Assessment is Boring

I spent some time, recently, pulling together some grading and assessment resources for art teachers, and I thought I’d share a couple of insights with you. I started to name this post “Grading and Assessment,” then I thought, “How boring!”

painting by Elaine Florimonte, art teacher
painting by Elaine Florimonte, art teacher

If you would have thought the same, then I want to challenge you (as I challenge myself) to give some careful consideration to your mindset around assessment. Assessment is an incredibly important part of what we do. If you are the kind of teacher who has ever said (or thought), “I don’t have time to assess that,” or, “can’t you just let me teach?” then I’m talking to you.

The reality is, education research is drawing a clear picture of effective practices that place assessment on a level field with instruction… Pause… Let that sink in…

Assessment is as important as instruction.

Here, in a nutshell, is our school division’s research-based vision of the work of teachers related to instruction and assessment:

Teachers evaluate the readiness of their students, analyze the data, and plan instruction to meet student needs. Instructional plans are implemented and additional assessments performed to measure student progress toward standards and learning goals. The cycle continues by reviewing new assessment data and refining plans to ensure that all students make progress.

Obviously, instruction is central to the work of teachers, but in this model, assessment is equally important. What do we teach, if we don’t know what our students are ready to learn? How do we know what we need to re-teach if we haven’t figured out if our students have learned it?

I’ve heard many times, including very recently, the idea that we teach the way we were taught. If we truly want to improve education, we have to fight that urge. Too many of us were taught with a different model, where the teacher delivers instruction one way, and it is up to the student to learn. A test determines whether that happened, and that’s the end of it — pass or fail — A, B, C, D or F.

Our goals are different now. As educators, we must find ways to reach each of our students. We know that students learn in different ways, and we must therefore differentiate our instruction to meet those needs… And at the heart of it all is assessment.

Our mindset around assessment is closely tied to ideas about grading, but that’s where things get really sloppy, so we will put that off for another time. Until then…

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One thought on “Assessment is Boring”

  1. With regards to art, the terminology used by education feels uncomfortable to the art educator. Assessment should be broadened. We need to give consistent, detailed feedback through constant discussion/critique/correction/suggestion. Assessment gets a little to simplified for the complexity of the work our students should be doing. There needs to be a fluidity of assessment with practice in format more authentic to artistic practice. Assessment is only valuable if it is the correct assessment and the results are clearly communicated and usable.

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