Do We Need To Rethink How We Assess Learning In Schools?

Do We Need To Rethink How We Assess Learning In Schools?

There is a major flaw in the way we currently assess school students. By labelling them as either “good” or “poor” learners based on their overall grades at the end of each year, students have no clear idea whether they are making progress over extended periods of time.

We need to move away from focusing on what grade a child will get at the end of a year, to assessing the progress that students make over time.

How students are assessed

This is how most parents, teachers and students likely view the school process:

It begins with a curriculum that spells out what teachers should teach and students should learn in each year of school.

The role of teachers is to deliver this curriculum by making it engaging and meaningful, and ensuring that all students have an opportunity to learn what the curriculum prescribes.

The role of students is to learn what teachers teach, and it is accepted that some students – the better learners – will learn more of this than others.

The role of assessment is to establish how well students have learnt what teachers have taught. This can be done at the end of a period of teaching such as a semester or school year. Such assessments are sometimes called “summative” or assessments of learning.

Alternatively, assessments can be undertaken during teaching to establish how well students have learnt so far. These assessments are sometimes called “formative” or assessments for learning, because they provide information about gaps in learning and material that may need to be retaught.

Students are then graded on how well they have learnt the curriculum for their year level. Those who can demonstrate most of this curriculum receive high grades; those who demonstrate relatively little receive low grades.

Unintended consequences

In support of this way of organising teaching and learning is the argument that the best way to raise achievement levels in schools is to set clear curriculum standards for each year of school, rigorously assess how well students meet those expectations and report performances honestly and fearlessly. If a student has failed, say so.

All of this may be appropriate if all students in each year of school began the year at the same starting point. This is patently not the case.


 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

In any year of school, the gap between the most advanced 10% of students and the least advanced 10% is the equivalent of at least five to six years of school. If school were a running race, students would begin the year widely spread out along the running track. Despite this, all students would be judged against the same finish line (the year-level expectations).

And the consequences are predictable. Students at the back of the pack, who are two or three years behind the bulk of students and the year-level curriculum, struggle and generally achieve low grades, often year after year.

A student who receives a “D” this year, a “D” next year and a “D” the year after is given little sense of the progress they are actually making and, worse, may conclude that there is something stable about their ability to learn (they are a “D student”). Many of these students eventually disengage from the schooling process.

At the front of the pack, more advanced students generally begin the school year on track to receive high grades. Many receive high grades on the middling expectations for their age group without being overly stretched or challenged. There is evidence that least year-on-year progress is often made by these students.

An alternative – monitoring learning

An alternative is to recognize that the fundamental purpose of assessment is to establish and understand where individuals are in their long-term learning progress at the time of assessment.

This usually means establishing what they know, understand and can do – something that can be done before, during or after teaching, or without reference to a course of instruction at all.

Underpinning this alternative is a belief that every learner is capable of further progress if they can be engaged, motivated to make the appropriate effort and provided with targeted learning opportunities.

This is a more positive and optimistic view than a belief that there are inherently good and poor learners as confirmed by their performances on year-level expectations.

It also recognises that successful learning is unlikely when material is much too difficult or too easy, but depends instead on providing every learner with well-targeted, personalised stretch challenges.

A good understanding of where students are in their learning provides starting points for teaching and a basis for monitoring learning progress over time.

One of the best ways to build students’ confidence as learners is to help them see the progress they are making over extended periods of time.

A focus on monitoring learning encourages a long-term perspective. Rather than being defined only in terms of year-level expectations, successful learning is defined as the progress or growth that students make over time.

Under this approach, every student is expected to make excellent progress every year towards the achievement of high standards – regardless of their current levels of attainment.

