Some interesting insights about assessment and evaluation from an elementary teacher…
This Internet joke made its rounds in the office years ago.
Two seniors, Gladys and Mildred, are driving along when Mildred notes that they have just gone through a red light. A few blocks down the road they go through a second red light. As they approach the next set of lights Mildred decides to speak up. She remarks sternly that her friend has gone through two red lights, to which Gladys responds with alarm, “Hell, Mildred, am I driving?!”
This rather shocking lack of awareness on Gladys’s part is probably a good starting point for us when we look at assessment and evaluation because much of the time that we are involved in these activities we are not aware that we are driving.
Everything we do in teaching involves assessment and evaluation. In fact, everything we do in life involves assessment and evaluation. We observe or take in information in various forms continually. We analyze, weigh, compare, measure… we interpret that information and we make choices and decisions based upon those operations.
The impact teachers have as they assess and evaluate children is so strong and far-reaching that we need to reflect on the impact of these assessments and evaluations. We are involved in this process so continuously and so automatically that we are often not even aware of the process itself. This is even true of much of the informal assessing we do in teaching. And to follow the analogy a little further, as we drive ,we can be equally unaware of the fact that we are taking others with us somewhere that may not be, for them, an ideal destination.
In that sense, so much about student destinations depends upon teachers. Joyce Juntune used to tell participants in her workshops that they should have a little tented card on their desks with the date as it would be 30 years into the future 2042. This would remind them daily that they are preparing the students in front of them for their adult lives.
Every decision we make about the learning environment and the learning community we create, every instructional strategy we employ within that community impacts critically on children… And all of these decisions involve assessment and evaluation, because all of them require us to weigh and analyze and choose based upon what we believe about teaching and learning.
Ten or fifteen years ago Art Costa shared a matrix with us at a presentation. It demonstrated clearly the prominence of the teacher’s role in assessment and evaluation. Teacher observation more reliably described student strengths and weaknesses than any other measure including standardized tests, aptitude tests, and IQ tests. And finally the interpretation of the observations, and the decisions made based upon those observations have far-reaching implications.
So, let’s be very clear about the fact that we are driving.