Principle 8: Assessment

The teacher understands and uses formal assessment strategies to evaluate and ensure the continuous intellectual, social, and physical development of the learner.

The teacher:

• Appropriately uses a variety of formal and informal assessment techniques(e.g. observation, portfolios of student work, teacher-made tests, performance tasks, projects, student self-assessments, peer assessment, and standardized tests) to enhance his or her knowledge or learners, evaluate students’ progress and performances, and modify teaching and learning strategies.
• Solicits and uses information about students’ experiences, learning behavior, needs, and progress from parents, other colleagues, and the students themselves.
• Uses assessment strategies to involve learners in self-assessment activities, to help them become aware of their strengths and needs, and to encourage them to set personal goals for learning.
• Monitors his or her own teaching strategies and behavior in relation to student success, modifying plans and instructional approaches accordingly.
• Maintains useful records of student work and performance and can communicate student progress knowledgeably and responsibly, based on appropriate indicators, to students, parents, and other colleagues.

The following artifacts show my growth, development, and achievement in meeting the goals of Principle 8:

• Artifact 8.1: Informal assessment and self-assessment.
o 8.11 Class work answer key.
o 8.12 Example of student work.
Artifact 8.2: Formal assessment. Solutions Unit Test Answer Key.
• Artifact 8.3: Class Grades for certain assessments.
o 8.31 Class Grades for Solution Unit Quiz.
o 8.32 Class Grades for Solution Unit Test.
• Artifact 8.4: Nine weeks class grades.
• Artifact 8.5: KWL chart for States of Matter/Heat Unit.

Introduction

Assessment is the tool with which teachers can evaluate how well they are teaching their students. Assessment is not just for the students, it is for the teachers as well (Airasian, 1996). As Dougherty said in The Science Teacher, it is inherent for his 5-E model to have ongoing, formative evaluation of course work. In his 5-E model the steps were Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate (Dougherty, 1997). He also said that formative assessment is key to changing the assessment to his 5-E model (Dougherty, 1997). Another inquiry based way of learning is by guiding the students through activity with guided questions in stead of guiding answers. Also according to Chiapetta, skilled science teachers are good at asking questions that makes students ask questions (Chiapetta, 1997). Another good point is made is by Hackett, who said that the assessment should match the outcome (Hackett, 1998). So often teachers will teach in a great inquiry based way, but their assessments will be rote memorization. You should test the way you teach.

Context

This growing experience as a teacher and these artifacts were collected in five classes. These were a seminar chemistry class, regular chemistry classes, and a physical science class at Orange High School. The students that were in these classes ranged from tenth to twelfth grades and the majority of them were sophomores or juniors. Demographically there were 57 male students and 51 female students in the five classes. Of those students, 90 were Caucasian, 15 were African-American, 2 were Asian-American, and 1 was Indian.
Assessment in the class as well as the school that I was in has always been that of a rote and test goal oriented manner. It is hard to actually get the students to think outside the box for assessment. The students’ minds are set: if it is not graded there is no sense in wasting my time to do it. This led me to let them think everything was to be graded so they would actually partake in the learning experience. This included periodically grading labs without notice to make sure that they were being done besides just going through the motions without writing down observations and talking about what they had learned with each other.

Description and Relation

Artifact 8.11 is an answer key to class work that was assigned to the class as a review of material that had been covered so far in the unit on gas laws, as well as a mini review of some previous units such as bonding, heat, and solutions. Part of the reason for this assignment was for the students to have something to do with a substitute, as my cooperating teacher and I were on a field trip with the science club, but it also served as a informal self-assessment for the students. When the assignments were passed back to the students they were not graded; however, an answer key was supplied for the students to check their own work so that they could see how they understood the work that had been completed so far in the unit on gas laws. This artifact shows that my assessments are more than just the normal formal assessment that all the students are used to. It also allows the students to assess themselves on their knowledge before there is a formal assessment that will count towards their grade. Informal assessments can be the most rewarding of assessments for a teacher to do. This actually shows what knowledge is understood by the students, just not what was crammed in their head the night before a test.

Artifact 8.12 is an example of student work on the above mentioned in class assignment that was given during my absence for a field trip. This artifact shows how the students are doing and whether they understand the material or not. The students were given the above answer key and were asked to evaluate themselves so that they can see which areas they should study more and which areas that they might seek extra help on from the instructor. As a general trend, the students did very well on the current material, but they were lacking mastery of past material, although they had shown in the past that they could do the problems that were presented to them. This shows me as the teacher that they are learning only for the test and not for their long term memory. This artifact is from a student that strives for perfection and understands the topic but this was one of only a handful that would have gotten full credit if the assignment was graded formally. Most of the students were lacking greatly in most of the review areas.

