To assess, to assidere !
Assessment, such a complex topic within education circles. Interesting that the Latin root word is assidere which means to “sit with”.In my new role, I have found myself knee-deep, down and dirty, in the world of assessment, grading and reporting in a Secondary School context. While this isn’t exactly a new topic for me, it’s definitely a new area of change management. Our school has worked hard over the years to move themselves forward in providing purposeful, meaningful feedback to students by way of a grading system. Academic achievement is measured without the confusion of behavioral issues such as meeting deadlines and homework completion expectations, so this is great. There is a strong culture of understanding the difference between formative, summative and standardized assessments and this is well-communicated by both teachers and students. And yet…. The faculty know that they are not there yet! They use percentage gradings which have multiple complexities and teachers seem to be restricted by the confines of the data management system that is in place.
So what to do and what to do first? We have begun the year collectively working on our purpose. Recently we clarified for ourselves that, although grading has many purposes the most important for us is “to provide information for students for self-evaluation and future learning”. With this purpose in mind, we have created a study group of interested teachers whose task is to research the concept of standards-based assessment, what that looks like and how other schools have gone about moving into a SBG learning program. We have set some goals and are working with our teachers about what we are doing, why we are doing it and what we could do next.
This is great learning for me! I am finding myself buried in the work of experts in this field– Robert Manzano, Tom Guskey, Tom Schimmer, Ken OÇonnor. All of their work is fascinating, alongside my own favorite–John Hattie. While John’s work is not necessarily about grading systems, his advice about the importance of feedback, about teachers “knowing their impact” and about students knowing what they are learning, where they are at and what they need to do next, is keeping me on track. (Thank you John).
How do you change a school’s practice over time? I have always come from the core idea that change comes from within, it comes when teachers work together with school leaders talking, dialoguing, discussing, problem solving, trying things out, celebrating successes and evaluating impact.
It will be interesting to see how it goes…..