Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Own Definition of Assessments

Earlier this week, I discussed the differences between formative and summative assessments. I talked about the types that I use on a regular basis and how my district wants the teachers to create more common assessments. Along with these, there is a new form of assessments, on-line assessments. I've noticed that these have become more popular the last couple of years. I have actually started using them more and more over the last few years. Some of the types that I feel the most comfortable with are the quick warm up questions using PollEverywhere, Discovery Education on-line quizzes that coincide with the movies. Recently I've discovered and Quizlet, and I'm currently in the process of redesigning my entire curricula to incorporate these for next school year.

Since is a subscription program, I'm finding it to be safe for my students. This will definitely show my student's growth much quicker as well as have a place to create fun and engaging activities for my students. When it comes to assessments, I truly believe that the ones that I create are much more valid than "professionally created" assessments. Not to be bias or anything, but I think that my assessments are designed to make my students critically think and have proof of more of a depth of knowledge than some of the standardized tests. Our textbooks come with a test bank that coincides with each chapter. I've taken the time to look at the test bank, and I found that many of the questions are to show Knowledge, but none of the questions really address any other of Bloom's Taxonomy. Of course, showing knowledge of the content is important, but I also believe that my students should be able to evaluate and synthesize the same material.

Even though I believe that my assessments are much more valid, I look to professionally created material to help guide me as well. For example, I'm a big fan of Rubrics. Rubrics really help me provide my students with expectations as well as keep my grading fair. When I introduce a project, I usually provide my students with criteria and a rubric. Through my explanations, I really express how to receive the advanced score in detail and encourage my students to use the rubric as a checklist to the project. I've found that other teachers seem to be an advocate to rubrics because they also provide the students with detailed feedback. When I'm grading assignments with rubrics, I usually circle the score and add any additional comments as to why I gave a particular score. By doing this, my students are able to get detailed feedback as to why they received the grade they did. When creating my rubrics, I do look to to help me, but I add some of my own components as well.

Professionally created assessments or aides like do a pretty good job of meeting standards. However, many of the professionally created assessments are meeting national standards, which can be different from state standards. Also, most professionally created assessments do not differentiate to meet each student's individual needs. So, when using these type of assessments, it is important to evaluate them and make any revisions needed. On another note, I, personally, have a hard time with standardized assessments because they are so broad. As a 7th grade science teacher, it is my job to create an interest for science within my students. The best way to do this is by engaging them with topics that are much more in depth.

Some other ways to assess students is to use web quests. As a teacher of 21st Century Learners, I find web quests to be quite useful. I've created many web quests for my students; they seem to provide a great way to create critically thinking components as well as meet 21st Century skill requirements. Personally, I've never had my students create their own web quests; however, I think that would be a great way to challenge them! In the past, I usually provide my students with an assignment with a rubric as part of the web quest. Now, it may be more challenging for my students to write their own web quests and create their own assessment. This would definitely help them develop those 21st Century skills; which are so vital to this new era!

The only type of assessment that I've had my students create was a test. In previous years, when teaching the circulatory system, I've had my students make their own test instead of me. They were required to have a variety of questions that included Bloom's Taxonomy. Along with the test, the students were required to create an answer key. I always found this to be challenging to the students because they have a tough time designing questions that touch on more than just knowledge of the content. Now, thinking of web quests and other formative assessments, I think it is a great idea for students to create other types of assessments. This may be tricky, but providing the students with guidelines and certain requirements may prove that they can create even better assessments than any professionally created ones, or even better than my own.

As an educator, I believe it is important that we provide our students with the skills they will need to be successful in this world. Currently, most teachers are evaluated on their ability to maintain classroom management and create standards based curricula. However, I've realized many schools still do not evaluate teachers on their use of technology and ability to teach students 21st Century Skills. In order for our students to be truly successful, these should be just as important! Throughout my research and field experience this term, I've found many teachers hesitant to use technology. Due to their lack of technology, their students are missing out on some wonderful opportunities.It is understandable to be hesitant to use something that is foreign to your teaching style. However, we are now in what is considered the "digital era," so it is important to embrace technology as part of education. Over the last couple of years, I've learned to embrace it, and technology has made my job as a teacher even more engaging and fun!  Maybe, if technology was part of a teacher's performance review, it may make those that are hesitant willing to learn.

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