"If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn." -Ignacio Estrada

I believe that one of the most important parts of teaching having the skills to assess what your children know before a a lesson, moderate their progress during the lesson, judge what they've learned at the end of a lesson, distinguish what they've mastered versus what needs to be reviewed or retaught in a future lesson.


At the beginning of most of my lessons, I use an informal method of pre-assessing my students to see how much they know about the content that will be addressed in the lesson. I normally use an anticipatory set or hook to get students interested in the lesson and then ask prompting questions to solicit background information. This sharing of background information and previous knowledge helps to establish an equal foundation for the entire class, so that everyone has equal footing going into the lesson. To differentiate for students who are shy and reticent to participate in class orally, I will often have students write down what they know about a topic on paper and will add it to a comprehensive list on the board. This is an informal way for students to contribute what they know and give the entire class a background on the content that we will be covering. It is important to go through the list and make distinctions between what is correct and true versus what is incorrect or a misconception. While I often do informal pre-assessments like this on the board orally, I sometimes have students do it individually on paper. For example, before our Phases of the Moon Lesson, I had students write down as moon differently shaped "moons" that they could remember seeing in the sky. I told them that their challenge was to find eight. If students could not find all eight, they were genuinely curious to discover which they had forgotten about, so they were attentive and ready for the lesson to begin.

There are also formal ways to pre-assess exactly what students know about a topic before they have had formal instruction in a lesson. As part of a School Improvement Plan at Waller-Mill Elementary, two student teachers and I taught a lesson on the Electoral College and gave students a formal pre-assessment to establish what they knew about the topic. This was an easy way to know what to emphasize during the lesson, and to be sure to identify and correct any misconceptions that the students possessed in regard to the topic. Before the lesson, we gave students a Pre-Assessment in order to understand how familiar they were with the subject. Only 3 out of 24 students answered the question correctly.

Formative Assessment:

I use some type of formative assessment in every single one of my lessons. I believe that it is a requirement and responsibility of a teacher to have constant "with-it-ness" or awareness of the progress of student learning. Formative assessment can be informal. Certain times it takes a written form. For example, during a Photosynthesis and Dormancy lesson, I had students record their observations about the similarities and differences between a healthy green leaf, a red or yellow leaf that had lost its chlorophyll, and a dormant, brown leaf. I wanted to formatively assess to see if students had observed and understood the differences between living and dormant leaves. If students had observed the similarities and differences, the teacher would know that they were ready for the next part of the lesson, which would be an explanation of what was happening to leaves during the Fall and Winter seasons. Students would be introduced to vocabulary words to match the leaves that they were observing.
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An example of formative assessment. Students were instructed to make initial observations so that teacher could formatively assess whether they had observed the similarities and differences between alive leaves with chlorophyll and dormant leaves

Other examples of formative assessment that I value are oral assessments, whether it is student participation in class, or conversations during group work. I believe that one of the greatest benefits of partner work and small, collaborative group work is hearing students justify their answers to one another out loud. As a teacher walks around the room, it is easy to gauge which students are understanding the material and are comfortable vocalizing their answers, and which students are passive, look confused, and need extra support. I believe that students collaborating together can help them to understand a topic. If a peer understands it, then the subject becomes less daunting, and students know that they have the ability to understand it as well without being intimidated.

Summative Assessment and Post-Assessment Data:

Summative Homework Assignments:

Every unit, and even lesson, should have a summative assessment in order to see which Intended Learning Outcomes have been overwhelmingly mastered and which still need extra instruction and attention. I try to vary my summative assessments, so that they do not become boring or cater to only one style of learning. For Reading and Language Arts summative assessments, I normally assign students a journal response twice per week, relating to a topic that we have discussed in class. I ensure that the question prompts directly relate to the content that students have discussed in class but also allow for individual creativity and freedom for students to express the knowledge that they have accrued in their own way and connect and relate it to their own experiences. For example, the question that I asked when we discussed the role of the fairy godmother was: "What is the role of the fairy godmother and why is she important to the overall Fantasy story? If you were a hero in a Fantasy story, who would your fairy godperson be, and what three wishes would he or she grant you?" Another example was for our personification lesson, I directed students to: "Choose your favorite toy. If it could come to life, what kind of personality would it have, and what would it say to you?" Students really enjoyed writing this response because they could use their imaginations and relate their assignment to something that they personally enjoyed and had meaning to them.

