As our conversation with several noted authors approaches, I have been attempting to showcase some of their work related to the topic: “Formative Assessment and Grading: Creating a System of Quality Feedback for Improved Student Learning”. The only author who is slated to participate that I have had the pleasure of meeting in person is Tom Guskey.
Last year, Mr. Guskey spoke as part of a regional grading and assessment workshop and I managed to finagle a ticket and a substitute teacher for two days. It was well worth the effort. On one hand, he spent much of the time talking about the purpose of grades and the implications of teachers focusing on the communication and reporting aspect of them. This I thoroughly agreed with, and found myself nodding along as he spoke.
Then, Guskey described how he implements this philosophy in his own college classroom (although he has also used it at every other level of education from Kindergarten to high school). This is where my opinion and his differed.
He described his “second chance” policy for retakes of major (summative) assessments. I disagree about limiting the number of retake opportunities, but I noticed that the resistant teachers who were in my group began to agree with him. In the years that I had tried to convince them of the value of this view of grades and assessments, I had encountered tremendous opposition. When Guskey recounted his simple system, however, more and more of these same teachers recognized its advantage.
Before I left that event, I picked up a copy of “Ahead of the Curve: The Power of Assessment to Transform Teaching and Learning” which is edited by Doug Reeves. It contains chapters written by a Who’s Who of assessment experts. Tom Guskey pens a chapter on making assessments useful to both teachers and students. This may sound a bit like Dylan Wiliam’s take on student involvement in assessment, but I think that’s a good thing.
In speaking about the strength of teacher-created authentic assessments, Guskey writes
“If desired learning goals or standards are the foundation of students’ instructional experiences, then assessments of student learning are simply extensions of those same goals and standards. Instead of teaching to the test, teachers are more accurately ‘testing or assessing what they teach’.”
That’s a pretty clear way to explain the importance of appropriately created assessments, right?
I highly recommend Ahead of the Curve, not just for Guskey’s chapter but also for essays by Ken O’Connor, Rick Stiggins, Dylan Wiliam, Doug Reeves, Bob Marzano, Linda Gregg, and even Rick DuFour. Each essay/chapter is perfect for a short book study in a PLC, or simply to read before planning out your next instructional unit.
If these topics get you thinking and make you want to explore them more deeply, I encourage you to join us here from October 6-8 for the Voicethread conversation about assessment and grading. Look for more information about how to use Voicethread and some tips for making the most of a digital conversation later this week and early next week.