a spreadsheet.”   I’m fully aware of the latitude I have to provide this kind of freedom and control for my students but before you simply dismiss it, I would highly recommend making this happen to some extent in your own situation. Assessment and evaluation might become a treat instead of drudgery.