Sunday, March 18, 2007

Assessment--Prompt 8

CUMMINS Ch. 3. Assessment
EGBERT Ch. 8. Assessment

The differences between formal--particularly high-stakes--assessment and authentic assessment are many. Authentic assessment is based on what the students are actually learning, and is delivered in a way that complements or mirrors the way the students actually have been learning the material. Authentic assessment is generally more informal by nature and can include in-class observation (with a checklist or otherwise), teacher-developed "quizzes" at the end of a unit or theme, portfolio assessment that shows real progress over time, self-assessment, or even a simple conversation or interview with the student to see where they are in their learning. Multiple measures are the best way to evaluate progress and/or highlight areas for improvement or intervention. As Cummins points out throughout ch.3, authentic assessment provides immediate feedback to the learner and the teacher, so that an action plan for helping the student can be made, no matter whether this involves extra help such as tutoring the student or by modifying the teaching methods being used. This idea of assessment results tied to instruction is also known as formative assessment, which Egbert states is a crucial criteria for authentic assessment. She also poses that it must be interactive.

Standardized testing, on the other hand, is more broadly based, yet tests only a limited set of skills, usually through a multiple-choice format that reflects neither the way students are taught nor the uses of the knowledge tested in the world outside of the classroom. The high-stakes placed on these tests have created no end of debate and controversy, and there has been very little or no proof that these testing situations are guiding schools to better instructional habits or that they are helping to narrow the achievement gap between the diverse groups currently divided along cultural and socio-economic lines. Although more standardized test developees are incorporating extended response (such as math problems where students show the steps of their work or essay-type questions for English tests), the use of a narrow set of standards and the overuse of multiple-choice questions weaken any interpretation of test results.

Both of these types of assessment can take place on a computer--for standardized tests, this happens through a transfer of the test items onto a software platform that can capture the student's responses. Hopeful aspects of online standardized testing include:
1) the ability to get test results quickly, so the tests themselves can possibly become somewhat more formative,
2) Perhaps this format can help to create a less stressful testing environment, at least for students with computer skills, and
3) Computer-Adaptive Testing has the goal of adapting the test to the test-taker while the student is taking the test, so there is a possibility of a student getting more test questions at a level comparable to his or her knowledge (this way the given test construct can be tested more thoroughly for each individual student).

It is all very interesting, but the unrealistic high-stakes tied to these results have to go. They aren't doing students or teachers any good.

For other types of assessments, the options are as varied as the assessment tools and tasks themselves. Examples include a reading reflection blog (like this one), compiling research online, preparing presentations for class through Power Point or audiotaped interviews, creating/editing/adding to a Wikipedia entry at , or creating a test or worksheet for their classmates. With access to such programs as Skype
and podcasting capabilities, there is no limit to what a thoughtful and creative teacher can do (the only limit are the resources he or she has access to) with the availability of digital resources we see on the World Wide Web and in computer software developments today. Just as with non-computerized assessments, though, it must reflect the students' reality in class and outside of it.


Adrienne Padilla said...

I agree with the fact that standardized testing has not at all proven that it actually helps students. Being a TAKS teacher in the elementary grades is really frustrating, especially since I am a bilingual teacher. I find my students are under the stress of not only learning English but of also passing these standardized tests.

I always thought that students should be assessed in several ways throughout the year. In Cummins, I read and liked how in another state they are siding with assessment through a student work portfolio. Wouldn't that be awesome!

-Adrienne Padilla

Matador said...

Your right, those high-stakes test have got to go. The only people profiting from them are the test making companies with their assessments and study guides that go with them.

Joleen J said...

I empathize with the teachers and the students struggling under the current high-pressure, high-stakes system.

I have to clarify, though, that the real problems here are the high stakes, the unrealistic expectations for ELLs, and the fact that test prep has become too large a factor in the curriculum, taking away from other subjects and an overall balanced curriculum.

Lizardo, I have to say, that from personal experience, the test companies are not really profiting so much from the current situation, and that the huge majority of the test developers there are teachers with the same concerns and frustrations that we have with the high-stakes. Thanks to both of you for your comments!