Saturday, 24 January 2015

Rethinking Assessment: An Administrator's Perspective

I recently led a book study on Carol Dweck's "Mindset" that created a lot of discussion around assessment, feedback and the mixed messaging that staff are feeling about priorities at this time. With the current focus on innovative instructional practices, my goal is to investigate how assessment can be better aligned with 21st Century instruction to promote student achievement while meeting provincial requirements. 

One of my goals for students is to help them develop independent problem solving ability and a love of the process of persevering through challenges.   
The research of Alfie Kohn suggests that there are three consistent effects of giving students grades:

1) When focusing on grades instead of growth, the learning diminishes.
2) In order to be "successful", students come to avoid taking risks and choose easier tasks. 
3) Students think in a more superficial fashion and do not retain information. This reminds me of when, as a student, I would do well on a spelling tests, but would forget the correct spelling of most of the words within a few days.  

As a school administrator, I have the unique opportunity see what feedback and assessment look like in multiple classrooms each and every day.   I look forward to co-learning as we explore this topic together! 

Suggested Reading


  1. About this: "In order to be "successful", students come to avoid taking risks and choose easier tasks."

    In second language learning this looms as the greatest potential pitfall. Language learning is an inherently confidence-shaking enterprise, and, in giving feedback, the challenge is to know where each student has their grit level set. As you know, knowledge of your learner and their goals, is key to providing effectve feedback.

    Thanks for the suggested reading!

  2. Thank you so much for the suggested reading - it is helping feed a need I have to know more about research into the effect of grades on learning. I really like Kohn's arguments, though they are difficult to hear after many years of handing out grades to students...consider this excerpt quoting a teacher:

    "The things that grades make kids do are heartbreaking for an educator:" arguing with teachers, fighting with parents, cheating, memorizing facts just for a test and then forgetting them. “This is not why I became a teacher.”

    How often have I had these thoughts? How wonderful that TTOG can open up these conversations and allow us to think about alternatives to our current practice.