When it comes to K-12 education, it’s pretty much everything.
The closer you look at assessment philosophies and practices, the more you realize that assessment shapes instruction, learning, language, calendars, culture, and virtually every aspect of life in K-12 schools.
Assessment is everything.
For decades, schools and educators clung to old paradigms of assessment.
They treated grades as wages: students do the work, and teachers pay them for that work.
They treated assessment as a means of ranking and sorting: winners at the top, losers at the bottom.
They treated assessments as leverage to ensure compliance: follow the rules, and you’ll be rewarded. Color outside the lines or show up late to class, and we’ll use grades to punish you.
These old systems of assessment inspired courage and fear. They dealt honor and shame. But they often had little to do with the learning itself.
No more. Assessment in our K-12 schools is turning a corner. And the future is bright.
“Write, in one sentence, your definition of assessment.”
That was the request I put out to my professional learning network on Twitter this fall. I thought that if a few of my colleagues engaged with this question, some rich dialogue was sure to follow.
And engage they did. Thank you, PLN.
What a rich conversation. Every tweet you’re about to read gives me pause.
This thread is so rich that I had to memorialize it. Enjoy, and may this thread spark further thought on your own journey of assessment.
What IS assessment?
And implied: What is the purpose of assessment?
- “A tool to evaluate and improve learning.” — Audrey McGregor @AudreyMcGregor1
- “Assessment is doing whatever I need to do with you in order to get inside of your head to understand what you need to know, understand, and do to take your next step on your learning journey.” — BeckyFisher73 @BeckyFisher73
- “Assessment = checking in.” — Conklin Educational Perspectives @ConkEdPerspect
- “Show me what you got!” — Nick Covington @CovingtonEDU
- “Identifying where students are in skill and understanding, and offering suggestions for their next steps of learning and refinement.” — Craig Voskamp @CraigVoskamp
- “A dialogue to learn about your learning.” — Chris Smith @cssmithteach
- “Assessment is any informed process engaged by teachers and/or learners that illuminates where a learner is at in the learning process, how they got there, the learner’s and teacher’s next steps, and how to get learners to their goals.” — Shannon Schinkel @DramaQueenBRC
- “Assessment is the ongoing process of gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence (State Government of Victoria, Australia © 2019).” — Dr. David Gentile @drdgentile
- “Assessment is any means by which we gauge our own or someone else’s current understanding of a selected subject.” — J. Nicholas Philmon @DrNikPhilmon
- “A snapshot in time measurement of student understanding and ability to demonstrate mastery of taught curriculum.” — ProwlMom34 @DRoss625
- “Checking in with the learner to see if what they’re understanding about a subject is what you’re trying to teach.” — Eileen McDaniel @EileenM02086562
- “Three types of assessments are critical to good teaching and should be helpful to both the teacher and the learner — diagnostic, formative, and summative.” — Elliott Seif @elliottseif
- “When learning to ride a bike, three questions show three critical assessments: Can the learner get on the bike? (diagnostic); What feedback will help the rider as she learns? (formative); Can the rider ride on his own? (summative). From Teaching for Lifelong Learning, chapter 3.” — Elliott Seif @elliottseif
- “One way I figure out what to do next.” — Erin Earnshaw @erin_earnshaw
- “Helping students find their next steps.” — James Abela @eslweb
- “Assessment is the act and process of seeing or noticing the relationship between the learning target and the actual learning. It allows a knowing with which to make sound decisions about what happens next.” — Andrew Maxey @ezigbo_
- “Assessment is reflection’s GPS.” — Heidi Graci @formermingo
- “Where do I start my teaching from?” — Francis Joseph @Francis_Joseph
- “There are practice days and there are game days.” — Glenn Morgan @glennirvinem
- “Assessment: (noun) A tool or process that provides data on progress (or lack thereof) towards a goal.” — Monica Agudelo @good_elo
- “Assessment captures a snapshot of what a student could demonstrate in that moment. A collection of assessments taken over time provides a more accurate picture of how a child is growing in their learning.” — Kimberly Church @HolaMrsChurch
