In last week’s blog post – The Foundation of Formative Assessment Post One – I discussed the components that make up the successful use of formative assessment practice in the classroom, including the need for gap analysis. In today’s post I want to discuss the need for communication of assessment results.
In order to communicate the results of assessment and provide feedback, students need to understand the learning target of the assessment. “Being clear up front about what that learning looks like is the first step” (Chappuis, 2015, p.33). Providing clear learning targets often necessitates deconstructing them and presenting them in student-friendly language. Furthermore, if the assessment of the learning target involves a rubric, it is crucial that the components of the rubric be communicated with students. “In an assessment for learning environment, we introduce the concepts in the rubric at the outset of instruction” (Chappuis, 2015, p.51).
Another step in helping students understand the target(s) of assessment is to provide them with “examples and models of strong and weak work” (Chappuis, 2015, p.69). Students need to not only understand what they are being asked to learn, they need to understand the level of quality that they are being asked to perform at. If students have a different understanding of quality than the teacher, it can lead to misunderstandings that inhibit student learning. “The goal is to help students come to hold an understanding about accuracy and quality similar to yours before they engage in extended practice with the target” (Chappuis, 2015, p.71).
Communicating the learning targets through these means is a crucial step in communicating assessment results to students because, without a clear picture of their target, the feedback from the assessment can be confusing and useless for students. “Absent clear targets, students lack the information they need to self-assess, set goals, and act on the descriptive feedback they receive” (Chappuis et al., 2012, p. 68).
How we communicate assessment results and feedback to students is just as, if not more, crucial as communicating the learning targets. Rick Stiggins’s experiences in elementary school through high school that he shared in “Revolutionize Assessment” show the damage that can be done when we do not take care in how we present assessment information. “Because I was sure I was incapable of learning, I didn’t try and taught myself not to care (2014, p.24). When providing feedback, it is important to share not only what a student can do to improve, but it is important to share what they are doing well. Also, teachers need to help student understand that just because they did not master a target on the first try does not mean that they will never master them. If teachers can do this, we can help students have educational experience similar to the one Stiggins had in the Air Force: “my glow of confidence became a small flame because there were learning targets I was given the opportunity to understand from the beginning and that I cared about and wanted (needed) to master” (Stiggins, 2014, p.26).
There are other stakeholders with whom teachers need to communicate assessment data. As teachers, we work in professional learning communities. In these PLC’s we agree upon common standards to teach and we need to use the data that we get from assessments to plan for and adjust instruction. Communicating and discussing the assessment data and “having agreed-on clear targets” in PLC’s provides “common ground…in working with other teachers” (Chappuis et al., 2012p.77). Learning targets and assessment data should also be shared with parents. This communication helps parents help their children, helps parents understand what the grades mean, and helps focus discussion at parent-teacher conferences. (Chappuis et al., 2012, pp. 78, 80).
Come back next week as I wrap up our series on formative assessment with the keys to effective assessment communication.