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
Assessment was a major component of my teaching and something that I integrated into daily lessons from the beginning to the end of every unit. In particular, I focused on formative assessment, trying to gauge student understanding via small class assignments and returning them with written feedback. In addition to marking something incorrect, I would write a comment explaining why. For instance, when students wrote stories detailing the nitrogen cycle, I gave them detailed comments about what steps they missed. In giving specific feedback, I also got a good sense of what the common misunderstandings were, so that I would be able to address them in a future lesson. For instance, I learned from looking at students' visual representations of the greenhouse effect and the carbon cycle that many of them believed that the greenhouse effect trapped gases—with this knowledge, I cleared up this misconception at the beginning of a subsequent lesson.
At some point, the volume of work I was trying to comment on and return became difficult to manage, and I learned to save time by going over an assignment with the whole class or guiding them through it, while providing separate "exit ticket" questions that gave me sense of students' understanding via a quick glance. This way, students were also encouraged to focus on what they knew and didn't know, rather than on "correctness" and grades.
For the first half of my student teaching, I neglected giving traditional tests or quizzes, having gotten caught up in thinking up formative assessments and project-based assessments. It was when I gave out the multiple-choice midterm exam and received mediocre scores that I realized needed to give my students more practice with strategizing for and taking standardized-type assessments, which will be ubiquitous in their schooling. This realization led to the development of my Teacher Research Project, in which I worked on helping my students develop their metacognitive skills while taking multiple-choice assessments. I designed quizzes that were "more than just multiple choice," where students explained their reasoning for choosing their answers. Through this format, I was able to give targeted feedback, and they could see more clearly what their misconceptions and gaps in knowledge lay.
I also encouraged such metacognition and self-assessment in other parts of my teaching. For assessing a major research project, instance, I created a rubric that clearly outlined the criteria for each category; then, I gave a mock presentation and had them assess me using the same rubric that they would be assessed on. During their presentations, I had students write peer evaluations for each other, so that they would gain insight into what makes for a good project/presentation and how they could improve their own. In the future, I would also include some kind of explicit self-assessment component, to encourage self-regulation of learning.