- “Assessment is the provision of explicit feedback on any artifact of learning with the goal of furthering that learning.” — Jeff Hopkins @hopkinsjeff
- “A way to see if they know what I need them to know.” — Toby Price @jedipadmaster
- “Measurement of student growth to provide feedback and generate more growth.” — Jen Smielewski @JenSmielewski
- “The collection of evidence of student achievement on desired learning outcomes.” — Josh Kunnath @JoshKunnath
- “Determination of current state in relation to future state and the responses we take to move toward goals. Assessment informs response.” — Katie White @KatieWhite426
- “Assessment discerns ‘the known’ and the ‘what next’ for individuals.” — Charlotte P @lifeoflottie
- “To assess: to seek information (via conversations, observations or students’ work) in order to learn more about our students (e.g., attitude, understanding, thinking processes, knowledge, habits of mind) for the purposes of improving student learning. While related to evaluation (the process of assigning a value/grade/percentage), assessment and evaluation are very different processes with different goals and outcomes.” — Mark Chubb @MarkChubb3 [two tweets]
- “A moment of reflection and celebration on a learning journey where (with another learner) you look back to appreciate how far you came, think about where you now stand, and plan for your next steps in your learning travels.” — Mark Sonnemann @MarkSonnemann
- “A method to determine current knowledge/skills to assist in the determination of the next steps for growth.” — Mike Szczepanik @MikeSzczepanik
- “One moment in time for a student and teacher, not the end all of anything.” — Mindy Swanson @mindykswanson
- “Assessment is showing what you know, receiving feedback on that (from someone else like a peer or teacher, or from deep independent reflection), applying the feedback, and showing what you know again — so it is a continual process.” — Brenda Ball @misssball
- “Assessment is one measure of the effectiveness of instruction.” — Michael Bissell @mrbissell
- “To sit beside. It’s a visible image of learning. Collaboration, relationships, growing, mutual feedback, responses, respect, and HOPE!” — Jim Smith @MrDataGuy
- “Show me what you know.” — Adrian Neibauer @MrNeibauer
- “How you know they know.” — Rebekah Shaw @MrsShaw_TCC
- “The tool to see individual progress and point out the next steps.” — Nathalie Magel @nathalie_magel
- “Informal or informal way to check learner progression. Specific feedback for growth must be given by the teacher.” — Misty Kirby @OneLove_mk
- “How both teachers and learners know learning is happening and why and how it’s happening.” — Pam Moran @pammoran
- “Informing strengths and next steps in learning.” — Ms. Pope @PopeSD36
- “To collect the necessary information to understand a learner’s instructional needs.” — Practice Readers Books @PracticeReaders
- “What the heck did my students learn and how do I know they learned it?” — Daniel Katz @Prof_Katz
- “Assessments are educational health checks, so we know what to prescribe to each individual.” — Lozetta Hayden @Quencessh
- “From the Latin assidere: to assess means to sit beside the learner; So what does it mean and what does it look like to sit beside a learner?” — Randy Swift @RandySwift9
- “A set of tools used by teachers to gauge, clarify, and report the preparedness, progression, skill development, and needs of their students.” — Shandeemay @shandeemay1
- “A snapshot into the understanding of a student and the quality of the teaching.” — Chris Summers @summers_llm
- “The evaluation of what a person knows and can do at point of administration.” — Jeffery E. Frieden @SurthrivEDU
- “Learners show what they know.” — Julia Joy @TheHealstorian
- “Feedback in multiple ways to glean understanding on how to improve.” — MmePapa @tlwestridge
- “Assessment is a chance to showcase your application of knowledge to practical situations.” — Traci Johnson @tsuejohnson
- “Assessment: the process of generating information for educators and learners in order to understand achievements with regard to the (previously agreed upon) learning objectives.” — Vahid Masrour @vahidm
For further reflection and discussion
Which definition of assessment resonated with you the most?
Which thought provoked your thinking?
Which line inspired your practice?
As long as we’re talking about assessment, we’re engaging in conversations about the shape of our schools and the nature of learning itself.
And that gives me hope for the future.