The impact of assessment on student learning does not rely on the administering of assessment and collection of data alone. Improvement in learning requires teachers to use the assessment data to inform their instruction. Modifications in instructional design and adaptations for students based on assessment data will begin to address the learning needs of students.
In my own professional experience, assessment is present on a continual basis. There is no shortage of data on student learning. This includes both formative and summative assessment. Chappuis, Stiggins, Chappuis, & Arter (2012) describe formative as an assessment for learning and summative as an assessment of learning (p. 5). In the past, my Professional Learning Community (PLC) would meet on a weekly basis to share common assessments and discuss students’ strengths and misunderstandings. We would determine specific learning targets students had difficulty with on a math test or look at fluency and comprehension rank orders. Although this information provided us with scores for a report card and helped us determine leveled reading groups, the assessment data did not necessarily lead us in a new direction. We would go back to our classrooms and continue to move forward with new content with the intention to revisit prior concepts students were still struggling with in small groups. What we have learned as a PLC is that the conversation cannot conclude after assessment data is shared. Instead, it is the beginning of the conversation that propels teachers to discuss the interventions and instructional strategies that will take place moving forward to improve student learning. Assessment should not only provide information but be used effectively. Chappuis et al. (2012) state, “Quality classroom assessment produces accurate information that is used effectively to increase student learning” (p. 12).
Our PLC has shifted our team goal to focus on next steps in instruction. This artifact PLCNormsGoalsCycle shows our current PLC goal and the PLC cycle we follow to focus on using student data to make instructional decisions. In my PLC, we focus on a specific problem we notice based on what we observe in student work. The protocol we use follows a sequence of steps. Zepeda (2012) explains, “Questions dealing with the level or depth of understanding desired, the assessments that will be used to determine the degree of understanding, and the strategies that will be most suitable need to be asked and debated” (p. 227). First we analyze and set goals: What high-priority content must our students master as a result of our teaching? What specific learning challenges do our students face in terms of learning that content? This connects to the importance of beginning the assessment process with “a clear sense of the learning to be assessed- the achievement expectations we hold for our students, the content standards at the focus of instruction” (Chappuis et al., 2012, p. 6). Next, we examine current teaching practices: What instructional changes do we need to make? Finally, we implement, review, and revise goals: What effect did the instructional changes have (based on the data/student work)? What do we plan to do next? These artifacts plcreport1 plcreport2 are examples of the PLC reporting forms we use.
Throughout this cycle, we rely on collecting and sharing formative assessments so we can see the impact of instructional changes and use that information to continue to make decisions about next steps. Chappuis et al. (2012) describe formative assessment as “informal processes teachers and students use to gather evidence for the purpose of improving learning” (p. 4). When formative assessment is shared in a collaborative setting, teachers can share instructional strategies and brainstorm interventions that can support teachers in implementing best practices. The cycle should then continue to assess whether interventions tried were successful so improvement in student learning continues.
What types of formative assessments have you used to improve learning? Have you had experience collaborating with colleagues to make next steps about instructional decisions?
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