Emily Columpsi

"The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery" -Mark Van Doren

Entry #4: Assessment

My assessment experiences in high school mathematics were frequently revolved around summative assessment tasks. In other words, my teachers would evaluate or ‘sum up’ the learning by distributing exams at the end of an instructional unit. Furthermore, final exams were held at the end of each semester to evaluate overall student learning. Occasionally, my mathematics teachers would hand out quizzes, ask questions, or conduct homework checks to monitor student learning. This type of assessment, often known as formative assessment, was minimally present in my high school mathematics classes. Throughout high school, I viewed unit and final exams (summative assessments) as having high point value. In other words, they were weighted more heavily than my homework and quizzes (formative assessments), which I viewed as having low or no point value. Thus, I can conclude that my high school mathematics teachers believed that unit exams or final exams were the most important part of a student’s overall grade. As a result, I worked harder and cared more about the exams than I did the quizzes.

The assessment strategies that I researched were rating scales and rubrics.

A rating scale is a tool used for assessing the performance of tasks, skill levels, procedures, processes, qualities, quantities or end products. They are similar to checklists except that they indicate the degree of accomplishment rather than just a simple yes or no. Rating scales are set up in such a way that they list performance statements in one column and the range of accomplishment in descriptive words (strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree), with or without numbers, in the other columns. In a rating scale, the descriptive words are more important than the numbers. Rating scales have many advantages. For instance, they are quick and easy to complete or fill out, they are easy to design, they can describe the student’s steps towards understanding or mastery, students can pinpoint specific strengths and needs, and, lastly, rating scales give students information for setting goals and improving performance. However, rating scales also have disadvantages. For example, rating scales can be highly subjective. In other words, teacher bias gives better marks to favourite students. In addition, if a rating scale was given as a self-assessment, students may mark themselves higher to receive a better mark from the teacher. Another disadvantage is that rating scales can be seen as unreliable. For instance, interpretations of terms may vary. Also, a single word doesn’t contain enough information on what criteria is indicated at each of the points on the scale. Rating scales should be used for recording informal observations of student learning, such as discussions, participation, behaviour etc. Furthermore, rating scales are effective for peer-assessments and group mathematics projects, but they should not be used to grade exams. Lastly, rating scales should not be used for comparisons amongst students.

Rubrics “are tools for rating the quality of student performance that identify the anticipated evidence that will be used for making judgments” (Goos). They consist of a fixed measurement scale and detailed description of the characteristics for each level of performance (distinguishes performance from one level to the next). Rubrics focus on quality rather than quantity and they function as a guideline for both teachers and students. Rubrics are commonly used with the intention of including the result in a grade for reporting purposes. The advantages of rubrics are the following: they provide guidelines for quality student work or performance, they are flexible in that they can be designed for many uses and/or ability levels, they can be easily modified, can increase the consistency and reliability of scoring, provide a way to both effectively assess student learning and communicate expectations directly, clearly and concisely to students (feedback is present), they allow students to see the progression of mastery in the development of understanding and skills, teachers can even involve students in the assessment process which allows them to know and see the expectations, and, lastly, rubrics allow for student and teacher reflection (guide for future learning or instruction). However, rubrics also have a few disadvantages. For instance, teachers might use predetermined criteria, rather than basing scores on examples of student’s work. Rubrics can be used for individual or group projects. Furthermore, self-assessment, peer-assessment and teacher reflection can be graded through a rubric. It is important that teachers hand out the rubric before the students get to work so that they can see what is expected of them. Teachers can even send a rubric home so that parents are aware of the expectations and assist students with their homework. Rubrics should not be used all the time. Although, rubrics are easy to fill out, it is important to change up the method of assessment. Lastly, rubrics should not be used to grade mathematics tests, quizzes or exams.

The activity conducted in EMTH 350 allowed me to learn about other forms of assessment.

Courtney discussed self-assessment strategies. Self-assessments are used so that students have the opportunity to reflect on their own work/learning. In addition, through this process students can confirm, consolidate and integrate new knowledge. Courtney stated that some self-assessments are used for grades, while others are used by the teacher to see where the student is at. While conversing with Courtney, I learnt that there are just as many disadvantages to self-assessments as there are advantages. The disadvantages are the following: if teachers do not model it correctly then students won’t understand its potential, some students may mark themselves higher to improve their grade thinking the teacher isn’t marking herself, some students will feel ill equipped to undertake the assessment, and additional briefing time can increase a teacher’s workload. The advantages are the following: student’s can monitor their own learning, encourages both student involvement and responsibility, allows students to reflect and enables them to look over the criteria again to see where they can improve, teachers see where the student is at and can offer extra help/assistance, and they focus on the development of student judgment skills. Teachers should use self-assessments alongside their own evaluations. Furthermore, self-assessments are beneficial for addressing and evening achieving personal goals. Teachers should not use self-assessments if there is no clear goal or criteria, as students might get confused on what they are assessing themselves on.

Hillary discussed exit slips. Exit slips, typically, are a written response to one or more questions that the teachers will pose at the end of a class. The questions usually address the material or concepts that were just learnt as a way to summarize the learning of that particular subject. Exit slips can take many forms. For instance, they can be completed orally, pictorially or in a written format. This range allows for students to respond in whatever way they are comfortable with. Some advantages of exit slips are: allows the teachers to see where the students are at with the material and if concepts need to be addressed again the following day, enables teachers to make the appropriate adjustments to the lesson to further students learning and comprehension of subject matter, teachers can self evaluate to see where they need to change their teaching style to better fit their students needs, and, lastly, exit slips allow for students to reflect on what they just learnt. The disadvantages of exit slips are that they are usually brief (not enough information is provided), some students may not take it seriously as there are no marks attached to the exit slips, and some students may respond to the exit slips anonymously, which poses a problem as the teacher wouldn’t be able to identify the students that are struggling and thus wouldn’t be able to help them. Exit slips should be used, obviously, at the end of class to summarize learning. They can, however, be carried over into the set (entrance slip) of the following day’s lesson.

The value/purpose of these forms of performance-based assessments is that they focus not only on the quality of the final product of a student’s work, but performance-based assessments also concentrates on the students learning process. In addition, through performance-based assessments teachers can track students work on a task, show them the value of their work processes and help them self-monitor so that they can use tools such as self-assessments more effectively. Performance-based assessments connect to the ideas of assessment for/as/of learning. For instance, all the above are used to collect information that will inform the teacher’s next teaching steps and the student’s next learning steps (assessment for learning). In addition, the above assessment strategies can be used to communicate progress towards standards, to students, parents, and teachers themselves (assessment of learning). Lastly, teachers can use self-assessments, rubrics or rating scales to allow students the opportunity to use assessment to further their own learning (assessment as learning). These forms of performance-based assessments allow students to reflect on their own learning and identify areas of strength and need; offering students the chance to set their own personal goals.


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