Monday, June 13, 2011

Meaningful Assessments

Tomorrow night is the second presentation I will be giving as the chair of our District’s Innovative Schools Committee. The committee has been looking at current practices and where we feel we need to begin moving to in terms of addressing learning in a modern world , what ever “modern” means...

The first presentation was titled the Digital Revolution, and was primarily the foundation for the four topics that follow. A one page summary of the initial presentation content can be found here: (Presentation consisted of a mash-up of listed video resources lasting approximately 10 minutes.)

Tomorrow night’s topic is Meaningful Assessments. Meaningful assessments, as per the committee’s definition, are assessments that are primarily useful for the student, and secondly, useful for the teacher. Educational assessments that are valued by any other entity are deemed as non-primary assessments and are not included under the meaningful assessments heading.

The presentation will begin with a review of common assessment terms such as formative and summative assessments. Examples will be provided of both types of assessments. The most widely familiar summative assessment is the state standardized tests. However, this example could possibly be argued to be defined more as a score as opposed to an assessment. Formative examples of assessment are more closely tied to the individual learner, and provide diagnosis or strategy for improvement. Though most would say formative assessments are primarily the types of assessments we are describing below, there is no reason why summative assessments could not posses the same types of characteristics as formative assessments.

Following the assessment review, common characteristics of assessments will be presented as determined by the committee. These characteristics are:

1. Assessment & Instruction are inseparable - If you can separate the instruction from the assessment, you don’t have an assessment.

2. Assessments have a specific purpose - They possess a goal or target as to what is being measured.

3. The results, or data, is time specific and by no means limit or define an individual with the exception of the identified goal or target at the instant of that assessment.

4. The results are dependent on motivation. If the results can be independent, then you don’t have an assessment you have a “score.” Scores and assessments are not the same thing.

Video Clip: Tom Chatfield: TED Video - 7 Ways Games Reward the Brain (Motivation) Fast forward to 8 minutes and 30 seconds:

Every time you hear him say game, think of learning and assessment instead.

5. Assessments provide guidance on how to improve the learning.

6. Just as the results are time specific, the assessment tool itself must adhere to the instructional and societal norms of the time period in order to be (the most) useful.

Video Clip: Social Aspects of Learning and Engaging (Full video, Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age - Session III available at

Video - Assessment (and therefore instruction too) is specific to learner’s moment in time i.e. TEDxSF - Scott Hess - Millennials: Who They Are & Why We Hate Them ← Think about the generation in our elementary schools now and how millennial characteristics are evolving in this bunch of learners...

7. Assessments should be designed based on the needs of the student in a developing modern world.

The last component of the presentation will be that the board directs staff to design and implement assessments that emphasize preparing children for a world that they will shortly inherit and to keep these ideals in mind when creating assessments:

1. Know who’s learning (What do they need/want? What’s fun/motivating for them?)

2. Build fun, pleasure, and satisfaction into core assessment loop.

3. Change the learner assessment experience over time (a good learning experience takes the learner on a journey.)

4. Build assessments that reward what is learned and provide goals.

5. Create assessments that clearly define paths to future goals.

6. Design assessments that increase challenge and complexity: create conditions for flow.

7. Provide assessments that incorporate intrinsic motivators like power, autonomy, and belonging.

(The seven principles above were the result of assigning “assessment thinking” to the list that Amy Jo Kim is described as creating in the blog post,

A example of an assessment system that begins to contain many of these characteristics can be found here: The Classroom Badging System -

(image of squirrel courtesy of exfordy, on Flickr.

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