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Course Three: Assessment Practices

Unit 1: A Way In, Through, and Beyond

A Way In, Through, and Beyond
Teaching should be creative, but not sloppy. If we know how to cast our net,
how to work through the process, and how to build on it for the future, we can
begin planning with the end result in mind. Then, we can use tools to assess
our progress in order to make teaching more effective. We have created an
easy way to remember how to go about the assessment process. We call it AREEF, which stands for:


Like a reef in the ocean, this larger process of Assessment, Reflection,

Evaluation, and Effective Feedback is a rich source of life and possibility.
To think about assessment, imagine that you have decided to fish in a
particular spot. Before settling in, you want to see if this is, in fact, the best
place to start. So you cast a large net and pull it in to see what you've caught.
Teaching is, in fact, a great deal like fishing, which can be both an art and a
science. The key here is that you are collecting information taking stock or
making an inventory of what you see and then reflecting upon or processing
that information. You are reviewing the current level of understanding
exhibited by your students, how they learn, and how they might learn in the
future. This is the initial basic assessment piece.
What have you caught in the net? You reflect on what you've caught and use
the information to help you to decide what to do next. This is the reflection
piece. For example, if students take a test or complete a project and you find
few results in the net, you might realize that individual students need help in
certain areas. If you come up with an empty net, you might consider revising
your original lesson plan or method of teaching.
After you have chosen your spot to fish, cast your net, and gathered it in, you
have to look at what youve caught. Fish? Garbage? An old shoe? Was this the
best way to go? Does your experience tell you that you could have approached
this differently? If you are thinking in advance about your lesson, then you
should build in those kinds of activities that you have found effective.
This all may sound a bit abstract to you. Here is where it is much more
concrete: show examples. It is one thing to teach a concept (like
subtraction), but it is much more powerful if you can show examples of
subtraction. How will you know, except for a test, that your students are
learning? You could provide a system by which your students create posters
and construct games to be shown in their personalized folders. Build these
examples into the lesson.

You do not have to do all of this yourself. You can build in features of the
lesson plan that ensure that students are giving you feedback, immediately,
about how and what they are learning. These systems have proven to be very
successful. So, build in the feedback piece. Let them be a part of the lesson
The whole field of assessment, therefore, is about one important concept: find
a way in, through, and out. It is about using common sense to gather
information that ultimately informs your teaching and helps your students
reflect upon their own process of learning. It is about improving your skills in
designing lessons that work and yielding the results you desire.

Course Three: Assessment Practices

Unit 2: Learning Objectives and Blooms Taxonomy
Defining and Writing Learning Objectives
Learning goals and objectives help you develop a set of performance
expectations, which then enable you to develop content that is appropriate for
your instruction. With skills to prioritize and organize learning goals, you can
build a teaching foundation to ensure that you can guide and measure student
Thus, it is critical to know:

What should students learn?

How will students demonstrate what they have learned?
How will students learn for future learning?

To properly assess student learning, it is essential to create defined and

attainable outcomes.
Learning objectives measure behaviors and anticipated outcomes as a result of
instruction and require that a teacher:

Decide what activities and behaviors will be monitored.

Give students the opportunity to demonstrate what they know.
Discuss with students how they did on assessments.

With these ideas in mind, you will have a frame and a guide to assessment.
This process will inform your teaching practice.

Writing Learning Objectives

One way to think about writing learning objectives is to think about it in the
following process:
A (audiences), B (behaviors), C (conditions), D (degree)
(A) Audience: Who are you addressing? What are the individual learning
needs as well as any group needs? Example: the incoming class of grade eight
students will be able to understand how the library classifies books.
(B) Behaviors: What do the students have to do in order to show that they
have learned the lesson? Example: identify parts of the library to answer
questions about using it as a resource for learning.
(C) Condition: What, for example, are the conditions or steps necessary for
identifying how a student will identify the parts of the library. For example,
after participating in a 50-minute orientation session, the students will:

Name the services available to help them with their information needs.
Locate the library resources.
Access the online catalog and index pages. Practice searching in the

(D) Degree: As a teacher, you have to decide what level your students are
at. Under what circumstances will the learning take place? What skills will be
demonstrated to show that learning is occurring? What is the expected level of
Try to be as realistic as possible with the degree of competence. You dont
want to aim too low, but you want the tasks to allow for a margin of error and
improvement. In this case, the objectives of the lesson will be met when
students can access the library indexes and the catalog.
Often, when writing learning objectives, we are tempted to use the words
understand or appreciate to say what the learner will be able to do. These
are vague terms and not easily measurable. For the most effective assessment
of the learning experience, use only measurable action verbs that clearly
describe what you expect from the learner. When this information is shared
with the students, they will have a strong understanding of what is expected of
them and how they can demonstrate it.
In this particular example of a learning objective, the verbs name, identify,
locate, access, and practice are activities and behaviors that are
measurable. We suggest that you write your learning objectives using action
A great deal of scientific studies and teacher experiences has focused on a
taxonomy (or scale) that describes how students learn. We call this cognitive
learning. Though building a memory and recalling facts are all important
factors in being an educated person, cognitive learning also has to do with how
students gain skills in learning through:

Comprehending information.
Organizing ideas.
Analyzing and synthesizing data.
Applying knowledge.
Choosing from alternatives in problem-solving.
Evaluating ideas or actions.

Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning Domains - The Three

Types of Learning
Benjamin Bloom, working with his colleagues, identified three domains of
educational activities:
1. Cognitive: (mental skills, intellectual capability: knowledge, thinking)
2. Affective: (feelings, emotions, behavior: attitude, feeling)
3. Psychomotor: (manual and physical skills: skills, doing)
Teachers tend to look at this taxonomy of learning behaviors as the goals of
teaching, which means that the goal of our work is for the learner to acquire
new skills, knowledge, and/or attitudes. Other systems and hierarchies have
been developed, but Bloom's taxonomy is easily understood and is probably
the most widely applied one in use today.

