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Design in Five

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Fully engage learners in your classroom. Discover how to create high-quality assessments using a five-phase design protocol. Explore types and traits of quality assessment, and learn how to develop assessments that are innovative, effective, and engaging. Evaluate whether your current assessments meet the design criteria, and discover how to use this process collaboratively with your team.

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Introduction

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Introduction

Children have “an instinct of workmanship”—a built-in desire to do work they love very carefully. It is the task of schooling to engage and nurture that “instinct” to help children learn at their best.

—John Holt

My son Rhys is a thinker. Mechanically inclined, he loves to build, create, and analyze how things are put together, and he will wear anyone out with his questions. When Rhys was in preschool, his teachers regularly found him trying to climb onto the trash can in the bathroom. After many days of repeat offenses and consequences, an astute assistant teacher recognized Rhys’s motivation. Apparently, the paper-towel dispenser broke regularly throughout the day. Attempting to repair it, Rhys was trying to reach a key that was required to access the dispenser. Once this was discovered, the assistant teacher worked with him on the dispenser—or as she put it, she watched Rhys figure out how to make it work. From that moment forward, Rhys became the go-to guy to fix the paper-towel dispenser.

 

1 Choosing Standards and Planning Engagement

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Chapter 1

Choosing Standards and Planning Engagement

When I design buildings, I think of the overall composition, much as the parts of a body would fit together. On top of that, I think about how people will approach the building and experience that space.

—Tadao Ando

In the same way an architect designs buildings, in designing a high-quality assessment, one has to consider both the overall composition, what we want students to do and show, as well as how students will approach and experience the assessment. Phase one in the Design in Five process consists of making decisions about the overall composition or scope of the assessment. Choosing the standards that will be assessed is the first step. It is also where we start to consider why these standards are important and what is intriguing, unique, essential, and relevant about focusing on them. This second step is where we plan engagement. What is interesting or unique about these standards? What possible topics, questions, or methods might capture students’ interest (taking on the role of a scientist, writing a letter to an author, creating a solution to a problem occurring in the community).

 

2 Analyzing the Standards and Sketching Out Learning Goals

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Chapter 2

Analyzing the Standards and Sketching Out Learning Goals

One of the most powerful things you can do for the people around you is provide clarity. Clarity empowers people, improves execution, and allows for greater accountability. I always try to keep in mind the quote by Lewis Carroll—“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

—Tom Carroll

Clarity is the key word for phase two of the Design in Five process. Through analyzing the standards and sketching out the learning goals for the unit or time frame, teachers make meaning of and gain clarity about the learning they want for their students. Learning goals are the foundation for designing an engaging assessment that provides meaningful information about a student’s understanding and achievement.

There are two steps within this phase.

1.  Analyze the standards.

2.  Sketch out the learning goals.

Analyze the Standards

A second-grade team was reviewing the results of a recent assessment on poetry. The students had scored well, and the team members were discussing their next steps in helping the students grow. The focus of the assessment was on identifying rhythm and rhyme in poems. When looking back at the standard, however, they realized the assessment had missed the mark.

 

3 Crafting an Assessment Plan

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Chapter 3

Crafting an Assessment Plan

A good plan is like a road map: it shows the final destination and usually the best way to get there.

—H. Stanley Judd

A team of social studies teachers crafted what they thought was a high-quality assessment during a summer work session. After a review of the assessment, where they identified the learning goal and complexity level of each item, they realized the assessment reflected neither the cognitive level of the standards nor what they expected their students to achieve. Phase three is designed to plan the design of assessment items and tasks so the assessment matches tightly to the learning goals and the rigor of the standard. This is the beginning of creating classroom assessments that are valid and reliable.

Validity and reliability are two important factors to consider when planning the assessment. Validity is useful for gaining quality information that provides good inferences about student learning. Construct validity is an aspect of validity that asks questions about the extent to which any task or item provides information about the targeted construct, in our case learning goals, and is sometimes referred to as content validity. The validation is strongest when a particular score or description of proficiency is supported by solid evidence. Validity involves the likelihood that those inferences are accurate and a useful interpretation of student learning (Bonner, 2013). The more reasons that students do poorly or do not demonstrate achievement of the intended learning goal, the lower the validity of the assessment or the weaker the inference. Also, the more reasons that students do well on an assessment that are unrelated to what the assessment was intended to demonstrate or estimate, the lower the validity of the assessment. For example, if the room is hot and the vocabulary is misaligned to instruction, students might miss questions—not because they don’t understand the concept but because the vocabulary was unfamiliar and the room too hot.

