Every new school year, I try to improve…to get just a little bit better. I find some aspect of teaching to really focus on and create new, ‘healthier’ classroom habits to assist with improving either my instruction, the classroom environment, or some other facet of teaching. In the past, I’ve honed in on student note taking ability or student self-assessment or implementation of spaced practice, to name a few. At the beginning of my teaching career, I tried to be better at everything at once…which, obviously, didn’t work out too well. All I learned was how to do a lot of things at a subpar level. As I’ve grown as a professional in the classroom, I’ve learned to play the long game and really focus on one, maybe two, ways to improve per year. This makes for a happier and more successful teacher and human being.
This year, I’ve found myself focusing on what I’m calling the ‘fairness’ of my assessments. By that, I mean, I’m considering the information on my summative assessments and whether it is fair to assess that knowledge. Here’s the thought that led me to this focus:
Is it fair for me to ask students on a summative assessment to apply/use information from class lessons if I haven’t first tasked them with using it in class?
I’m not asking that flippantly. I sincerely don’t know the answer. Is it fair? It is one thing to present information to students and to, perhaps, have them take notes from the material. It is an entirely different endeavor to ask students to thoughtfully engage with the information and use it to answer a question, form an argument, create something, et cetera. If I haven’t set that type of work for them either in class or via homework, is it fair for the first time they are to use that knowledge to be on a summative assessment? I’m genuinely leaning towards no.
This has caused me to begin assessing my assessments (meta-assessment?) and work to find different methods for having students think about and work with the information from class; to task students with utilizing the different facts, concepts, and theories in some genuine fashion. It certainly puts a burden on the already precious class time, but I believe it to be a worthy endeavor. In my estimation, it creates a more honest assessment and a more fair assessment. It also asks me to consider what information is absolutely necessary for student understanding. Some of the more seductive details from lessons are being cut to create more efficient and effective lessons.
All in all, I believe a reflection of this sort will assist with more fair and valid assessment of student understanding; a real positive for the classroom environment. A secondary impact will mean a closer examination of how I spend classroom time. Also, an improvement for the classroom and instruction…becoming just a little bit better.
What might you focus on in the upcoming school year to be just a little bit better?
Feature Image by Kevin Malik: https://www.pexels.com/photo/better-text-on-blue-background-9016997/