Cognitive Domain
The cognitive domain involves knowledge and the development of intellectual
skills. Listed below are the six major categories in this domain. They start with
the simplest stating and recalling facts and proceed to the most complex
assessing and appraising. These categories are often described as varying
degrees of difficulty. In other words, they have to be mastered one after the
other, not at the same time.

Knowledge: arrange, define, state, label, list, memorize, name, order,

recognize, relate, recall, repeat, reproduce.
Comprehension: classify, describe, discuss, explain, express, identify,
indicate, locate, recognize, report, restate, review, select, translate.
Application: apply, choose, demonstrate, dramatize, employ, illustrate,
interpret, operate, practice, schedule, sketch, solve, use, write.
Analysis: analyze, appraise, calculate, categorize, compare, contrast,
criticize, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, experience,
question, test.
Synthesis: arrange, assemble, collect, compose, construct, create,
design, develop, formulate, manage, organize, plan, prepare, propose.
Evaluation: appraise, argue, assess, attach, choose, compare, defend,
estimate, judge, predict, rate, select, support, evaluate.

Affective Domain
This domain focuses on feelings, values, and attitudes. Affective learning is
demonstrated by behaviors indicating attitudes of awareness, interest,
attention, concern, responsibility, and ability to listen to and respond in
interactions with others. This refers to emotions, attitudes, appreciation, and
values such as enjoys, conserves, respects, or supports. The five
major categories in this domain are listed below starting with the simplest and
ending with the most complex.


When working in this area, it is best to use verbs that fit the situation. For
example, the student accepts, attempts, challenges, defends, disputes, joins,
judges, questions, shares, supports.

Psychomotor Domain
Psychomotor learning is demonstrated by physical skills; coordination,
dexterity, manipulation, strength, speed, etc.; actions which demonstrate the
fine motor skills, such as use of precision instruments and tools, or actions with
evidence of gross motor skills, such as the use of the body in dance or athletic

performance. Verbs that apply here include bend, grasp, handle, operate,
reach, write, and perform. The categories in this domain are as follows:


Knowing Blooms Taxonomy allows us to ask specific questions in order to test

different categories of our students intellectual skills. The Taxonomy helps us
organize our questions into different levels of cognition. However, research has
shown that teachers tend to rely too much on knowledge-based questions only
and do not explore other categories of the cognitive domain frequently
Lets look at some examples of different types of questions for each of the
categories in Blooms Cognitive Domain.
The Knowledge level of questions requires merely that students recall
information. All students need to do is re-state the content they have been
given by the teacher or in a textbook. Some of the common Knowledge
questions are as follows:












Course Three: Assessment Practices

Unit 3: Student Portfolios, Assessment Definitions, and
Reflection in Action.
Student Portfolios
When we hear the word, portfolio, we often think of artists carrying around a
large valise of their creations, or of a business person carrying around a thin
briefcase of financial papers. The portfolio in education is a powerful
assessment technique, and it includes evidence from one's work on major
topics, successes, challenges, and questions. The focus here is on evidence
that can demonstrate what students know and what they need to do in order
to improve.

What can be in a Portfolio?

Portfolios can include examples of best work and, ideally, a wide range of work
(from satisfying to unsatisfying work) work that shows growth. Specifically, a
portfolio can contain:

Samples from each theme/unit or a response to a large question.

Work displaying progress and the value of the course in moving the
student along.
Evidence of insight and samples that show concepts being developed.
Student self-reflections, including why the student made certain
choices, how the student believes she is doing, and what she wants to
do in order to improve.

Portfolios and Good Questions

A good question, serving as the central core of a course, is best combined with
a portfolio from individual students or a team to demonstrate progress.
Here is an example of a core question: How much trash is produced per
day in your community?
Students would collect all of the trash they produce in a 24-hour period, then
organize the trash into categories, report the environmental problems that are
associated with each type of trash, and find solutions to these problems. They
would then devise an advertising plan to increase public awareness about
waste disposal, and put it into practice. Finally, they would determine if they
were correct in their calculations or in the effectiveness of their suggested

Portfolio Parts
Below is a general outline of a portfolio's contents:
1. Table of Contents
2. A letter from student to the teacher explaining the contents.
3. Student reflections on her performance.


Best work and reason why the student has selected it.
Work the student is unsatisfied with and the reasons why.
Most improved work or work that shows growth.
Plan and commitment for improvement.

Portfolios are creative efforts and show the individuality of student work. They
can take many forms and should tap into the cultural themes of the students
themselves. Consider, too, how the forms below may fit into your subject:

Museum exhibit
Oral history
Three-dimensional art work

Assessment Definitions and Models

The following list provides a definition of various assessments:

Generative Assessment
Seamless and Ongoing Assessment
Authentic Assessment
Performance-Based Assessment

Students and their teachers create the assessment criteria and/or tools
through interactions that are meaningful and generate knowledge. Generative
approaches to instruction use a wide range of instructional strategies,

Student-teacher or student-student dialogue.

Individual and group summarizing.
Mechanisms for exploring multiple and differing perspectives.
Techniques for building upon prior knowledge.
Brainstorming and categorizing.
General and content-specific problem-solving processes.
Team teaching.
Techniques for constructing mental models and graphic

All of these strategies encourage the learner to solve problems actively,

conduct meaningful inquiry, reflect, and build a repertoire of effective learning

Seamless and Ongoing

Seamless and ongoing assessment happens when the process and products
occur simultaneously throughout the instruction. This kind of formative
assessment helps teachers understand how their practice is meeting student
needs and it provides students with timely and meaningful feedback while
they are working on an assignment and not only after it is completed. In short,
as teachers assess student work they learn what difficulties students are
having and can address those difficulties in a timely manner, often before the
final evidence of learning is submitted by the student.

Authentic Assessment
Authentic assessment is geared towards methods that correspond as closely
as possible to real world experience. The instructor observes the student in the
process of working on something that has relevance to everyday life. Then, the
teacher provides feedback, monitors the student's use of the feedback, and
adjusts instruction and evaluation accordingly.

