I recently embarked on a learning journey on assessment in mathematics for my TLLP project. The goal of our project is to create a school-wide approach to assessment with a focus on mathematics.
It has been very interesting to collect data and observe and listen to my colleagues about assessment. Many concerns that they have I also have had for many years. These questions centered mainly around using learning goals successfully and around turning our conversations and observations into quantitative data to give to parents.
Recently, we had our assessment coordinator Kristen Clarke come in a start the conversation going. During this time we talked about what learning goals are, the board’s pedagogical model and then how we as teachers have been assessing. It was great to converse with my colleagues and hear what they had to say.
As I mentioned before the conversations centered around using our observations and conversations as marks. This got me thinking. I think we need to give ourselves the permission to use conversations and observations. I think that for the longest time we have seen assessment as evaluation only and that evaluation met some sort of quantitative number. But is that really true? Does evaluation have to be a quantitative value or is a comment just as evaluative as a mark?
I think as educators we have to get more use to using our comments and observations as proof that children are meeting standards. That when truth be told they hold more meat than a mark ever would. In Ontario, we have an assessment document called growing success. Personally, I think this is an amazing resource that discusses our three focus points for evaluation is through products, observations, and conversations. If you look at the mathematics this means observations and conversations take a 66.6666% of evaluation and that product is just 33.33%. It means that our observations and conversations we have with students mean more than what they produce on paper.
So the question that I have is, why are we so invested in the mark? Or feel that observations and conversations are not tangible enough for us to hang our hats on?
For me, there is more to assessment than evaluation and I think we as educators need to think more about that thought. In addition, assessment needs to be more than just giving students feedback. It needs to be embedded into everything that we do. It needs to be responsive and it needs to be reflective. As a school-wide approach, it is important that we have honest conversations about the importance of assessment and what role it plays in our school community. I know that my journey has just begun so stay tuned as we as a school and me personally delve more into our learning.
I would also love to hear your thinking about my questions or just your thoughts about assessment.