Meaningful Assessment is Hard

One thing I’ve learned in my first year of teaching is that real, meaningful assessment is not easy.

It’s easy for me to make multiple choice tests, maybe with some true/false or matching questions.  I could probably grade more than one a minute once I got going with them.  I may even be faster if I had a scantron type machine.

But when I assess this way, I don’t actually find out what my students know.  I get a number, a meaningless number.  One that’s supposed to tell me and my students what they know and learned.  But, it doesn’t tell me anything.

To be able to find out what my students have learned and if they actually understand anything we have done, it takes a lot more time.  The questions take time and responses are unique to each student.  It’s a difficult process and takes up the most limited and valuable resource teachers have: time.

Real assessments produce more than a number, they give the students feedback on what they can improve on and what they were strong at.  They should guide students in where to take their learning next.  It should show students where they can improve, in very specific, detailed ways.  Good assessments should give me, the teacher, a peek into my students mind and see how and why they’re doing/saying what they are.

Consequently, they should do the same for me.  They should show me where I need to improve as a teacher and guide me in differentiating for my students.

I’m yet to find a multiple choice test that can do this.  I’m not sure they exist.

Having struggled with my own time management lately, I understand the appeal to use easy-to-grade assessments.  But, we need to continue to find meaningful, valuable assessments that actually matter to our students learning (more than just to give them a number for their grade).  I don’t know when or if I’ll ever find an assessment I’m happy with, but that’s my goal.

Photo Credit: COCOEN daily photos via Compfight cc

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Comments 3
  1. It’s not the total answer but part of the answer comes in helping students assess themselves. As long as its all up to teachers we’ll either continue to look for easy, fast solutions or drive ourselves crazy trying to do a more thorough job but never having enough time.

    1. Dean, you bring up an interesting point; teachers will look for the fastest way to accomplish the most amount of work, be it correcting or planning. Our students do exactly the same thing, as they look for the easiest way to get the mark that suits them.

  2. I think stressing that importance of self assessment is crucial. I often find it difficult to get my students to go through solution keys and compare their results with mine. I know this isn’t exactly self assessment, but it’s like pulling teeth trying to get them to do it. Even the feedback I do give, is often not even read and just thrown into the other pile of crumpled papers in the binder or backpack.

    I wonder if eliminating the grade aspect altogether would or could fix this. I just don’t know.

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