I’m Don Klinger, Professor of Measurement, Assessment, and Evaluation from Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. Educational jurisdictions continue to search for educational policies and practices that will enable teachers to better support students’ learning and achievement. Along with efforts to modify educational curriculum and standards, a critical area of focus has been on assessment practices within the classroom. With its roots in formative program evaluation, formative assessment is considered a critical tool in the efforts to improve students’ learning. Current conceptions of formative assessment have acknowledged that teachers and students are critical users and beneficiaries of formative assessment. Teachers can use this information to guide and modify instruction, set new instructional goals, and meet individual students’ needs. Students can use this information to guide their own learning and identify learning strengths and weaknesses, and these in term help to enhance self regulation, cognitive development, and metacognition.
As a result of these promising findings and supporting theoretical frameworks, prek-12 educational research, standards of practice, and educational policies increasingly work to implement formative assessment practices that enable both teachers and students to be “users” of classroom assessment. And this is where the challenges begin. Our work with suggests that while teachers are able to implement formative assessment practices, these practices are often relatively simplistic and prescriptive. Teachers often struggle to use the assessment information to direct their instruction. Perhaps more importantly, students continue to largely be passive receivers of assessment information. They are not given sufficient skills and knowledge to use formative assessment to guide their own learning.
Yet, we are making inroads, and these successful efforts are based on the principles of “utility” found within program evaluation. The new Classroom Assessment Standards for preK-12 Teachers, (Joint Committee on Standards for Education Evaluation, JCSEE), contain 16 Standards for sound and effective classroom assessment under three headings: Foundations, Use, and Quality. The five Use standards have certainly arisen from the “Utility” standards found in the Program Evaluation Standards. Admittedly, the language and format has been modified to fit the preK-12 education context. As one example, central to the use of formative assessment is Effective Feedback (Standards U2): Classroom assessment practices should provide timely and useful feedback to improve student learning. We now work directly with teachers to give them the skills to provide descriptive feedback that is focused on modifying and shifting students’ learning. At the same time, we are helping to train teachers to provide students these same skills in order to support effective peer-and self-assessment. It seems those of us in classroom assessment research continue to follow the lead of program evaluation. It is now about “Use.”
Rad Resource: The Classroom Assessment Standards for preK-12 Teachers available as an ebook from Amazon.
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