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ProficiencyBased Assessment: Process, Not Product

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With this user-friendly resource, teachers will discover how to close the gaps between assessment, curriculum, and instruction by replacing outmoded assessment methods with proficiency-based assessments. Learn the essentials of proficiency-based assessment, investigate why this kind of assessment has a key relationship with teaching and learning, and explore evidence-based strategies for successful implementation.

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7 Chapters

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Chapter 1 Beyond the Formative and Summative Divide

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Providing formative assessment experiences for students is a growing practice that has many positive effects. Many teachers have been doing a wonderful job of learning formative assessment practices that have the intended benefit of providing teachers with information to adjust their instruction, and providing students with feedback on their learning so they can address their own learning gaps.

Throughout this book, we will uphold the vision of the formative assessment experts; however, we will challenge the way in which many of the formative assessment practices are actually implemented. Our intention is to introduce a new assessment model that successfully promotes healthy formative assessment practices that are not summative and a curriculum, instruction, and assessment structure that is flexible, progressive, and dynamic.

This book is designed to provide clarity regarding proficiency-based assessment and a professional development model to implement it with fidelity. In this chapter, we frame a summary of important elements of proficiency-based assessment and its relationship to teaching and learning, offering a synthesis to ensure communication is clear, consistent, and coherent. We hope this chapter will help support teachers and teacher leaders in learning, understanding, and implementing proficiency-based assessment. As the book progresses, we hope our work can also help institutionalize proficiency-based assessment in a way that builds on the good assessment work teachers, curriculum teams, and schools are already doing.

 

Chapter 2 Preparation

ePub

Although school leaders may work diligently to prepare for each professional development event, we often hear from school leaders that the professional development becomes a stand-alone event with little follow-through. This chapter is designed to examine and suggest ways in which we first prepare educators for change prior to actually implementing change through professional development. Then, as we progress, we build supportive strategies that institutionalize positive changes for teacher collaboration and student learning.

Preparing individuals for change goes beyond communication strategies. It goes much deeper to build the internal structure and the intricate architecture needed to support change in a more sturdy and steady way. This step in the change process takes time, but it is worth every invested minute.

Every journey begins by preparing to go. If you are going on a long trip, you make checklists and plans, think ahead, create an itinerary, and pack carefully to make sure you have everything from your plane tickets to your toothbrush. Preparing for implementing a change in schools requires the same attention to detail. It requires that you organize, make sure all parties have what they need in order to move forward, have an itinerary, and have a mindset that acknowledges traveling rarely goes as planned. That said, we prepare as best as we can.

 

Chapter 3 Incubation

ePub

At this point in our team’s journey—after developing a sturdy foundation during the preparation phase—our team now enters the incubation phase. You might think about the incubation phase as a period of time when the idea is under construction, connections are being made, and ideas and considerations start to really come to mind and are listed as possibilities. Some find it useful to brainstorm during this phase. Some see it as a time for developing idea generation and questioning. It is similar to all of those activities, but incubation strives to go a bit deeper. During this phase, individuals and teams are making deeper sense of the possibility of a change and how it might integrate logically and significantly with the work of the individual or team. It marks the period when ideas percolate—both good and bad ideas. It is a thinking period of time, a chance for individuals to make sense of the resources and ideas from the preparation phase. This is the time when individuals and teams allow for ideas to bounce around; they consider, reconsider, question, mull over, and discuss. During this phase, individuals and teams are making sense of the new learning—thoughts might be simple in their construction or wildly divergent in their possibility. The individual or the team as a whole is trying to put shape around understanding and how to apply it.

 

Chapter 4 Insight

ePub

The insight phase is one of the most exciting stages during the creative process. This is the point where the lightbulb goes on and the mind exclaims, “Aha!” and the adrenaline kicks in. There is a strong recognition of understanding, or a connection is made; there is a point of realization, invention, or innovation. A foothold toward change is identified, motivating individuals and teams to move forward in their work.

When we are working in collaboration, we want to recognize that these insights and realizations occur at different points for different teammates. However, the important point to remember is that through the preparation and incubation phases, insights and aha! moments have been developing. Collaborative discussions, questioning, and even pushback have been fueling the development of associations and that ultimate aha! An individual might beat someone to the punch, but the collaborative interaction of the group is vital to that verbalized insight. If we want to see real change, we need the input of all team members to reach the aha! moment.

 

Chapter 5 Evaluation

ePub

The evaluation phase is inherent in the work of a high-functioning collaborative team. At this point in our team’s journey, the members have prepared themselves with guided professional development around approaching curriculum, instruction, and assessment differently. They have brainstormed, thought together, had their doubts, explored each other’s viewpoints, considered setbacks, and rehashed. In other words, they’ve worked through the creative process, and now they’ve decided to move forward with their shared and agreed-on insights. As a high-functioning collaborative team, they’ve come to decisions they believe will help student learning and facilitate continuous growth.

That’s all good. But the creative train should not stop there. Creativity demands evaluation and judgment. And, yes, you can definitely say that our team has been judging ideas quite a bit during the first three phases of the process. The creative process is recursive in that manner. The evaluation phase is more intentional. It is concentrated and focused on determining whether the insight or creative choice is a winner or a loser or somewhere in between. This is the phase of the process when the creative choice is up for critique, and a metric is set to help determine the effect of the change effort.

 

Chapter 6 Elaboration

ePub

Developing individual and collaborative team mindsets that embrace continuous growth and improvement is key to ensuring students’ success and developing their potential. However, at some point, team members start to ask, “When is good just good enough? Can’t we just leave it all alone this year?” The point of our work, though, is to move our instruction—and our schools—forward. Our responsibility is to lead a culture of continuous improvement and promote success for every student. This is a demanding responsibility, and it requires the capacity to elaborate on the good work we are doing to make it great and even greater. During the creative process, elaboration means to build up an idea, tinker with it, nuance it, and develop the idea’s fuller potential. Elaboration is the immediate response to evaluation. At the evaluation phase, the team questioned how well the new idea worked, noticed patterns and trends in data, and identified the degree to which the idea was a winner or a loser. Here at the elaboration phase, the team is responsible for making needed adjustments toward improvement.

 

Epilogue Professional Learning as a Creative Process

ePub

The focus of this book revolved around proficiency-based assessment. While there are many topics within education that can be explored using this professional learning framework, we decided to begin with this educational idea because we think shifting the way we approach assessment will help U.S. schooling move in a better, more thoughtful, and more sophisticated direction—beyond what are now antiquated approaches to assessment that don’t provide the needed, articulated clarity learners need to participate in their own growth and capacity building.

Professional learning is a creative process. As you have finished reading about our team’s journey through the change process, we want to reassert the most significant characteristic of these teachers’ collaboration toward change: it was never easy or streamlined. Preparation overlapped with incubation and evaluation. Evaluation required going back to preparation and insight. The journey is not a straight road to change. It is very often recursive; it doubles back, overlaps, and often takes two steps forward and one step back. It is highly reflective and raises many questions. Likewise, as we saw, different teammates are often at different points in the creative process. These variables challenge leaders to balance the overlapping understandings, perspectives, and capacities for change. While challenging, when all of these variables are circulating, better decisions about learning develop because smarter checks and balances are in place. More significantly, continuous improvement sustains.

 

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