It takes more than one measure to get the right fit

How to hold teachers who teach “non-tested” subjects accountable is a complex, but necessary question. Some may be shocked to know that these subjects are, in fact, tested…but not in a fill-in-the-bubble-while-your-palms-sweat-standardized-test type of way.  I know there are assessments for these “non-tested” areas because I teach one of them.  As an art teacher, I test my students on understanding concepts by using multiple measures in a variety of ways, which I believe leads to a more accurate evaluation.  This may not be ideal for a quick assessment state-wide, but from my experience, this “portfolio assessment” yields more accurate results for a subject like art, where the concepts are demonstrated through project- based learning.

Allow me the indulgence of describing my “perfect world” scenario of a multiple measures assessment system.  We would look at the following to evaluate and continually work on instruction:

  • Process of the project
  • Video on student interaction among teacher and students
  • Written answers to questions
  • Product produced
  • Teacher effectively leading a conversation among both students and colleagues
  • Providing and receiving feedback to improve the lessons

Technology will play a large role in order to create an efficient and effective evaluation. The ideal would be to use a “teacher solution tool kit” that leverages a data bank of lessons.  Meaning, teachers in the same non-tested content area can use the same project, creating reliability among the outcomes.  These can also be demonstrated by on-line galleries that document not only the finished products, but the process of learning as well (which is so essential in a subject like art).

And surprise! We already have a great information bank from generous bloggers who devote their time to sharing their content area lesson plans.  In art, for example, Gail from Canada has created a blog,“That Artist Woman”, that outlines countless projects in the photo-gallery style that I described above.  Because I have found projects that align with the curriculum content standards from my district, I use “That Artist Woman’s” information to help form my own instruction in my classroom.  If the education system could take it one step more, we would compensate teachers for this time and energy, and direct other teachers to these types of sites as a resource for all to use.  It seems so simple if we streamline the system to make it manageable and train teachers on how to contribute to this effort.  Extending this idea, our system could provide video/photography footage  that would allow formative and summative feedback that shows if students have an understanding of the concepts.

Though this has yet to be tried out (at least in my experience), I believe that this could not only assess, but also help connect parents to what is happening in the classroom because they could view these online galleries as well.  Having a system like this would also help improve my teaching because it would allow me to see my own teaching through an objective lens, in addition to allowing peer evaluators to comment and offer advice.  And isn’t this what evaluation should be all about? This type of evaluation aligns with educator John Dewey’s ideas of creating a reflective teacher, as Laurlee Moss points out inThe Role of the Reflective Teacher in the 21st Century :  “Reflective teachers reflect upon their delivery and effectiveness for students. When teachers reflect upon their teaching practices, honest evaluation and constructive learning can take place.”   This is the type of worthwhile assessment that evaluates if the input is comprehensible to students and offers strategies from which to improve.  It requires out-of- the-box thinking and a bit more effort, but ultimately the outcome is worth it.

So, dear reader, now that you have indulged me, here’s your homework: Describe your own ideal assessment system- what multiple measures do you believe should be considered in judging student mastery?  Your feedback is needed to continue the conversation!

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