Performance-based assessments involve presenting students with an authentic
task, project, or investigation. Then, teachers and students observe and
examine these artifacts and presentations to assess what the student learned
and can do as a result of his work. For example, many schools have developed
a set of hands-on tasks to assess problem solving and communication in
Example: Estimate the number of beans in the bucket.
Materials: large bucket of beans, magic markers, tray, and a small cup.
Instructions: Using any estimating strategy to estimate the number of beans in
the bucket.
NOTE: Leave the station in the same arrangement that it was originally set-up.
Lesson: Bucket of Beans
1. Ask the students to explain the strategy you used to estimate the number of
2. Ask the students to count how many beans are in the bucket.

Required Reading:
Assessment as a Tool for Learning
By Jill Hearne
Assessment! For teacher, the word conjures up images of late night
grading sessions prior to report card deadlines. For principals, it conjures
up phone calls from media and parents demanding "bigger, better"
scores. To a superintendent, the word "assessment" is often related to


job tenure. For students it signifies the judgment of others regarding

work they may or may not understand or care about. But assessment can
have positive connotations and consequences when it is used as a tool
for learning. Sound assessment should be both a barometer of how well
things are progressing as well as a compass indicating future direction.
Throughout the United States principals and district administrators
engaged in meaningful school reform are working with their communities
to share assessment information to guide decision-making about
curriculum and instruction. The result is that there is a shift from using
assessment as a negative force in schools to a positive force that builds a
climate of reflection about what is going on in classrooms
When I was a principal, we had a social skills program where staff would
give "coupons" to students seen "doing things right" (i.e. being helpful
good citizens). An ideal school would treat assessment in the same way.
Students, staff, and principals should be rewarded for using assessment
as a tool for learning rather than simply rewarding right answers.
The Changing Scope of Assessment
The shift in consciousness from assessment data as organizational
hammer to its use as a tool in strategic planning is slow but critical if we
in school are to truly develop learning organizations. Recently a group of
highly educated mainly Ph.D. parents assembled to critique a new
standards-based report card. Teachers had spent months laying out
developmental descriptions of reading, math and language skills with
carefully worded and ordered phrases such as: "recalls some story
details", "recalls major story events", "recalls relevant passage details",
"summarizes passages concisely", "makes references and draws
conclusions". Each description defined a level of skill students could be
expected to attain in a particular age bond such as ages 5-7, 7 to 9
years, etc.
After studying this new report card form in some length, one of the
parents raised his hand and said, "Oh! So this is what you do in school?"
This innocent and honest question revealed for me the essential error
those of us in school have made for all these years. Our error has been
the assumption that what we did as instructors was clearly evident and
known to all participants, students, parents and teachers.
But in fact we have not been clear. We have not made it clear to
students what is to be learned, we have not made it clear to parents how
well students are to perform, and we have not agreed as educational
communities on what learning or knowledge is of most worth. Lacking
consensus on knowledge, skills and understandings perhaps it is a
functional solution to be vague about data, about student learning
(assessment information).
As students are no longer being educated to perform rote tasks focused
on knowledge and understanding, so too must teachers be supported as
they acquire adult learning skills as creators and users of assessment
information and not passive deliverers of curriculum prepackaged by a
distant textbook publishing company. The movement toward teachers
being makers and users of assessment data reflects the shift from
teacher as assembly line worker to lifetime learner (Bullard, p. 206)


Principals, teachers, students and the community can come together

around sound principles of assessment to create learning experiences
that matter. Data on student outcomes individually and collectively
comes center stage as all the members of the school community discuss
three critical questions regarding quality. Staff and parents ask
themselves these same critical questions about quality that they can also
use to teach students to ask about their work:
1. What am I doing?
2. How well am I doing it? (in relationship to established criteria)
3. What do I need to do to improve? (Hearne, 1992)
A key question to ask is: "What is the match between what our goals
are and how we are assessing?"
Assessment Literacy
In student Involved Classroom Assessment, Richard Stiggins (2001)
engages in a particularly useful discussion about the match between
assessment method and assessment targets. He discusses the four main
types of assessment methods: selected response (multiple choice,
true/false, matching, and fill in) essay, performance assessment and
personal communications.
For assessing knowledge and mastery, selected response methods are
parsimonious. They allow a quick, accurate inexpensive means of finding
out what is known about a subject or area. Essay responses can also
show knowledge and also allow for indications of reasoning proficiency.
Performance assessments are too expensive and time consuming to be
used at the fact-recall-knowledge mastery level, but they allow for
observation of skills during performance and assess proficiency in
carrying out steps in developing a product. Personal communication has
strength at each level from knowledge through skills, product creation
and disposition about learning, but is not efficient at each level.
(Stiggins, 2001).
Sound assessment results only when there is a clear purpose for
assessment, clear and appropriate targets, proper methods, an
appropriate sample of the targets, and elimination of bias and distortion
in measurement. Stiggins proposes that these five principles guide
sound assessment practices.

Is the purpose of the assessment clear?

Is the target achievement clear and appropriate?
What methods do the target and purpose suggest are
How can we sample performances appropriately, given target,
purpose and method?
What can go wrong, given target, purpose and method, and how
can we prevent bias and distortion? (Stiggins, p. 15)

When answered with understanding, this results in assessment literacy.

