This school year my research focus has been assessment. I have been trying to find ways to make assessment more meaningful to my students and their learning process in an effort to make assessment really feel like it’s a part of their learning and not just something that is done to them.
Earlier this school year, I observed as my Algebra 1 students took their Chapter 3 Test. I had been emphasizing the communication aspect of assessments. I let the students know that to get a 4 on a problem I had to understand their thinking clearly. I’ve mostly focused on my Algebra 1 classes, but also my Geometry classes, and I have noticed that I’m getting a lot more writing on tests. Even if the problem doesn’t say to explain, students wrote me a paragraph explaining their thinking, which I haven’t seen in the past several years of teaching. Not every student is doing that, of course. But it’s really refreshing and awesome that I feel like I see a mindset shift overall when it comes to showing work on assessments.
Since this initial observation, I notice that my students are continuing to show a mindset shift when it comes to connecting what they wrote on the test to the score that they got. I have very few, if any, arguments with students about scores on assessments compared to past years. I feel like in the past, with every test I had at least a few students argue with me about a score saying, “You knew what I meant,” or “Come on, it’s obvious!” They tried to change my mind rather than accept that it’s their responsibility to really show me what they know when it comes to an assessment. If anything, this year I seem to get questions like, “How could I show my work on this?” or “Do you know what I mean if I write this?” which is much more fun and productive to respond to.
Spring semester just started and I plan to continue to find ways to have students assess their progress, understanding, and skills. I’m hoping to do this through a virtual portfolio paired with reflections, but I’m still deciding what that will look like exactly. Getting students to slow down enough to really think about their learning is definitely a challenge, but I feel that it is worthwhile.