Over the last two blog posts, we’ve broken down the definition of assessment literacy into its minutia. The first post detailed the purpose of assessment and second touched on learning targets and assessment quality. In this, our last post, we’ll detail the communication of assessment results and assessment and motivation.
Like our last post, let’s first take a look at the overall definition of assessment literacy as defined by The National Task Force on Assessment Education:
Assessment is the process of gathering information about student learning to inform education-related decisions. Assessments can reflect a wide variety of learning targets using a range of methods serving many important users and uses at a variety of levels from the classroom to the boardroom. In this sense, assessment is an essential part of the teaching and learning process.
Our assessments work best in contexts of strong assessment literacy, and they fail us when assessment literacy is lacking. One becomes assessment literate by mastering basic principles of sound assessment practice, coming to believe strongly in their consistent, high-quality application in order to meet the diverse needs of all students, and acting assertively based on those values. The specific nature of those applications vary with one’s role in the educational process.
When it comes to communicating assessment results, assessment literate educators understand that the quality and impact of any assessment is a direct function of the effectiveness of the communication of the resulting information to its intended users. Truly effective communication places resulting information in the hands of users in a timely and understandable manner. The standard of timeliness is determined by when the decision is to be made; for example — whether a student is making revision decisions, a teacher is designing the next lesson, a principal is designing a school-wide program, or a district is developing its strategic plan. The format for the communication is a function of the purpose for the assessment. For example, results intended to support learning do not merely list the grade for student performance; rather, they provide feedback in a form and manner that provides guidance about how to do better the next time.
Assessment literate individuals believe the communication of all assessment results should be accompanied by a purposeful check with the recipient (decision maker) to verify their understanding and appreciation of the link between results, the pending instructional decision, and student learning.
Assessment literate persons understand that the assessment process can contribute to the productive motivation of both students and teachers. They understand that, for teacher and student alike, fear, vulnerability, and anxiety are the enemies of learning success, while a sense of self-efficacy, confidence, and accomplishment promote ongoing academic success. On behalf of students, assessment literate people understand that, used effectively in instruction, assessment can cause learning, not merely measure it. It can support learning by engaging students in ongoing self-assessment, so they can see themselves growing and as a result, actually be in charge of their own success.
In the context of teacher motivation, teachers may be inspired to new heights of professional aspiration by students who are demonstrating immense gains in proficiency and by the professional agency to flexibly employ the assessment methods that they know will both take into account and positively impact student learning. Classroom assessment practices in the hands of assessment literate teachers have demonstrated the ability to contribute to this kind of growth. In this spirit, one key role of school leadership is to provide ongoing opportunities for teachers to develop their assessment literacy so they can better meet diverse individual student needs, promote student growth, and experience invigorating professional success.
Assessment literate educators believe that students are entitled to equity of motivation; that is, all students must be given the opportunity to believe that academic success is within reach for them if they strive for it. They believe that the level of assessment application that promotes deep student involvement and well-being is the classroom level. It is there that student and teacher team up to make sound decisions, keep targets clear, gather dependable evidence, and believe success remains within reach. Schools, districts, and states all must create balanced systems of professional support and assessment that nurture student learning. Nested within each successive layer of school contexts, the classroom is where students encounter assessment at the hands of their teachers.
Ultimately, one becomes assessment literate by mastering basic principles of sound assessment practice, coming to believe strongly in their consistent, high-quality application in order to meet the diverse needs of all students, and acting assertively based on those values.