Standard 5: Assessment
Meeting Standard Five:
"The student teacher demonstrates knowledge of a variety of approaches to assessment and evaluation. Assessment is seen as integral to the curriculum and instruction process and employs a repertoire of formal and informal methods. 'Traditional' tests and essays, as well as performances, exhibitions, and portfolios which allow students to demonstrate what they know in a variety of media and technology are used. Students are also given various opportunities to self-assess progress and their classroom work is guided by known criteria and standards developed by the student teacher with the class (or with the class' knowledge). A focus on continuous student improvement in skills and content knowledge is emphasized and grading reflects that objective."
- Brown University Teacher Education Handbook
One of the most significant takeaways I got from this summer is that assessment should permeate a unit of study from the very beginning to the very end. It starts with pre-assessment that gauges the students' background and identifies points of engagement, continues with formative assessment that is built into the learning activities and provides feedback about each student's progress and difficulties, and culminates in summative assessment that enables students to integrate and transfer knowledge and teachers to decide if there is any topic that should be revisited. In this scheme, assessment isn't merely something that decides grades, but an important tool for both students and teachers to gauge where they stand in relation to the course objectives and what steps should be taken to get them to the point of true understanding.
For instance, in the middle of the course we asked students to use several new vocab words in a paragraph describing the gamete stage of frog development. Upon assessing these paragraphs, I noticed that many students had misconceptions about the meaning of "photoperiod." To address this, I created a visual flowchart of the connections between the vocab words, in particular emphasizing "photoperiod" with a clear written definition. The next day, before diving into the next stage of frog development, I walked the students through the flowchart, which they also received on a handout. Photoperiod was a concept that came up repeatedly throughout the remainder of the course, and I was gratified to see in the final essays that most students had a strong grasp of the concept of photoperiod and its biological role.
As the course went on, I also made conscious efforts to include more informal comprehension checks during in-class activities, which gave me valuable feedback on whether the pacing should change or if anything needed revisiting. My assessment goals for the future include keeping better records (view our gradebook here) and making more timely efforts to check student work and give feedback. I will also work on providing more opportunities for student self-assessment and incorporating more structured formative assessment activities throughout the course to recap sub-units of study. Moreover, I will make standards of assessment more clear. For instance, to prepare students for being evaluated on a project, I plan on creating example projects and asking students to grade these using the same rubric that they will be graded on. This will not only give students an idea of what a good product looks like, but will also help them internalize the standards by which they themselves will be evaluated. Because of the many improvements I can make in the area of assessment, I believe I am approaching this standard.