What is the ultimate purpose of evaluation?

I have been perusing Kay Burke’s book “From Standards to Rubrics in Six Steps“.   The 2012-2013 school year has been a time for learning GradeBook.  More importantly though, I think it has educators thinking about assessment practice.  Ongoing, lifelong learning is a good thing and something that motivates and inspires me.  Over the last year I have been learning, reflecting and trying to support colleagues as we work together to clarify the purpose of evaluation and of assessment.   Burke views evaluation as “the summative measure of how much content a student has retained and is often used for grouping students and for assigning final grades.  Assessment, however requires ongoing gathering of information that provides valuable insight to the teacher about how to guide and readjust instruction to meet the needs of students.”  During my reading I stumbled on the question in my title  ultimate purpose of evaluation.  Costa and Kallick state that “we MUST constantly remind ourselves that the ultimate purpose of evaluation is to have students learn to become self-evaluative.  If students graduate from our schools still dependent upon others to tell them when they are adequate, good, or excellent, then we’ve missed the whole point of creating self-directed, motivated, engaged citizens.”

I believe assessment and evaluation go hand in hand.  For example, a project may be designed to determine how well students can summarize and draw conclusions about a concept.  Using a rubric, the papers are evaluated and grades are assigned that reflect the level at which the student performs.  In this case the work is being compared to a standard in order to determine a grade.  You can use the same rubric to determine what aspects of the assignment the students, as a group and individually do well with and what aspects perhaps need more practice.  When this information is used by an educator to change their instruction in an attempt to improve students performance, it becomes assessment.  When it is used by the student to reflect on and assess their own work, it becomes self assessment.  I think one could safely say that assessment and evaluation work together and our aim should be to help students develop skills to self-assess and strive to know more.

Classroom assessment and evaluation comes in many shapes and sizes and provides valuable data to assess the whole child.  However, most fit into three categories:  traditional, portfolio and performance.  Traditional assessments such as quizzes, teacher-made tests, benchmarks, standardized tests measure knowledge of content and skills.  Portfolios focus on a student’s products, processes and progress over time and help students self assess their work and set goals for themselves.  Performance assessments require students to apply their knowledge of the content in a real task.  No single form of assessment in itself is adequate to evaluate the whole child.  If all three measurements in appropriate proportions for the grade level are used, a more true portrait of the student as a learner emerges.

One of the phrases we hear often in our profession is that we need consistency.  We can be consistent if we work together and follow a balanced approach to assessment and instructional planning.  To begin let’s all agree with these important shared understandings about student achievement.

  1. Each student can achieve high standards given the right time and right support.
  2. Each teacher can teach to high standards, given the right assistance.
  3. Teachers and administrators need to be able to articulate what they do and why they teach the way they do.

Following a balanced approach to assessment we must create  meaningful and relevant learning experiences and assessments with learning targets that prepare students for the challenges of life.  Based on current reading, I have identified five steps in the curriculum planning processes that just might result in higher achievement.  They are based on the backwards design process.

1.  Identify the outcome and essential learnings.   This involves unpacking  the big ideas and the essential questions from the outcomes that will help to guide instruction and help students to understand.

2.  Create learning targets or intentions based on the outcomes and indicators.  Learning targets are stated in a manner that students will understand..  It expresses, from the students’ point of view the knowledge and skills that they will be using in their performance task.  They are generally in the form of “I can” or “We are” statements.  During this step, it can also be helpful to create “Student Will” AND “Teacher Will” statements to aid in planning.

3.  Design performances tasks that show student understanding of the learning targets or intentions.  This involves defining key terms from the outcomes/indicators and organizing the criteria into checklists and rubrics to guide instruction.  The criteria allow students to improve the quality of their work by telling them exactly what they have to accomplish to meet or exceed expectations for excellence and keeps students’ heads in the game as they work toward the learning target.  Such performance tasks serve as an assessment purpose (used to plan and adjust instruction) and an evaluative purpose (evidence of student understanding and skills).  For examples of various checklists and rubrics based on outcomes, refer to Damian Cooper’s book “Redefining Fair”, given to all RPS educators.  (The book is also an excellent read.)  Also, RPS key resources like Literacy in Action, Literacy Place, etc are very helpful.  To be quite honest I find that I move back and forth between Step 3 and Step 4 as I am planning.

4.  Create motivating tasks correlated to curriculum and outcomes.  This involves the planning of the activities and structures that will be used to ensure progress towards meeting the desired targets.

5.  Guide students though each step of the process of completing the task by scaffolding their learning.  Damian Cooper uses a great analogy and says that “on a worksite scaffolding supports workers and materials while a building is under construction.  He points out that it is temporary and unattractive and not intended to be permanent.  In the classroom scaffolding involves using strategies and materials to support students’ learning and progressively lead them to independence”.  Examples of scaffolding include simplified texts, more explicit instruction, a less demanding task, additional prompts.  For more information refer to pages 98 – 102 of Redefining Fair.  First Steps Reading and Writing also contain many, many teaching ideas that aid in scaffolding learning.

The following document is an igo document that follows the above process for creating a Performance Task for the important grade 1 graphophonic concept of rhyming words.  A question I am often asked is where word work fits into the curriculum and this is highlited in this document.

Graphophonics Task

Another igo document shows the creation of a performance task for grade four related to outcomes and indicators for hundredths, tenths, their relationship to money.

Decimals Task

There is an old saying “many hands make light work”.  Wouldn’t it be great to share Performance Tasks with assessments with others in our division.  There are pockets of people already doing this in our division.  Let’s organize and find a way to bring this to life.  If you would like to be part of a Professional Learning Group that strives to create meaning Performance Tasks related to our curriculum, please contact me at laurie.gatzke@rbe.sk.ca.


About lgatzke

I am an assessment supervisor passionate about getting kids smarter. As Dylan Wiliam says, "Smart is not something you are, smart is something you get".
This entry was posted in Assessment, Backwards Design, Feedback and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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