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Discussion Summary: Developing classroom-based assessments and using them in professional development

published: 1998
posted to site: 06/05/2003

This discussion list is now concluded. Thanks to all who have participated.

The basic question that this discussion has addressed is, "How have projects used student work for professional development related to classroom based assessment?" The contributions addressed the feed-back loop between classroom assessments and teacher professional development. There is no substitute for time spent in detailed discussion of student work in context, but this does not suffice. For math (and for science, as well), it is also indispensible for the teachers to engage in and discuss mathematics and science investigations for themselves. Not only does this deepen content knowledge, but it also is necessary to an understanding of how learners' science and math understandings grow and can be nurtured. The following excerpts give the flavor of the contributions thus far. We encourage you to read the full text of the posts as archived on the site. Contact the posters with your own comments or questions.

Brian Drayton (


"Part of our work this year has been assembling a portfolio of student work which will communicate to other teachers whether a student is competent in reaching benchmarks in math and communication skills. One of our teachers recently submitted a portfolio of math work in eighth grade based ... the work she submitted really revealed that students were learning to understand the math they are using.... We plan to use her work as part of our summer CMP training, as well as asking experienced teachers to bring samples of student work to illustrate the varied levels of student understanding when they are given specific CMP tasks." (M.McCary)


"The PRIME data ... indicates it may take more than one year to see the gains in procedural as well as conceptual knowledge. How 'bout the rest of you? What are your teachers experiencing from accountability measures re what is important for students to learn in math? Are you finding any assessment tools that are useful in measuring conceptual understanding and application, as well as procedural proficiency? " (M. McCary)


"I've been spending quite bit of time trying to sort out how to help teachers (and me!) (1) believe that it is important to listen to children's thinking about mathematics and (2) to develop ways that promote children's thinking and their developing (inventing) mathematics that makes sense to them... I think we're beginning to find ways to accomplish these goals with teachers. But, in reality, the whole purpose for this is to be able to design more appropriate instruction for the students you are listening to as a form of ongoing assessment... how to help teachers link listening to children's mathematical thinking with instructional planning?" (S. Friel)


"We have found that it is crucial to have as broad a spectrum of evaluation results as possible. For example, standardized tests ...including more problem solving and conceptual understanding, and content in probability, statistics, and discrete mathematics (project-constructed tests); and attitude measures (project-constructed tests). These data are complemented by more qualitative data from things like student interviews and portfolios...At least with a full battery of evaluation results it is easier to address concerns." (E. Hart)


Prior portfolio reviews in Vermont coupled with our own experience showed that objective measures, such as multiple choice, short answer and most word problems, do an adequate job of assessing fundamental knowledge of math concepts and procedural skills... But we concluded that overall [students'] developing understanding is best revealed on two ways:

  1. application of concepts to solve structured and ill-sturctured problems (structured problems are typical school problems in which the problem and usually the strategies to solve it are evident in the problem, and usually there is only one right answer. Ill-structured is more like real life, in which even the problem, much less how to solve if, are not evident, and there may be a range of both strategies and solutions)
  2. communication, including oral, written and visual, in which students must explain their logical reasoning, strategies and steps, links to other math concepts, and/or conclusions to a variety of audiences.


"... I have talked with facilitators who have used the cases from DMI in workshops and courses, and also those who have use the entire curriculum. I think that doing the math in the DMI curriculum is perhaps as important as working with the cases in order to help teachers understand the importance of attending to student thinking - The process of examining their own mathematical thinking, questioning their own assumptions about number and operations and recognizing the variety of approaches and strategies that other teachers in the seminar use is often the bridge to realizing that their students also have many different ways of thinking about problems as well as the necessity of paying attention to them." (S. Lee)

Link back to archived discussion: Developing classroom-based assessments and using them in professional development."