Wisdom Begins with Wonder

The assessment role of the teacher

"The assessment role of the teacher is to know the child, holistically as possible – socially, emotionally, cognitively, even the general health and well being of the child."

(Sandra M. Stokes, WRSA Journal Vol. 45 No. 3, 2005)


3 comments ↓

  • #   Dez on 07.19.11 at 8:11 am     

    I generally like the writing that comes out of this blog, but I had to speak up about that quote.

    I don’t agree.

    Taking into account the social, emotional, or medical health of a child during assessment leads to score pollution and it actually unethical.

    It -is- important for teaching, and therefore formative assessment specifically, to keep these things in mind. But I feel like the role of assessment is less to “know” the child, than to provide them the tools they need to learn based on the feedback you receive from them.

    It is a dangerous thing to assume one “knows” a student. It leads to assumptions about them, their knowledge, their character… For example, if you think you know that one child is a “good student” who is having a “bad day” you may grade them based on the assumption that they know something, rather than looking for evidence of the fact. Likewise, an ambiguous answer from a “bad student” would be marked more negatively because you “know” they wouldn’t know the answer. This is harmful to their grade, but more importantly–their learning.

    Everyone labels students, because it is human to do so. The trick is to do everything possible to ignore the boxes we put students into. To that effect, assessment should never reflect what we think we ‘know’ about them, because that is simply the reflection of our own feelings.

    Do no harm.


  • #   Mr. Rice on 07.19.11 at 1:54 pm     

    Dez,

    I want to draw an important distinction – at least in my opinion – between assessment and evaluation:

    Evaluation = measuring a student’s learning or work quality for the purposes of reporting (of course, you could also call this summative assessment)

    Assessment = getting to know a student’s strengths and weaknesses as well as possible to provide em with feedback and to inform future instruction

    While I agree that you don’t want to let other factors bias your evaluation, that shouldn’t prevent us from getting to know our students as well as we can in the time we have with them.

    Shouldn’t I know that Suzy has really bad allergies that are at times a barrier to her learning – or even to her attendance?

    Shouldn’t I know that Jose doesn’t finish his homework because his parents work nights and he is responsible for 4 young siblings every night?

    These are obviously simplistic examples and yet I’ve encountered both of them in my classroom more than once each.

    If I don’t know these things, must I simply assume that these kids are incapable?

    I’d also like to challenge your term “score pollution.” are you saying that treating students as humans invalidates their grades? Because I would argue exactly the opposite. Scores without context are really quite worthless to me.

    Please feel free to disagree with me. I get far to little of it here – and I know I’m not always right!


  • #   Dez on 07.19.11 at 2:10 pm     

    I see your point, and yet I think this is the point where emotion and professionalism collide and we all draw our battle lines.

    I favor the product-only grade system. Throw out homework and attendance and “playing school” as part of the evaluation because contextual factors make the point moot. Allow for re-tests as knowledge increases.

    I think I just favor a cleaner, scientific approach.

    Ultimately it’s all our different approaches together that make it work, I just wanted to place great caution on that quote. It’s so very easy to fall into labeling traps… labels that can even be passed teacher to teacher and grade to grade. It would be so easy to turn this quote into a “+10 points for flu, -10 points for lack of trying” situation.

    Perhaps the quote just needs context?

    :)


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