Measuring student learning in 140 characters or less

Hey John and Jose,

On November 17, CTQ ventured into its second #teaching2030 Twitter chat. The topic for this chat was measuring student learning, and more than 50 people weighed in. Some were familiar names from CTQ’s Teacher Leaders Network (TLN), but others were new to these conversations and to CTQ. A few people who follow me on Twitter joined in. This chat seemed like the start of a much deeper conversation, as we only had a chance to scratch the surface of the topic. Still, the participants shared some amazing insight (You can view the chat transcript here.)

We began this Twitter adventure to give people a place to discuss and add to the ideas presented in the book TEACHING 2030. I have been on Twitter for a bit more than a year and have participated in chats in this format. But this was only the second one I have facilitated. It can be daunting to express yourself in 140 characters, and even more difficult with a complex topic like assessment. That didn’t limit the free flow of ideas, and the format seemed to pull the essential questions to the surface much faster than a webinar or any other longer discussion could.

Participants raised some powerful issues, such as parents’ involvement in assessment, that provoked deep thinking. Commented one participant: “Parents often only see the final grade. We should teach them to focus on progress/what the child has learned.” The opportunity has never been more present to help parents focus on narratives of student learning.

Several in the group offered suggestions, ranging from making the language we use in assessments more parent-friendly to moving toward more descriptive grades. TeacherDave Orphal tweeted: “If you see your kid act in the play, you don’t need to see their grade in drama class.” Another teacher shared a positive assessment experience: “We had kids demonstrate proficiencies and showed results to parents. And when we had ‘exhibitions,’ parents were invited.” A Tweeter chimed in with a parent’s point of view: “Pre & post tests are excellent assessments! My son and I just had this discussion.”

The take-home message of all this is that we need a good road map of where we are and where we are going with our students. This is nothing new. What is different is that we are asking the important questions in a medium that allows for real-time conversations among a diverse population. Twitter has been described as a great force for democracy. To pose a question and have a large group of educators, policy folks, and parents probe, think, and answer is both democratic and powerful.

Though we didn’t have time to answer many of the questions posed that night, we have started a conversation that will. Twitter is an amazing format for elevating teacher voices and spreading great ideas and, yes, answering tough questions. The value of the medium is in the diversity and number of the participants. Your voice, your ideas, and your questions are all important. I came away with a dozen new strategies to improve student assessment in my classes. It amazes me that this all happened within the limits of one hour and 140-character tweets. I hope you can join our next #teaching2030Twitter chat—on teacher evaluation—December 15 at 8:30 p.m. ET.