Entry #4 – Assessment Strategies

My most memorable assessment experience in high school was in my Calculus 30 class when my teacher turned our entire course into a “Survivor” challenge. It all began the first day of classes, we chose our teams at random, picked our ‘tribe’ names, and went over the rules that are required in order to survive. He had the team’s marks working together to see which tribe could vote off a member; only the team with either the highest average on an exam, the most homework check completions  or most quizzes passed could vote a member off of their own team or choose a member from the other team. At the end of the semester the team with the highest overall average won, and generally we would choose to vote off the stronger students from the other team opposed to weaker students on our own team, which helped those students continue to participate and motivate them to try and improve their grades to not let their tribe down. His quizzes he incorporated into the day to day classes consisted of two or three questions on the content we learned the previous week, plus one bonus question about the content we were about to learn next. This bonus question did not penalize those students who were not ahead of the group but they still had the opportunity to give it a try, as well as allow the higher 1/3 of the class to succeed and provided him with pre-assessment of who already had an understanding about the new topic.

Various assessment strategies have been explored throughout this course, and interviews was a specific type that I dealt with personally. I gained a new understanding and appreciation for the use of interviews in mathematics, where initially I thought they would be irrelevant, simply because I had no experience or awareness of this assessment while being a student. Fortunately, I now realize conducting interviews with our students is very beneficial as we can communicate with them one on one, in pairs, groups, or by a whole class, to get an idea of where our students understanding level is at. Interviews allow students to explain concepts or ideas to teachers when they may struggle with writing or performing calculations but do understand the process. They also provide teachers with the opportunity to pull students aside to give group evaluations, this is where the most truth on member participation/behavior will come out, and they are welcome to share their strengths and weaknesses on the topic. On the other hand, interviews have a time and a place to when they would be most suitable. It is not always convenient for teachers to send his/her students off on their own to work on assignments and continually pull students aside for discussion; this is where a general class interview would be most useful.

Two other assessments I learned about, which I felt had a strong connection to inquiry through mathematics, were peer assessment and journal writing. Again, I did not personally experience these in my high school experience, my assessments were almost always strictly homework assignments, quizzes, and exams, so I automatically did not think either related to mathematics. Throughout sharing of these assessments I gained more valuable understanding of the two, making connections and realizations of how they can be implemented into a mathematics classroom. Peer assessment, for instance, provides feedback to other classmates, which can often ‘hit home’ or be more relatable to students than the feedback from teachers. Peer assessment also allows students to identify each other’s and their own strengths and weaknesses, plan their learning and how they can be successful, as well as giving students the chance to be responsible for their own assessment and learning to see past their grade. Journal writing provides students with the chance to express their knowledge in written language if they struggle with completing mathematical steps, as well as privately asking questions or stating areas they may struggle in to avoid exposing their weaknesses. I was only introduced to journal writing in my English Language Arts classes, however, keeping this personal conversation (provided we take the responsibility to respond promptly) will instill a safe, welcoming environment for our students to learn. Journal writing is an assessment that can be taken for either formative or summative reasons, which is also beneficial to have the flexibility as teachers.

One considerable value these performance-based assessments can have is embedded in the variety that teachers use. It is essential to avoid choosing one that you have had success with and never incorporating these new strategies into our classrooms. Students benefit from assessment strategies as much as teachers do, they provide opportunities for them to express their knowledge in different formats, and allow teachers to look at their skill/understanding from multiple angles. I strongly believe that, regardless of the assessment strategy chosen, assessment for learning should be present in each and everyone of our lessons. Assessment of learning is necessary to for grading purposes, to let the students, parents and school know where that particular students is at in the course, but all of these strategies could be altered to be successful in either.

Relating specifically to interviews, peer-assessment and journal writing, I would personally use interviews as assessment FOR learning, peer-assessment would be assessment OF learning, and journal writing could be equally both. Within my memorable assessment experience in high school that I shared above, the assessment strategies were generally assessment of learning, and usually homework, quizzes, or exams. That being said, it was so memorable and enjoyable for my class and myself because it was relatable to our everyday lives, connecting the reality TV show into our Calculus 30 class. We were able to ‘play’ the course as a game, yet encouraged each other to reach their greatest potential and succeed together.

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