Stiggins (2001) states that those who know the meaning of assessment


quality with all of its nuances and know that one is never justified in
settling for unsound assessments are assessment literate.
At the school level, understanding the match between method and
student outcomes is critical. Also critical is an awareness of audience.
Who needs to know what information and in what time frame? The
needs of school board members are very different from the needs of
parents or students.
As you examine your assessment menu in your school, remember to
include parents and students in discussions of quality. Provide
opportunities for each to truly understand what is being measured, what
evidence is considered proficient or "good enough" and most importantly
to see the link between the assessment and instructional complications.
Unless assessment results are used to make issues of quality part of
everyday conversation in schools, they will not change instruction. This
is where the assessment revolution is actually taking place-- in the use of
assessment data to drive decision-making. The difference is that "data"
takes on a richer meaning when that "data" is actual student work
instead of numbers representing a normative version of student work.
Certainly, normative data has a place, and there are clear advantages of
using normative data for program planning as well as building and
district evaluation. Consistency over time, ability to look at trend data,
comparability between school systems at a regional, state, or
international level are a few of the benefits.
Using Multiple Measures
Utilizing multiple measures of student learning that include actual
student work builds a community of learners. No one test or assessment
can give a clear picture of student achievement which is why several
states (Washington, Maryland, Maine) and districts (Seattle, Washington,
Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina) have incorporated multiple
measures including classroom-based evidence as part of their total
accountability system.
Student work, however, becomes data when it is scored using commonly
understood criteria and reflected upon for the purpose of improving
instruction. Not only is the process of scoring student work an important
process for members of a school community to go through to
communicate and internalize common standards, it is also a powerful
staff development tool for improving instruction.
A useful organizational structure for using student work as data is
suggested here as a seven step process schools can use to assess
student learning.

Decide what skill cluster to assess and select a broad assessment

that captures more than one attribute of the domain.
Construct or use existing scoring guides or rubrics for the task.
Share the task and scoring criteria with staff.
Administer the task to students in a similar time frame.


Spend time discussing the scoring criteria and agreeing on

anchor papers. (Anchor papers are a few papers from each score
point that represent the quality expressed in the criteria.)
Rate the student's papers. It is often useful to have the papers
noted by a teacher who is not the students' own instructor for the
Compare ratings, discuss and formulate implications for
instructional delivery.
Data can be reported in terms of the percentage of students
meeting the criteria at the various points.

In using multiple measures one can get a clearer picture of student

achievement over time at the district and building level as well as at the
student level. Examples of multiple measures used by our schools
include student work, classroom based assessments, schoolwide
assessments, as well as district and state assessments. Both normative
and standards based information is valued. Each school community
matches its philosophy, instructional strategies and assessments to its
goals to accomplish its mission. While the approaches at each site differ,
this alignment drives school effectiveness.
In each school community there is an emphasis on multiple forms of data
to answer questions of process quality, and effectiveness. There is a
continual search for evidence that is student centered and captures the
richness of each school experience. This search for authenticity makes
each person a learner. There is a shift from what Le Mahieu (1966) terms
"accounting" for school achievement to authentic accountability, which
redefines the lines of responsibility from the blame game to interactive
reciprocal responsibility.
Learning from Sound Assessment
When assessment results are used as a barometer to measure the
strength of learning and as a compass to show the direction of future
action, all participants become learners. . As the social and political
context of schooling requires greater accountability decision makers in
schools must become more able to use information in all forms in the
best interest of students.
The new view of leadership in learning organizations centers on subtler
and more important tasks. In a learning organization leaders are
designers, stewards and teachers. They are responsible for building
organizations where people continually expand their capabilities to
understand complexity, clarify vision and improve mental models-- that is
they are responsible for learning. (Senge, 1990.) Principals as learners,
teachers as learners, community members as learners are all part of this
merging paradigm of schools as dynamic rather than static organizations.
Principals as learners: Principals model learning and are themselves
learners as they seek better ways to structure school time, allocate
resources and motivate staff. Principals are the key to managing and
creating the culture of reflective teaching that expects and teaches to
the concept of "what good work looks like around here. "
Principals can:


1. Utilize multiple measures to create a building based assessment

system that links classrooms and students over time.
2. Support teachers in their growth in assessment literacy through
staff development.
3. Provide parent education opportunities to help parents
understand assessment.
4. Work with local media to interpret various indices of school
improvement in addition to normative measures.
5. Support development of a building wide portfolio system that
showcases student work and moves from grade to grade.
6. Make the goals and objectives of school clear and give focused
feedback to teachers on how their classroom efforts support these
Teachers as learners: Teachers are learners as they examine multiple
measures of student attitude and performance as well as indices of
community satisfaction. As students are no longer being educated to
perform rote tasks focused on knowledge and understanding, so too
must teachers be supported as they acquire adult learning skills as
creators and users of assessment information. In the past, teachers were
often expected to be passive deliverers of curriculum prepackaged by a
distant textbook publishing company. The movement toward teachers
being makers and users of assessment data reflects the shift from
teacher as assembly line worker to lifetime learner (Bullard, p. 206)
Teachers find themselves transforming their teaching as ongoing
assessment reveals how students approach tasks, what helps them learn
most effectively, and what strategies support their learning. The more
teachers understand about what students know and how they think, the
more capacity they leave to reform their pedagogy, and the more
opportunities they create for student success. (Darling Hammond,
Teachers can:
1. Help students see what good work looks like by providing
adequate models of work that meets requirements, exceeds
requirements and does not meet requirements.
2. Provide students with frequent feedback on specific ways to
3. Teach students self reflective skills which include the ability to see
how their work meets the standard and what they need to change
to improve. (Hearne, 1992)
4. Work with parents on how to monitor work at home in a positive
5. Be assessment literate in all they do. (Stiggins, 2001) Share this
with parents.
6. Design lessons with a clear view of the student outcomes
expected. (Wiggins and McTigue, 1998)
7. Use grading practices that communicate about student
achievement. (Airasian, 1994)
Students as learners: Students are traditionally thought of as the only
learners in school. They are now able to use a variety of tools and


resources to demonstrate learning and reflect on their progress. Seeing

examples of good work, discussing scoring criteria or rubrics, and even
creating templates to use in assessing their own and each other's work
develops their ability to identify and thus emulate good work.
Students can:
1. Learn to value their own work.
2. Use rubrics to assess their work.
3. Reflect on how their work is like/different from the standard and
state what they need to do to improve.
4. Collect work over time and discuss it with an adult.
5. Learn the relationship between effort and outcomes.
Collectively, schools as learning organizations require a conceptual shift
of power from total assessment by external sources, (teachers, parents,
tests) to shared assessment both external and internal (student). In The
Quality School (Glasser, 1990), the author discusses the need for a shift
in power from teacher- centered to student- centered learning. Traditional
beliefs about the relationship between teaching and student learning
must be discarded as the student is drawn into the power loop and learns
to construct indices of quality with the teacher.
The community as learners: At an individual school level, one of the first
questions you must ask yourselves as a school community is: "What are
we assessing for? Are we measuring that which is most worthwhile to
our school community?
In "The Socrates Syndrome - Questions that should never be Asked"
Campbell (1995) suggests that true education is " a lifetime of seamless
experience, connecting individual episodes into an ever expanding web
of meaning, insight and understanding." But he acknowledges that
asking the kinds of questions that make this true education possible is
threatening. People in schools are more willing to invest in magic bullets
from publishers than in the time to wrangle over questions such as:

What is so important that everybody must know?

