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Dimensions of Inquiry: Assessment

   Galileo Educational Network    November 17, 2016    Dimensions of Inquiry and Focus On Inquiry Research Series

One of the most powerful influences on student learning is quality formative assessment. This means students are provided with timely, specific feedback and feed forward while learning takes place, supporting the students learning, helping teachers identify learning gaps and informing the next steps for both students and teachers.

Formative assessment must be thoughtfully planned and effectively woven into task design, activities and day-to-day teaching. Everyone has a role to play – teachers, students, peers and adults outside the classroom all participate in the assessment process. Teachers need to use the day-to-day assessment embedded in their instruction to ensure that their instruction is directed at closing the gap between the outcome that is to be achieved by the student and the student’s present understanding.

It is sometimes difficult for teachers to understand how formative assessment strategies might look in their own practice.  We have captured the five formative assessment strategies within classroom settings with teachers who have opened their practice to us.  We thank those teachers and students who provided us with a glimpse into the ways that formative assessment is lived out in action.

See Chapter 3 of the Focus on Inquiry resource for more on this.

To determine whether effective formative assessment practices are embedded into the learning process, Galileo researchers worked with teachers during professional learning sessions and observed and analyzed class activity. They assigned ratings to determine the degree to which Wiliam’s (2011) five key strategies of formative assessment were used. The five strategies, and the questions, posed by participating teachers so they could reflect and assess their own work, are summarized below. See the full analysis and rubric on Pg.44 of the Focus on Inquiry report. Also see Chapter 3 of Focus on Inquiry: Assessment Within Discipline-based Inquiry.

Strategy 1: Clarifying learning intentions and criteria for success:

  • Are there ways assessment criteria could more closely reflect real-world standards?
  • How might you (as a teacher) involve students in establishing assessment criteria? Can students agree on a set of standards to help analyze their own work throughout the process?

Strategy 2: Planning discussions, activities and tasks that produce quality evidence of learning:

  • How can you tailor classroom discussions to elicit ongoing evidence of students’ growing understanding and competencies? What is your role as you involve students in gathering evidence and proof of their learning – and what do those artifacts of student learning look like?

Strategy 3: Providing feedback that moves learning forward:

  • How might you provide feedback that causes students to think and to help them identify their own next steps? What questions might you ask to get a student thinking and how will you respond to student understanding and misunderstanding?
  • How might you scaffold and adjust learning to meet the emergent needs of students? –What artifacts must be gathered to show the progression of student learning?

Strategy 4: Activating learners as instructional resources for each other:

  • How can teachers involve students in peer feedback and get them to track their progress as they become resources for one another?
  • What type of evidence could be gathered from peer feedback to demonstrate the progression of student learning?

Strategy 5: Activating learners to gain insight into their own learning:

  • How might students reflect on their learning to identify their next steps, and also explore their ideas as well as the process in getting there? To encourage this process, what type of questions need to be asked?