Artifact 8.2 is an answer key for the unit test on solutions. This is an example of a formal assessment that is used in the class and is also a template of the way that tests in this class are usually constructed. Tests usually are formatted with terms, concepts, demonstrations, and mathematical problems. This format tests the students on a variety of knowledge, from memorization of terms, to conceptual ideas, to visual demonstrations and finally to the mathematical route to predictions. This artifact, along with the other assessment artifacts, will relate to the part of the principle that speaks about using a variety of techniques to assess the students as well as tailoring the assessment to the individual student. Formal assessment is the most popular assessment because it is what has always been done to assign students grades. This, however, is not the best type of assessment to actually see the material that the student has mastered. With testing different types of knowledge it makes sure that each student can show where he or she can excel and will also cater to different learning styles. On a side note about tests, in my class students can retake the whole test or portions of their test to improve their grade. This is done not just so the students can get a better grade, but to develop a mastery of the material.

Artifacts 8.31 and 8.32 are respectively a list of grades received by a class on a quiz and the unit test for the solutions unit. During every unit there is a quiz given after the bulk of the material has been presented to the class to see where the students might still have alternate conceptions or the students might lack mastery on the topic. These quizzes are given not on mathematics but usually on concepts. This is because a student must understand the concepts before the student understand the math. Seeing what questions on the quiz that the students might not understand can give me as a teacher insight to where I might need to concentrate my unit review. Subsequently, when it came time to review for the test I made sure that I reemphasized the points that were the most missed on quizzes. This artifact shows that the teacher can modify his or her own teaching strategies given information that can be obtained. Originally without this reflection on what was actually being learned from my lectures I would have went on without addressing these areas where my instruction was lacking. Through this assessment I was able to change my planning and teaching strategies. For example, on the quiz in which we were talking about gas laws, one of the questions asked students to supply the variable for each the ideal gas law, as well as an example unit for each variable. There was also another question where the students needed to tell me the relationships between the variables in the gas laws. Of around a hundred students, only a handful received full credit for that question. The vast majority received very little credit for this question. On the review I made sure that I stressed these points in everything that we went over so that the students could make a connection. On the unit test I asked these exact same questions again and this time around 75% of the classes received the majority of credit on the problem. The teacher can modify in this instance because he or she can see that they must have not been as thorough as they needed to be on a certain topic that was missed on the test. The test is included to show how the test grades differed from the quiz grades and if students benefited from the changes that were made in instruction.

Artifact 8.4 is a selected class’s nine weeks grades for the first nine weeks that I was instructing them. The grades will show how the students did over the nine weeks. This will point out which assessments that the students excelled on as well as those assessments that the students did poorly on. These grades are kept in a spreadsheet which leads to a very easy way to instantly show students their grades after every test, as the final grade updates automatically within the spreadsheet. This also shows that the teacher can maintain a useful record of student work and performances and this makes me able to communicate grades with the students and parents instantly upon request. Spreadsheets allow the teacher to change a grade after a retest and get an instant average or show a student instantly what they could have done or what a bad grade has done to their grade.

The last artifact, 8.5, is a “what you know/what you want to know” part of a KWL chart done before the unit. This shows the teacher where the student’s alternate conceptions are as well as what the students already know from previous knowledge. KWL charts are excellent ways for teachers to pre-assess their students to tailor the unit for their learning. This will show that the teacher can tailor the students learning to their prior experiences and information from the students and other colleagues. Education should be built off of prior knowledge as well as expound on prior knowledge.

Reflection

When reflecting upon my assessment ability, I have found it very difficult to judge myself. Everybody has some area that they can improve on and I know that as a new teacher, I can improve my ability to assess my students, but it is a skill that will be honed and polished as the years go by. I believe there should be a variety of assessments given to the students, as some will excel at one type of assessment better than another If you multiply that by twenty-five students in a class, you get many permutations that will show the students’ best side. I always try to include these different types of assessment where I can see fit. As I grow as a teacher I will come up with more innovative assessment tools that can give more students more chances to show me their full potential. The big belief that I have is most “normal” assessments that are traditionally used in the classroom only are given to get grades for the grade book. I believe grades should lead to mastery of the material. Grades are not important; the important thing is the children understand the material.

Works Cited

Airasian, P. W. (1996). Assessment in the classroom. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc.

Chiapetta, E. L. (1997). Inquiry-Based Science: Strategies and techniques for encouraging inquiry in the classroom. The Science Teacher, 64(7), 22-26.

Dougherty, M. J. (1997). Formative Assessment: Using an instructional model to improve conceptual understanding. The Science Teacher, 64(6), 29-33.

Hackett, J. (1998). Inquiry: Both means and ends. The Science Teacher, 65(6), 34-37.