Why does any test have a time limit?
What is the purpose of education?
The standards-based reform movement grew out of attempts to answer
questions such as these and many effective school improvement models
begin with these questions. The United States Department of
Education's Blue Ribbon Schools nomination begins with an analysis of
goals and their match with the needs of the student population. Other
useful models which begin with an analysis of goals and mission include
the Northwest Regional Laboratory's Onward to Excellence Program and
the National Study of School Evaluation's accreditation process School
Improvement - Focusing on Desired Student Outcomes. Models such as
these mirror the strategic planning process used in business and industry
by clarifying direction, selecting indicators of progress, analyzing results,
and using the information gained to inform further improvement
Community members can:


1. Read a variety of books on educational reform expressing

different points of view.
2. Attend several school board meetings.
3. Visit their neighborhood school.
4. Learn about their state and district accountability system.
5. Become familiar with the types of assessments used in their
Authentic measures and sound assessment uses encourages learning at
all levels of the school community and focuses most directly on the
student and the work. If you want students to solve problems, have them
solve problems. If you want the students to be able to write a persuasive
essay, have them do that. If you want students to communicate
mathematical understanding, then have them explain their process in
arriving at an answer.
In a standards based system, clear learning expectations make it easier
to use assessment data as an accountability tool. Everyone can become
a learner as the answers to the three critical questions of quality are
collaboratively explored. What are we doing? How well are we doing it?
What do we need to do to improve?
Thus, as Shakespeare might have said, "Assessment doth make learners
of us all."
References and Bibliography for Learning from School and Student Outcomes, Jill
Hearne, Ph.D.
Airasian, Peter( 1994) Classroom Assessment New York: McGraw-Hill.
Bullard, P. and Taylor B.O. (1994) Keepers of the Dream. Chicago, IL: Excelsior.
Brookover, W. B., "Can We Make Schools More Effective for Minority Students?" The Journal
of Negro Education 54(3) 257- 268
Calfee, R. (1991) "What Schools Can do to Improve Literacy Instruction" in Teaching
Advanced Skills to At- Risk Students. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.
Campbell, D. (1995) "The Socrates Syndrome," Questions that Should Never Be Asked. Phi
Delta Kappan p. 467- 469.
Cohen, S.A. (1987) "Instructional Alignment: Searching for a Magic Bullet." Educational
Researcher 16 (November) 16- 20.
Darling- Hammond, L. and J. Ancess. (1996) "Democracy and Access to Education" in
Democracy Education and the Schools, Roger Soder (Ed.) San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
English, F. (1992) Deciding What to Teach and Test. Developing Aligning and Auditing the
Curriculum. Newberry Park, CA: Corwin.
Glasser, T. (1990) The Quality School, New York: Harper & Row.
Hearne, J. (1992) Portfolio Assessment: "Tracking Implementation and Use in One
Elementary School." In J. Bamberg (Ed.), Assessment: How do we Know What they Know.
Le Mahieu, P. (1996) "From Authentic Assessment to Authentic Accountability'. Standards
Based Reform: A Road Map for Change: Educational Commission of the States, Colorado.
O'Neil, J. (1993) "On the New Standards Project: A conversation with Lauren Resnick and
Warren Simmons." Educational Leadership (50:5) February p. 27- 21.
School Improvement: Focusing on Desired Learner Outcomes. 1992 National Study of
School Evaluation, Falls Church, Virginia.
Senge, P. (1990) The Fifth Discipline. New York: Doubleday.
Stevens, F. (1993) "Opportunity to Learn: Issues of Equity for Poor and Minority Students".
National Center for Education Statistics, Washington, D.C.
Stiggins, R. (2001) Student Involved Classroom Assessment New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Walker, M. (1996) "What Research Really Says." Principal 75:3 (March): 41- 43.
Wiggins, G. and J. McTigue (1998) Understanding by Design Arlington, VA: Association for
Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Recommended Links:
Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence
Johns Hopkins University and Howard University Center for Research on the Education of
Students Placed At Risk
American Educational Research Association
The Center on Education Policy


Washington State's Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction: Assessment, Research

and Curriculum
North Central Regional Educational Laboratory Assessment
About the Author:
Jill Hearne, Ph. D. has worked in the area of school reform and assessment as a teacher,
principal, and central office administrator. She is currently consulting nationally in the area
of Standards-Based Reform and is an adjunct professor at several universities. Dr. Hearne
consults and presents for a variety of groups and organizations, including the Office of the
Superintendent of Public Instruction for Washington State (OSPI) and various school districts
around the country. She has served in many capacities in education; as Coordinator of
Assessment and Director of Elementary Education for Seattle Public Schools, as Principal in
the Seattle and Federal Way School Districts, as researcher at the University of Washington,
as Equity Specialist at OSPI and as Adjunct Professor for Western Washington University, the
University of Washington and the University of Alaska.
Dr. Hearne is currently active in many professional organizations and has published in the
areas of equity and school reform. Her current involvement includes serving as a judge for
the U.S. Department of Education's Blue Ribbon Awards, as well as active participation in
the Washington chapter of Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, the
Washington Educational Research Association and the American Educational Research
Assessing Student Learning

Assessment Models
There are numerous assessment models. The three most commonly used are:

Observations, or information, gathered mainly through the student's

daily work via assignments, etc.
Performance samples, or tangible products that serve as evidence of
student achievement.
Tests and test-like procedures, or measures of student's achievement at
a particular time and place.


