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Discussion: Developing and discussing classroom assessment strategies

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posted by: Paul Black on March 16, 2000 at 8:08AM
subject: Response
I appreciate the feeling of "challenge" that Trisha Herminghaus reports,
with the difficulty of framing good comments. It is easier to give marks,
but if the marker has difficulty giving meaning to these by framing
comments, how much more difficult is it for the learner to make any meaning
out of the marks ? So please continue with the struggle; if you can find
opportunity to discuss with your teachers after they have had a chance to
think about your comments, then this could be valuable in developing your
practice - after all, we all need formative assessment of our work !
The report on the Fresno LSC science shows one way of helping with this
process. The numbers (level 1 to 4 in this case) again tell you very little
on their own - it is the rubrics which give them meaning. A good set of
rubrics embody the criteria of quality, and with sample materials to flesh
these out you have a really good programme. However, please remember that
for the formative purpose, these ideas have to be conveyed to pupils so that
they too can share the meanings of the levels. I'm not sure whether or not
this is done by sharing the rubrics with them, or by picking out, for
comments purposes, those elements of the rubrics that identify the further
work that they need to do - perhaps it should be both.
I'm pleased that Greg Kniseley has picked up the suggestions from our
King's College project, and I look forward to hearing more from him, and
from others, about how the use of question stems worked out. The list of
ways of applying the question stems is very insightful - any or all of them
are possible, and if the college students get their pupils involved in this
way, it's hard to predict where the pupils will take the idea. Thanks also
to Greg for the extra references; some I did know about, but had forgotten -
I must look at them again. I agree with Greg that facilitating "science
talks" is a most difficult and rewarding part of the work. My experience has
been that pupils need to try doing it, and be supported as they do it badly
at first, before some clarity and fluency develops. Here, as elsewhere, peer
assessment might help : pupils might be asked to assess a talk, maybe
working in samll groups, and present and compare their assessments. This
helps all to develop criteria of quality. However, there has to be careful
leadership, to steer tham away from negative and possibly hurtful comments
about one anothe, so prhaps this should only be introduced after the first
few tentative steps have been negotiated. There's useful material on work
of this sort, as reported from several schools, in the collection edited by
Linda Darling-Hammond and , J. Ancess and B.Falk - 1995, Teachers' College
Press, entitled "Authentic Assessment in Action".

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