 

4 Creating the Assessment and Gathering the Materials

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Chapter 4

Creating the Assessment and Gathering the Materials

What the best and wisest parent wants for his [or her] own child, that must the community want for all its children.

—John Dewey

What we ask students to do through our assessment items and performance tasks speaks to what we believe students can do and is part of how we communicate expectations. When educators have high expectations for students, student achievement, success, and confidence increase (Hattie, 2009; Reeves, 2007). A student’s confidence level contributes to his or her achievement (Dweck, 2006; Guo, Connor, Yang, Roehrig, & Morrison, 2012; Reeves, 2007), and students who lack confidence may not put much effort into the assessment task itself.

Phase four in the Design in Five process is critical because it is in the design of high-quality assessment tasks that we communicate these high expectations to students. Not all students come ready and willing to engage in these tasks. Student confidence is built through well-planned formative assessment practices and instruction that offers students time to practice, revise, and see and to experience growth on essential standards. Student engagement and confidence are also built through designing rigorous and relevant items and tasks that are meaningful and engaging.

 

5 Determining Student Investment and the Reporting Method

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Chapter 5

Determining Student Investment and the Reporting Method

A great teacher of mine was my tenth-grade English teacher. … What I remember and miss dearly about being his student was the effort he put into reminding us to slow down and think and reflect—think and reflect about what we read and about what we are doing. This wasn’t just a technique I learned to incorporate in school; it was a technique I was able to carry inside of me and apply to my life.

—Hinok Yacob, High School Senior

Communicating and using assessment information are among the most powerful ways to build student investment and create a classroom culture focused on learning. Hinok talks about the power of reflection and slowing down. He learned this through the actions and interactions with his teacher, who intentionally structured this type of reflection so learning would become transparent to the student. This is the kind of reflection on which student investment is built. In Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement, Hattie (2009) describes a key pattern from his synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses of a comprehensive list of educational practices. Central to this finding is the importance of the role students play in their learning.

 

6 Collaborating to Create Assessments

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Chapter 6

Collaborating to Create Assessments

When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.

—African Proverb

The Design in Five process, outlined in the first five chapters of this book, leads to meaningful and engaging assessment practices. While the process can be used by individual teachers, there is power in collaborating with colleagues to create engaging assessments and use information to help students learn more and invest in their learning. Through dialogue during the phases, a deeper understanding of what we want students to learn emerges and a culture of learning in classrooms and schools is created. Collaborating with colleagues to tap into the expertise of the group can be a powerful means for finding innovative solutions that help all students learn at high levels. This chapter defines common assessment practice and structures of assessment in collaboration and offers tools that describe common assessment work and implementation plans to ensure engaging assessments and high levels of learning.

 

Epilogue: Building Hope

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Epilogue: Building Hope

Assessment has the most amazing potential to inspire hope in students and empower teachers. At its best, assessment creates classrooms that foster the instinct to learn and grow. My hope is that the ideas in this book will help teachers design and use engaging assessments in ways that build students up and help them see possibility. Part of my own practice in supporting educators is always to welcome feedback—both the comments that help me understand how these ideas support your work and the comments that critique the work and make it better. As I type the last words on the page, there will be more experiences tomorrow that will make the work better, clearer, and more possible. It is in the journey and through the process that students and teachers create classrooms where learning is possible for all. Thank you for all you do to inspire children!

In closing, I leave you with a story that captures the frustration, excitement, possibility, grueling nature, and unending optimism that a journey to learn more about assessment promises. When my son Chase was four he was in an incredible preK classroom. Chase bounced everywhere, moved among groups of students easily, and cared about everyone’s feelings (and could name his own). Chase didn’t quite understand letters at this time and had little patience for writing—even his name. So, when an email from his teacher noted that “most kids in the class are writing and so please have your children write their friends’ names on valentine cards”—two thoughts occurred to me: (1) he is way behind—yikes, and (2) how in the world is he going to write all of his friends’ names when he can’t recognize letters?

 

Appendix: Reproducibles

ePub

Appendix: Reproducibles

The Design in Five Process

Phase One

1.  Choose the standards.

2.  Plan engagement.

Phase Two

1.  Analyze the standards.

2.  Sketch out the learning goals.

Phase Three

1.  Identify the learning goals for the assessment.

2.  Choose the method of assessment.

3.  Determine the weight and number of items for each learning goal.

Phase Four

1.  Create or revise assessment items and tasks for each learning goal.

2.  Develop student documents and gather necessary materials.

Phase Five

1.  Create a scoring scheme that reflects the learning.

2.  Choose strategies to foster student investment.

Additional Resources

Understanding Learning Goals

•  Understanding by Design (Expanded 2nd ed.), by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe

Creating Assessments

 

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