Student journal entries (pre and post) can be compared. If a focus

question is used in the journal, the post-unit question should have the
same form, but should indicate that the student is returning to address
the same question after some time, perhaps having reflected on the
topic or discussed it with the teacher or peers (i.e. What do I know
about [this topic]... now?).
Interpreting a picture (a drawing or a photograph) of a scene before
and after a unit of study can be a tool of assessment. For example,
students see a picture of a woodland scene and are asked, How would
this scene change if humans settled here? Then students are asked
the same question after studying ecosystems and human impact on
that ecosystem. The students' interpretations can be very revealing.
Document scientific attitudes and skills using a checklist system before
a unit and after. In the same way, compare student data tables or lab
reports from the beginning of the year and the end.
A teacher or a student can perform the same simple task at the
beginning and at the end of a unit and the class can use the same
worksheet to explain or describe the task. The responses and
explanations can be compared.
Have students create a concept map as a class and then compare it to
the map students make at the end of a unit. Accept both correct and


incorrect information for the first map. When the second map is
created, try to reflect all information gleaned from a unit of study and
ferret out all inaccurate information (without exposing students who
provide incorrect information to censure). Pose this as a process of
discovery, not a search for an error-free first document.
Student self-evaluations encourage self-reflection and better learning
for students. They can encompass a variety of formats. The content of
self-evaluations should never be graded. However, there is a kind of
evaluation that can be graded for depth of analysis (i.e., how seriously
did you take this task? Did you attempt to understand your own
thinking and writing processes? Were you able to contextualize your
own acts as a writer and thinker within course themes?) The grade
would be assigned for the application of insight and course themes to
students own practice.
In addition to pre- and post-assessments, teachers can institute many
other types of alternative assessment.
Post-unit assessments can include lab tests. Student interpretation of
data (especially data which they collected) can provide insights into
their understanding. Hands-on experiments that replicate a process
used in the unit allow teachers to measure the ability to use skills that
were taught. Given certain materials, students can construct a model of
the current topic of study, i.e. the cell. Students could work alone or in
pairs to design and/or carry out an experiment.
A culminating activity such as a presentation, skit, or teaching of others
allows for sharing and demonstration of student learning. The teacher
should use the rehearsal for the public activity as the actual
assessment, so that any nervousness won't hinder an accurate
assessment of students' knowledge.

Things to Consider
When you start using alternative assessment, start small. One example of this
is to use an old multiple choice question without providing the answers. This
eliminates the guessing factor for which multiple choice tests are famous.
Also, please consider the following:
1. Look for things that you already do to find evidence of students'
thinking and learning.
2. Be realistic about the values of your school community.
3. If graded report cards are emphasized, be sure that you can translate
your assessments into traditional grades.

Assessment and Reflection in Action

A Teacher Story
(sample of assessment process and implementation of
A fourth grade teacher gave an end-of-the-year math test to her students (she
cast the net). That same teacher then pulled the net in and collated the
information into a meaningful format that could then be used by the fifth grade


teacher. The fifth grade teacher could then teach these incoming students
based on what the fourth grade teacher had gathered.
By looking at and reflecting upon the information gathered by the fourth grade
teacher, the fifth grade teacher could see individual student strengths and
weaknesses, as well as identify areas the entire group should continue to work
on. The information gathered helped the fifth grade teacher understand what
areas to focus on when teaching the fifth grade math program right from the
beginning of the year.

How Assessment and Reflection Inform Practice

By processing the information gathered by the fourth grade teacher, the fifth
grade teacher could see how to help certain students with different areas
because the fifth grade teacher not only had the assessment results, but the
original test as well. The fifth grade teacher could also see that, as a whole,
the class was strong in computation skills, but they could use more practice
with word problems involving math.
The fifth grade teacher at this school did, in fact, create math curriculum and
lesson plans right from the start of the year to address the students' strengths
and needs. The fifth grade teacher briefly reinforced computation skills, and
then quickly exposed her new fifth grade students to problem-solving
experiences in math involving real-life activities and math-based word
This Teacher's Story is an example of how an end-of-the-year math assessment
helped another colleague shape curriculum and focus lesson plans to meet the
needs of the students. The following can be done throughout the school year:
gathering information, reflecting upon the information gathered, and letting it
inform your curriculum. Then, when your students move on to the next grade,
the information you collected can be passed on to their next teacher, thus
making it easier for her to learn about and address student needs.

Helping Students Reflect

Research in recent years has shown that learning improves significantly if
students are able to think about their thinking, or, in other words, learn about
their learning. Assessment methods that inspire this kind of activity result in
consistently higher performance.
Below are some examples of how to help students reflect upon their own
process of learning:
1. Before turning in a paper or a project, ask students to reflect upon the
process of doing the paper or project. Have students submit their
reflection in written form along with their project.
2. After a Cooperative Learning Activity, ask students to answer the
following questions:
What did you notice about your participation in the cooperative
learning group?
What did you notice about how your group worked together?
3. Once students have taken a math test, let them grade their own tests
with an answer key. Have them reflect upon the types of problems they


got right and the types of problems they got wrong. Ask them to write
notes in their math journal to acknowledge the types of problems they
know how to do and encouraging themselves or making note of what
they need to work on.
4. Invite students to participate in the making of a rubric (guidelines).
Then, have them evaluate themselves once the paper or project is
ready to be turned in. Note: ask them to provide evidence or support
for the scores they give themselves. As part of the rubric, ask them to
reflect upon their learning. Do not grade the content of their reflection.
Instead, focus on the depth of analysis.


Course Three: Assessment Practices

Unit 4: Rubrics
Rubrics: The Eyeglasses We Create
A rubric is a consistent form of evaluation applied to all students. A rubric is
often defined as a scoring tool that lists the criteria for a piece of work and also
specifies different gradations of quality for each one of these criteria. The
score given is based on the sum of a wide range of criteria rather than a single
numerical or letter score. Rubrics are authentic assessment tools that are
usually given to students before work is assigned so that they can see clearly
what the expectations are and how their work will be evaluated by the teacher.
Rubrics can be used in any subject and can be easily modified for a variety of
tasks and assignments.

