When I think about school, and about assessment, I think about learning facts and concepts, and writing tests and exams to show what I know. Most parents nowadays think the same thing.
Sometimes curriculum needs to drive assessment. This is the justification for traditional assessment, an educational philosophy based on the following:
- The purpose of schooling is to develop productive citizens
- In order to be a productive citizen, individuals must possess a certain body of knowledge, and be proficient with a variety of skills
- To see if the school is successful, students must be tested in the skills and knowledge.
This is the model of education that most of us grew up with, and that most of us are familiar and comfortable with. The purpose of traditional assessment is to evaluate if students have learned the content – whether or not they are successful in acquiring knowledge.
The World is Changing
Direct instruction and traditional testing still have a place, but they aren’t the only way to do things anymore. In the past, learning facts information was the focus of lessons, with some emphasis on applying the facts in new situations. However, information is much more readily available now. Most kids have smartphones, allowing them to find out any facts or information without much effort. The focus of education is shifting from acquiring knowledge to being able to sift through all the information and decide what is useful and what is not.
This shift in accessibility of information requires a shift in education and assessment. Authentic assessment is a method of measuring students understanding of concepts by asking them to perform real life tasks. Instead of simply repeating information that they have learned, students are asked to use the information to do something meaningful.
Applying knowledge is more challenging then remember and repeating it, and by doing so, students can become more comfortable with new skills, and be more successful learners.
As a teacher in an MYP school, assessment is the hardest part for me to grasp. There needs to be a balance between traditional and authentic, or performance based assessments. There needs to be a balance between direct instruction and inquiry based learning. Shifts are gradual, and educators need to be open minded and willing to learn new approaches to traditional content.