Assessment Literacy

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    Key Method

    The educator analyzes an actionable instructional plan to identity how assessment literacy competencies should be applied to strengthen the connection between teaching and learning.

    Method Components

    Assessment Literacy Defined

    Assessment literacy is the possession of knowledge about the basic principles of sound assessment practice, including its terminology, the development and use of assessment methodologies and techniques, and familiarity with standards of quality in assessment.

    Successful earners of this micro-credential would demonstrate the following competencies of Assessment Literate Educators:

    1. Understand the purpose for specific assessments.
    2. Establish learning targets based on content standards and assessment data.
    3. Identify, select, and/or create assessments that match the learning targets.
    4. Gather, analyze, and interpret accurate, relevant student performance information.
    5. Use assessment results to make decisions to plan, differentiate, and modify instruction.
    6. Continuously monitor student progress.
    7. Provide feedback to students and their families about student learning.
    8. Involve students in the use of their own assessment data. These initial competencies will enable the educator to develop an actionable instructional plan or analyze an existing instructional plan that demonstrates application of the assessment literacy competencies.

    Components of Assessment Literacy

    1. Understand the purpose for specific assessments

    The purposes of assessment differ depending on the user:

    • Classroom (student and teacher) to support learning during instruction and certify learning after instruction (e.g., feedback, student work, teacher-developed quizzes, questions, etc.)
    • School and district to evaluate programs for effectiveness, measure student growth, and support placement, intervention, or remediation (e.g., diagnostic assessments, interim assessments, and benchmark assessments)
    • State and federal to understand achievement trends, evaluate school performance, and determine access (e.g., statewide accountability tests and national assessments such as NAEP) All the purposes defined above center on the ability to use assessment information to make decisions.

    2. Establish learning targets based on content standards and assessment data

    The authors of Classroom Assessment of Student Learning (Chappuis et al., 2012) identify four primary types of instructional learning targets:

    • Knowledge targets
    • Reasoning targets
    • Skill targets
    • Product targets

    3. Identify, select, and/or create assessments that match the learning targets

    Assessments should reveal how well students have learned what we want them to learn, while instruction ensures that they learn it. For this to occur, assessments, learning targets, and instructional strategies need to be closely aligned so that they reinforce one another.

    Classroom Assessment of Student Learning (Chappuis et al., 2012) provides five assessment types:

    • Summative:
      The purpose of summative assessment is to gather evidence of student achievement after instruction has been completed. These assessments are used to determine the extent to which students have achieved mastery on specified learning outcomes at a given point in time. Summative assessments may include more than end-of-year statewide assessments. They also may include any assessment given at the end of instruction (chapter, unit, quarterly, or end of course). Data from summative assessments is often used for assigning grades, certifying student attainment of instructional objectives, and/or determining eligibility for programs or advancement. The data may also be used to evaluate system-level program effectiveness.
    • Formative Assessment:
      According to Dr. W. James Popham, key elements of formative assessment are as follows:

      • Formative assessment is a process, not any particular test.
      • It is used not just by teachers but by both teachers and students.
      • Formative assessment takes place during instruction.
      • It provides assessment-based feedback to teachers and students.
      • The function of this feedback is to help teachers and students make adjustments that will improve students’ achievement of intended curricular aims.
    • Interim:
      The purpose of interim assessments is to measure student learning growth and help teachers look for patterns or trends and identify needs. Interim assessments are administered at specified intervals, usually in the fall, in the spring, and at the end of the year.
    • Benchmark:
      Benchmark assessments predict performance on mandatory assessments and “benchmark” student performance against the requirements for the year. Teachers can adjust instruction based on benchmark assessment results to focus on areas of need.
    • Diagnostic:
      Diagnostic assessments are used when information about student prior learning is useful. Diagnostics focus on potential difficulties or areas of learning to determine whether students would benefit from remedial or accelerated learningFive Steps to Developing Quality Assessments:
    1. Identify the purpose.
    2. Clearly articulate the learning targets in student-friendly language.
    3. Ensure that you are gathering practical information that can be shared with students, parents, and others.
    4. Choose the appropriate method.
    5. Select the right sample size, items, tasks, and scoring that reinforces quality. Use multiple sources of evidence, including informal day-to-day measures of student progress such as observation, questioning strategies, and progress monitoring alongside other more formal assessment measures to gather data that provides a clear picture of what students have learned and are able to do.