Why are rubrics useful?

Teachers and students who are familiar with rubrics tend to find them helpful
because of the following reasons:








Rubric Template
(Describe here the task or performance that this rubric is designed to





Description of
reflecting a
beginning level of

Description of
development and
movement toward
mastery of

Description of
reflecting mastery of

Description of
reflecting the
highest level of


Description of
reflecting a
beginning level of

Description of
development and
movement toward
mastery of

Description of
reflecting mastery of

Description of
reflecting the
highest level of


Description of
reflecting a
beginning level of

Description of
development and
movement toward
mastery of

Description of
reflecting mastery of

Description of
reflecting the
highest level of


Description of
reflecting a
beginning level of

Description of
development and
movement toward
mastery of

Description of
reflecting mastery of

Description of
reflecting the
highest level of


Description of
reflecting a
beginning level of

Description of
development and
movement toward
mastery of

Description of
reflecting mastery of

Description of
reflecting the
highest level of


Rubrics may be used as-is or they may be combined and modified in any
way that is appropriate for your students. A rubric is the right choice for you if
it addresses the aspects of student work that you feel are most important, and
you and your colleagues can generally agree on the score that should be
assigned to a given piece of student work.
A good way to find out which rubric is best for you is to pick a few likely
candidates, try them out on actual examples of student work, and modify them
if necessary. This is often best done in a group setting, so all of the teachers
who will be using the rubric can be involved. It is worth taking your time to find


a rubric that works well at your school because that rubric will make scoring
your students' work easier and quicker.
Most rubrics are focused on particular subjects and grade level(s); if available,
that information is often included in the rubric listing. Although subject areas
and grades are specified for many of the rubrics, you may find that some
rubrics can be applied to other subjects and grades with little or no
modification. So, if a rubric looks promising, do not be too concerned about the
stated grade level or subject. For example, reading rubrics may often be used
to assess listening, and writing rubrics can be used to assess speaking,
content, and organization (you would need to add scales for vocal delivery and
physical gestures and behavior).
Rubrics for art, music, drama, and dance may sometimes be used for a
different art form with little modification. For example, an art rubric that deals
with the artistic sensory elements of line, shape, value, color, and texture
might be used as a music rubric by substituting musical sensory elements,
such as rhythm, tempo, pitch, timbre, and dynamics.
If we think about assessment as casting a net into fertile waters and
gathering information, a rubric is like the eyeglasses we create and use when
we look into the net. Rubrics help us to see; they help us to look for certain
things we deem important.
A rubric can be issued from a pre-made template or inspired by school or
national standards. A rubric can be created by a teacher or a group of
teachers. It can even be co-created with students.

Sample Rubrics
Please see the Appendix at the end of this course.

The Teacher as Doubter or Listener and Believer

As teachers, we have a choice about how to offer feedback to our students on
specific assignments. We can doubt our students through argument, debate,
and criticism as a way of knowing. Or, we can listen and believe: listen, affirm,
enter in, try to put ourselves into the skin of people with other perceptions and
share our experience with others. In Writing Without Teachers, Peter Elbow
discusses these two approaches, the need for both, and the time and place in
which each game works best.
Most likely, you will need to utilize a bit of both roles that of doubter and that
of listener/believer in your work as a teacher. For giving feedback on
assignments, however, we emphasize the believing game.
We ask teachers to develop and use their believing muscle that is to
understand ideas from the inside. As the educator, Peter Elbow, writes, The
believing game is constant practice in getting the mind to see or think what is
new, different [the believing game] emphasizes a model of knowing as an
act of constructing, an act of investment, an act of involvement



What does it mean to listen, affirm, enter in when we speak of giving

feedback to students?
For starters, the important thing is to read your student's assignment
thoroughly perhaps two or three times, to allow the words to sink in and
make an impression upon you. Then, let the student know orally, through
written comments, or both what you experienced as a reader when you read
your student's words.


Course Three: Assessment Practices

Unit 5: Elements of Effective Feedback
Elements of Effective Feedback
In this spirit of engagement, we have identified four elements of effective
feedback that can be used when giving your students feedback on
assignments. The first two elements are inspired by Peter Elbow's work and are
a part of exercising your believing muscle. The other two are developed from
what works in coaching. They are as follows:

Posing one question for your learner to consider
Offering one or two things for improvement

Each are described fully by Peter Elbow in his book called Writing Without
Teachers, a book we highly recommend.

Elements of Effective Feedback: 1. Pointing

Peter Elbow writes: Start by simply pointing to the words and phrases which
most successfully penetrated your skull somehow they rang true, or they
carried special conviction. Also point to any words or phrases, which strike you
as particularly weak or empty. Somehow they ring false, hollow, plastic. They
bounce ineffectually off your skull. If you approach the work of your students
as a reader, a fellow learner who found value in what they have written, your
students will begin to see themselves as more than just students who answer
questions they will begin to see themselves as contributors and their sense
of engagement and ownership will increase. They will also become more
receptive to your constructive criticism.
As a reader giving your reactions, keep in mind that you are not answering a
timeless, theoretical question about the objective qualities of those words on
that page. You are answering a time-bound, subjective but factual question:
What happened to you when you read the words this time? Take the time to
share with your student the impact that her work had on you as a human
being. Dont always focus just on whether the answer is correct or not.

Elements of Effective Feedback: 2. Summarizing

Tell your students very quickly what you found to be the main points, main
feelings, or centers of gravity [in their writing] Summarize into a single
sentence; then choose one word Do this informally. Don't plan or think too
much about it. The point is to show the writer what things he made stand out
most in your head. When you take the time to summarize the work of your
students, you show them that you have read it carefully and that you have a
strong grasp of their assignment. This, in turn, shows them that they are not
just answering questions, but are given an opportunity to engage in a process
of discussing and critiquing key concepts in the curriculum. When you
summarize their work, you say to your students: I took the time to consider


carefully your work and point of view that alone can have a powerful impact
on a young person whos engaging with a complex topic.

