Why I Dislike Assessments
Sometimes people are shocked to learn that I really dislike--close to hate, really--assessments. (I feel the same about homework, but more on that later).
I understand that assessments allow us educators to know what our students understand, but they often fail to capture what our students can and can't do--which is more relevant since we should be building skills, not just knowledge.
So how do I gather data on what my learners can and can't do? I use:
collaborative activities (in which I observe students working together, to make sure they mastered the content)
occasionally something fun like role play (when it fits the content).
For my adult professional learners (those who are taking continuing education training to improve their professional skills), I really like to use collaborative activities. I recently conducted a training where groups created a case profile of a victim of a crime. They then passed this profile to another group, who had to discuss how they would proceed with the victim (these were all people who were training to be victim advocates). Then I had one person from each group go and investigate what another group did. They asked questions like:
Why did you proceed the way you did?
How else could you have done it?
What if __________ happened?
This method allowed everyone to learn from each other and pushed them to think deeper. I just observed everyone. In this setting, I don't need to even give grades, so I just watched the interaction.
When I was teaching high school Spanish, I always used projects. I incorporated student choice as often as possible, giving students the options to:
write a paper
do a presentation
do a puppet show
do a play
make some sort of art
or other suggestion approved by me.
Incorporating activities such as art or theater allowed students to use the skills they often didn't get to use in a regular classroom. It also made grading more fun for me! (And how did I grade it? I created a rubric--check back for advice on that later!)
Obviously, I want to make sure the project fits the content and the skill we were trying to build. Since I was teaching foreign language, every project included some sort of writing and speaking component, with target vocabulary and grammar functions that had to be used. But students got to choose how they did it (student choice is very important based on educational research) and I actually saw their skills.
If you haven't already branched out past the multiple choice assessments, I encourage you to do so! Incorporating content specific projects can get learners to use what they know, and show you that they know it.
As always, contact me if you'd like to know more or have questions!