on May 5, 1998
Why classroom assessment?
Brian asked if I would co-moderate this discussion with him, so I've
been thinking of how to kick things off. I decided to focus on the
question of classroom vs. external (usually state-mandated)
Recently I asked a group of high school teachers in a Writing Across the
Curriculum workshop if the objective tests they administer told them
whether a student really understood the math concepts they were
teaching. They said "No!," that usually they have to talk to students
one-on-one or in small groups to assess understanding. We began to
explore ways they might use math journals or short essay assignments as
a diagnostic tool to assess students' mathematical understanding.
After about 10 years of working with teachers to develop and use a
variety of performance measures in addition to traditional tests, I've
concluded that a balanced assessment system is crucial both to
instruction and accountability. To instruction because many of the most
important achievement targets (Stiggins), such as mathematical
reasoning, problem-solving and communication simply cannot be adequately
assessed without using performance tasks in combination with traditional
measures. To accountability because of the unintended consequences of
high stakes testing, which often drives teachers to directly drill and
practice procedures without adequate instruction and monitoring of
students' development of understanding, reasoning and communication.