How Not to Give Feedback

In your feedback, do not use words like good, great, nice or bad. They
are words that do not help a person improve. For example, let's say you wrote
a short story and then you gave your short story to a friend or a colleague to
read. If that person said, Hey, that story you gave to me to read was really
good, you might perk up and feel happy about the compliment, but it does
not help you improve as a writer. It does not even help you understand what
made this story good. It doesnt even explain what good really means. In
other words, the comment may make you feel very positive about your work,
but it is not very constructive it does not provide the guidance you might
need to repeat your success in the future or to build upon this
Feedback that would be more helpful is as follows:

I read the short story you sent to me. The part where you talked about
training your dog made me laugh out loud: When I commanded Spike
to give me his paw, he just rolled over, yawned, and gave me his belly
to rub.
My mind started to wander when you started talking about the cows. I
tuned out for a while and then I was listening again when you talked
about crossing the river. At the description tree branches and rocks
swirled past me like a hurricane; the sky darkened to a coal-gray I
could feel my heart starting to pound in my chest.
An example of summarizing might be: Home. The comfort of home - its
foods, smells, the conversations. Home is like an anchor for your
character; it keeps her from drifting off. That's what stays with me after
reading your piece.

The first three responses from above are more valuable to you than the
good, nice or bad comments of ineffective feedback because you are
receiving specific information about content, including how something in your
story affected that particular reader at that particular time. As the writer, you
can then choose to re-write or keep those sections the reader pointed to.
That's up to you as the writer. You listen to the feedback and then you have
control over what you change or don't change.

Elements Effective Feedback: 3. A Question for the

Student to Ponder
Tell your student what philosophical question her writing generates for you.
What does the completed assignment make you wonder about on a larger
level? (Here, we are not looking for rhetorical questions, rather questions that
spark your curiosity.) You might even start your question with the words I
wonder ).


An example might be: After reading the line in your story, He never strayed
too far from home, I wondered if the character was helped or hurt by staying
so close to home his whole life. What do you think? This questions shows the
student that you read her work carefully and that you took the time to think
critically and constructively about her work. It also provides a wonderful
opportunity to engage the student in thinking about her own work.

Elements of Effective Feedback: 4. Offering One or Two

Things for Improvement
The reason we say to give your student one or two things to consider and not
a longer, more exhaustive list of suggestions is this: If you highlight one thing
for improvement, the student can take that one thing, remember it, and
incorporate it into her work in the future. In our experience, highlighting three,
four, or more things to improve upon can get overwhelming.
If there are more than one or two things that you think need improvement in
content, keep a written record for yourself of those things that need work and,
as future assignments come in, check to see if those issues come up again.
Chances are that the issue will come up again and you'll have an opportunity
to address it at that time. Also, you'll see that the one or two issues you
highlighted for improvement previously have been taken care of. Highlighting
one or two issues keeps things manageable for the student.
For example, if your student stays general in her descriptions when answering
a question, your one idea for improvement might be: When you talk about
your classroom, give me a specific example to support your idea to make
your thought come alive for me. You might also point to a specific part of the
writing and say You wrote in your assignment, The children seemed curious.
What did that look like, feel like, sound like, taste like, smell like? Filter your
description through the five senses.
Pointing to things that are effective in your students completed assignments is
another way to guide them to apply the same technique in other parts of their
work. For example, you could say: When you wrote that Najib's hands were
shaking and his voice cracked when he read his paper to the class, I felt like I
was right there with you. You should use this same kind of descriptive writing
filtering through the senses in the passage the children seemed curious.


Course Three: Reflection and Review

Part 1: Personal Reflection and Group Discussion
1. Before getting into small groups, take a moment to reflect on the following
1. Assessment
2. Feedback
3. Learning Objectives
Can you create your own definition of each one of the above concepts? What
do they mean to you as a teacher? How do they manifest themselves in your
classroom? In one way? In a variety of ways?
2. Think back to the last time you provided your students with feedback. What
did it look like? Do you think it was effective? Would you be able to improve on
it now, having studied Course Three of the International Certificate of Teaching
Mastery? If so, how would you improve it?
3. You have now completed the first three courses of the International
Certificate of Teaching Mastery. What have you learned about yourself as a
teacher so far? Have you been able to identify any areas in your professional
knowledge and practice that you would like to work on and improve? Have you
identified any strengths in your professional knowledge and practice?
We encourage you to write down your answers. Then, get into small groups
(three to five participants) and discuss your responses with your colleagues.
Then, consider also addressing the following question as a group: Are there
any concepts in Course Three that teachers you work with (in your school or in
your community/region) would benefit from learning more about? What are
Part 2: Review
1. Explain the value of each element in the "A-REEF" approach to assessment.
How can these elements help teachers become more effective? How can they
help learners?
2. Take a moment to develop learning objectives for a lesson that you have
taught before and know well. Use the ABCD process. Then, develop a rubric
that you would use to assess your students' grasp of the material (or a specific
aspect of the material).
3. Take a moment to review Bloom's Taxonomy. How can this tool help teachers
design more effective opportunities for learning?
4. Explain the advantages of using portfolios for learning and assessment.
5. Course Three addresses the importance of providing students with
opportunities to reflect on their own learning process. How would you
implement this in your classroom? How would you demonstrate the need for
this approach to your colleagues? How would you convince them to try it in
their classrooms?


6. Explain how you would use each of the following in your classroom:
a) Generative Assessment
b) Seamless and Ongoing Assessment
c) Authentic Assessment
d) Performance-Based Assessment
Describe what these assessments would look like and how they would:
a) support student learning
b) enhance your understanding of student learning.
6. How can different assessment models inform teacher practice?
7. How would you describe the methods and approaches of a teacher who is
assessment literate? As a mentor or teacher leader, how would you encourage
and help develop this kind of literacy in your colleagues and at your school?
8. What are the key elements of effective feedback? Explain the potential
impact that each can have on student learning.