Our K12 education system is shifting from over-dependence on infrequent, high-stakes assessments toward frequent, lower-stakes assessments. This is a great trend. In fact, Knovation and our solutions have integrated with several formative assessment applications to support the “what’s next?” When teachers review item analysis reports from tests and quizzes in these assessment applications they can connect directly to learning resources aligned to the same academic standard. This is a great support for teachers. When they have identified gaps and need quality learning resources to answer “what’s next?” the integration we present them with provides quality answers.
So how do we push even further and increase our innovation when attempting to discover: “How do you know what they know?” How can we enable all kids, especially those in the extremes, to demonstrate their learning? Even when I think about my own children, I have to remind myself, it’s not about what’s easiest, it’s about what’s right. We have to work hard and be creative in how we approach determining “How do you know what they know?”
It’s easier and more efficient to craft “bubble sheet” tests to gather data on our students, but how can we dig deeper? Multiple choice assessments provide pointers in the right direction, but how confident can you be when guessing can provide a 25% chance they’ll get a typical question correct. Psychometricians (those who design measurements to determine what someone knows) engineer “chance” out of the equation by carefully crafting questions across an entire assessment to increase the concurrent validity of individual items within the assessment. Even so, are we measuring what we want to evaluate?
Yes, the mechanics of basic skills are incredibly important and can be measured with reliability and validity across many assessment items over time. Yet, we cannot rest there. We cannot be satisfied with the ease and efficiency of the bubble sheet. We have to demand more. We have to stimulate critical thinking and creativity by giving our kids opportunities to demonstrate what they know. When they show us, explain to us, write for us, illustrate for us, etc. we gain valuable insights into what they truly know. Good teachers already know the value of performance-based assessment. And several good teachers deploy it. I was overjoyed when I saw the creative ways my son’s Algebra teacher was allowing him to demonstrate his mathematics knowledge by writing about and presenting it. So why don’t all teachers implement and rely on performance-based assessments?
Accountability is skewed toward the “system of education”, not the education of the child.
This shouldn’t be news to anyone, but it also shouldn’t deflate our concern for shifting the major focus of accountability back toward the child. Just because teachers are funded by and accountable to the system doesn’t mean they should be forced to rely on the ease and efficiency of multiple choice. No, instead, we need to modify our approach to frequent, formative assessment. We need to research, develop and implement new forms of assessment that permit efficient scaling of performance-based assessments. We need to leverage advanced learning resources that embed formative assessment within the learning activities. We need to increase the personalization of learning by providing teachers and students with intelligent access to learning resources that meet their specific needs. We need innovations in efficient and effective techniques and tools that promote scalable performance-based assessments that are accountable to the system while making sure the student is ultimately accountable for the outcome.
How do you know what they know? – have them show you, explain to you, write for you, illustrate for you, etc. Provide students with personalized opportunities that integrate innovative models of learning with assessment. Modify assessment so students are demonstrating what they know as part of the learning experience. Only then will you really know what they know.