    4. Gather, analyze, and interpret accurate, relevant student performance information

    When gathering evidence of student learning, consider direct vs. indirect evidence. Direct evidence answers the question “What did the students learn?” and examples of that evidence may include pre- and post-test results, examples of student work, and formative assessment data including evidence of student thinking such as think-alouds, process logs, reflective journals and concept maps, observation of students, or student answers to questions aligned to learning targets. Indirect evidence answers the question “What do students report they have learned?” and examples of indirect evidence include student responses to survey or interview questions or teacher reflections. A variety of types of evidence and multiple data sets helps provide a richer picture of student learning.

    5. Use assessment results to make decisions to plan, differentiate, and modify instruction to affect student learning

    Assessments must be followed by high-quality, corrective instruction designed to remedy whatever learning errors the assessment identified (see Guskey, 1997). To charge ahead knowing that students have not learned certain concepts or skills well would be detrimental to student success. Teachers must, therefore, follow their assessments with instructional alternatives that present those concepts in new ways and engage students in different and more appropriate learning experiences.

    High-quality, corrective instruction is not the same as reteaching, which often consists simply of restating the original explanation. Instead, the teacher must use approaches that accommodate differences in students’ learning. (Sternberg, 1994). Although teachers generally try to incorporate different teaching approaches when they initially plan their lessons, corrective instruction involves extending and strengthening that work. In addition, students who have few or no learning errors to correct should receive enrichment activities to help broaden and expand their learning. Materials designed for gifted and talented students provide an excellent resource for such activities.

    6. Continuously monitor student progress.

    Formative assessments inform instruction within and between lessons for both student and teacher. Formative assessments confirm what a student has mastered and identify the learning that comes next for the student. This improves learning because instruction can be adjusted while there is still time to act before the graded event. Formative assessments involve students in evaluating their own learning, thereby promoting student metacognition and reflection.

    Monitoring student progress with learning trackers (observation logs, observation forms, conferring logs, etc.) provides the teacher with data, e.g., the degree to which the student has mastered a learning target, who needs reteaching, who needs additional challenges, what the next learning target should be, how students should be grouped for small group instruction, and who needs to be observed more closely for a possible learning intervention. Meaningful information can come with purposely designed and systematically used learning trackers that are then used to make decisions about student placement and instructional pacing.

    7. Provide feedback to students and their families about student learning

    Define actions to ensure feedback is actionable, relevant, and timely. Studies of effective teaching and learning have shown that learners want to know where they stand in regard to their work. Providing answers to the following four questions on a regular basis will help provide quality feedback.

    These four questions are also helpful when providing feedback to parents:

    • What can the student do?
    • What can’t the student do?
    • How does the student’s work compare with that of others?
    • How can the student do better? In this phase of work, rubrics are a useful tool. A rubric is an instrument to communicate expectations for an assignment. Effective rubrics provide students with very specific information about their performance, comparative to an established range of standards.

    8. Involve students in the use of their own assessment data

    Using data with students encompasses classroom practices that build students’ capacity to access, analyze, and use data effectively to reflect, set goals, and document growth. Using data with students encompasses the following activities:

    • Students use their classwork as a source for data, analyzing strengths, weaknesses, and patterns to improve their work.
    • Students regularly analyze evidence of their own progress. They track their progress on assessments and assignments, analyze their errors for patterns, and describe what they see in the data about their current level of performance.
    • Students use data to set goals and reflect on their progress over time and incorporate data analysis into student-led conferences.

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