It is my view that our most critical role in the action that is teaching, lies in the bounds of assessment. It is also my view that all too often there is too little attention, time, devoted to this component, in all its forms.
Geoff Masters and Dylan Wiliam both remind us that assessment is just assessment and we should not find ourselves caught up in the additional labels: pre, formative, summative, etc. These additional labels come into play only when we act upon the data derived from the assessment.
The fundamental purpose of assessment in education is to establish and understand where learners are in an aspect of their learning at the time of assessment. (Masters, 2014)
Assessment, therefore, should sit at the heart of our planning and should be situated in the design process from the beginning, not at the end.
So, what is it that we need to be planning to assess?
- what our students know at the outset of a lesson sequence
- what our students are learning throughout the lesson sequence
- what our students have learned as a result of our lesson sequence
What is missing here in our assessment planning? Of course, what has been the impact of our teaching (our pedagogies) on our students’ learning? How do we achieve this?
We need to plan for and design processes by which our students can give us feedback on the learning sequence/s from their viewpoints. Which means we must plan for and design our pedagogical processes such that we expect each and every one of them to have an impact (change) on our students’ current state (current learning), an impact they can describe for us in the form of feedback.
So, when we decide, for instance, that our students will work in teams to undertake a particular task, we must know why we have made that decision and, therefore, what we expect our students will be able to gain from our decision. Our teaching must at all times be intentional. Our intentions can also be assessed.
Please also take look at the Dylan William Centre for more inspiration around the value of assessment strategies.