Testing, testing, testing…?

Testing, testing, testing…?

With the NAPLAN tests being completed by every school in the country this term, assessment was top of mind for our blog this week. Every student in the country sits these tests almost every second year of their schooling life and love them or hate them, they are now a key part of our children’s education. What is really interesting to me is that the introduction of this national testing agenda a few years ago has not resulted in an improvement in how our students perform in comparison with other countries. In fact the latest report from OECD seems to indicate that our international ranking as a nation is slipping. Are we becoming over-tested and under-taught??
This is why a post that showed up on my Facebook page this week caught my eye. It was a photo of the school signage board at Roosevelt Middle school which stated:

“No classes this week due to state assessments. We resume your child’s real education in 2 weeks”

The sad part of all of it is the impact this has on the value and interpretation of what assessment actually is. It has created a perception that assessment is really only about testing and reporting and it minimises the links to teaching and learning. Despite curriculum documents that continue to outline assessment for learning approaches, many schools feel constrained by the national testing agenda and the public scrutiny that then follows.
Assessment really should be about assisting the student to engage with the teacher and possibly the world about the quality of their work. It should be about helping students to establish a set of inner criteria, or standards that builds their personal voice in the context of judging, comparing and melding it with external voices. It should be about providing feedback about their learning as they are on the journey as well as providing an idea about how they have accomplished at the end of it. It is time for this balance to be restored in many cases.

In the 4MAT wheel there are five key places that create logical assessment points for both the student and the teacher to make judgements about how the learning is going through interacting with one another. One ideal spot is in 3L where the students get the chance to practise and “try out” what the teacher or expert has taught them. Since the movement into 3R suggests that students have enough mastery of the new content to be able to extend their learning beyond what they have been taught, at 3L the teacher should be looking for the degree of skills mastery before moving on to the next step. Useful assessment activities here could include case studies or scenarios, lab work or field work, as well as computer simulations. Any activity that encourages the student to resolve contradictions or discrepancies using real life examples can be powerful tools to provide the opportunity for students to demonstrate what they can do, open a meaningful conversation about the learning and provide a valuable assessment opportunity for both the teacher and the learner.

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