About the Author

Geoff Masters, CEO, Australian Council for Educational Research

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Related Books

at InnerSelf Market and Amazon

 

You May Also Like

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

AVAILABLE LANGUAGES

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeeliwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptroruesswsvthtrukurvi

INNERSELF VOICES

Lunar eclipse, May 12, 2022
Astrological Overview and Horoscope: May 23 - 29, 2022
by Pam Younghans
This weekly astrological journal is based on planetary influences, and offers perspectives and…
05 21 rewilding the imagination in dangerous times 5362430 1920
Rewilding the Imagination in Dangerous Times
by Natureza Gabriel Kram
In a world that often seems intent on destroying itself, I find myself curating beauty -- the kind…
group of multi-racial individuals standing for a group photo
Seven Ways You Can Show Respect to Your Diverse Team (Video)
by Kelly McDonald
Respect is profoundly meaningful, but costs nothing to give. Here are ways you can demonstrate (and…
elephant walking in front of a setting sun
Astrological Overview and Horoscope: May 16 - 22, 2022
by Pam Younghans
This weekly astrological journal is based on planetary influences, and offers perspectives and…
photo of Leo Buscaglia from cover of his book: Living, Loving and Learning
How to Change Someone's Life in a Few Seconds
by Joyce Vissell
My life was changed dramatically when someone took that second to point out my beauty.
a composite photograph of a total lunar eclipse
Astrological Overview and Horoscope: May 9 - 15, 2022
by Pam Younghans
This weekly astrological journal is based on planetary influences, and offers perspectives and…
05 08 developing compassionate thinking 2593344 completed
Developing Compassionate Thinking Towards Self and Others
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com
When people speak of compassion, they mostly are referring to having compassion for others... for…
a man writing a letter
Writing the Truth and Allowing the Emotions to Flow
by Barbara Berger
Writing things down is a good way to practice truth telling.
Only Two Spiritual Paths: What A Great Journey It Is!
Only Two Spiritual Paths: What A Great Journey It Is!
by Barry Vissell
I am realizing for myself that there are ultimately only two spiritual paths. And both are equally…
Mastering The Art of Learning To Communicate Effectively & Consciously
Mastering The Art of Learning To Communicate Effectively & Consciously
by HeatherAsh Amara
I don’t believe we ever “master” the art of learning to communicate effectively. But we do get more…
water lilies
Horoscope & Astrological Overview: Week of April 18 - 24, 2022
by Pam Younghans
This weekly astrological journal is based on planetary influences, and offers perspectives and…

MOST READ

finding what you are looking for 5 25
Use Horary Astrology to Find What You Lost
by Alphee Lavoie
There has always been a lot of controversy among astrologers as to what time (and even location) to…
rebuilding environment 4 14
How Native Birds Are Returning To New Zealand’s Restored Urban Forests
by Elizabeth Elliot Noe, Lincoln University et al
Urbanisation, and the destruction of habitat it entails, is a major threat to native bird…
The Story Of Suffering And Death Behind Ireland’s Abortion Ban And Subsequent Legalization
The Story Of Suffering And Death Behind Ireland’s Abortion Ban And Subsequent Legalization
by Gretchen E. Ely, University of Tennessee
If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion in the…
how much sleep you need 4 7
How Much Sleep You Really Need
by Barbara Jacquelyn Sahakian, University of Cambridge, et al
Most of us struggle to think well after a poor night’s sleep – feeling foggy and failing to perform…
benefits of lemmon water 4 14
Will Lemon Water Detox Or Energize You?
by Evangeline Mantzioris, University of South Australia
If you believe anecdotes online, drinking lukewarm water with a splash of lemon juice is…
trusting societies are happy 4 14
Why Trusting Societies Are Overall Happier
by enjamin Radcliff, University of Notre Dame
Human beings are social animals. This means, almost as a matter of logical necessity, that humans’…
group of multi-racial individuals standing for a group photo
Seven Ways You Can Show Respect to Your Diverse Team (Video)
by Kelly McDonald
Respect is profoundly meaningful, but costs nothing to give. Here are ways you can demonstrate (and…
economy 4 14
5 Things That Economists Know, But Sound Wrong To Most Other People
by Renaud Foucart, Lancaster University
A curious thing about our profession is that when we academic economists largely agree with each…

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.