Summative Classwork:
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This was a five minute summative assessment taken in class that showed students' mastery of the Science Vocabulary learned in the lesson that day.

Other ways that I gauge what students have learned is to have a short summative assessment in class at the end of the lesson. Time efficient, (usually taking about five to seven minutes,) this is a great way for students to condense and solidify the important concepts that they have learned , and for me to collect data to see what they have mastered and what they need review on. This also gives me a source of individual progress of students. If I feel that a student has not been paying attention in class or needs extra support, I can create a separate study group of students who need extra support outside of class on the material.
Another type of summative assessment that I have used in class is a team quiz. During my individual Election and Electoral College lesson that I taught during my practicum, I told students at the beginning that they would be responsible for taking a group quiz at the end of class, and that the group with the highest score would get a prize. This motivated students to take notes during class and prepare. Students were given time to consolidate their notes and then took a review quiz that I collected at the end of class. They were able to work together condense and consolidate what they knew, and I had a frame of reference to distinguish which Intended Learning Outcomes that they knew and which they needed more review with.

Another important part of summative assessment is to give students an end of unit test. Knowing when this assessment will be gives students time over the course of the unit to prepare and motivates them to master as much of the Intended Learning Outcomes as they can before a given date. This end date helps with time efficiency to pace during the year and allot enough time for each unit. Electoral College Quiz.jpg
Post-Assessment Data:

During a very valuable Assessment of Learning class before I began full-time student teaching, I learned how to practice Unpacking the Standard and identify Intended Learning Outcomes. I learned how to create a Table of Specifications where I ensured that each of the Intended Learning Outcomes were properly sampled. Through a Test Assignment Creation Project, I
developed an an original assessment with an answer key with both select-response and supply-response items that I distributed to my students. I also analyzed student data to assess which Intended Learning Outcomes my students had mastered and which I needed to review with my students. I even differentiated data through analysis by comparing the mean scores by gender and special education students. Analyzing student results helped inform my planning for instruction during student teaching. I ensured that I reviewed Intended ILOs with my class that they had performed poorly on, in order to ensure that they had a well-rounded understanding of the SOL that I was trying to teach.

Just as I had given a pre-assessment to the students at Waller-Mill, at the end of the Electoral College lesson that I co-taught, we gave a post-assessment, and analyzed how many more students understood the content that we had taught. Click here to see our consolidated pre- and post-assessment data and after the lesson. I gave a similar post-assessment to my class at Matoaka, but adapted into a larger lesson on both the Electoral College and the Election process. Click here to see the post-assessment that I gave my class.

Another way that I have used post-assessment data to influence my planning of lessons is by using data from the SOL results of previous years for my specific class. This was especially helpful for Reading and Language Arts instruction. I noticed that students performed poorly on sequencing and summarizing in my specific class, so I made sure to create lessons during small group reading instruction that focused on these specific reading strategies. Again, this is a way to target specific skills and intended learning outcomes in an individualized way.
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After seeing a Table of Specifications from the previous year's SOL results, I realized that the majority of students in my homeroom class were having difficulty with sequencing the events in a story. During small group instruction, I had students work in groups where their challenge was to place index cards with main events from their book in proper order.

Assessing Yourself as a Teacher:

One of the important ways for a teacher to analyze assessment results effectively is to reflect on which Intende Learning Outcomes students are comfortable with and which students are having difficult understanding. One way to ensure that students master the more difficult Intended Learning Outcomes is to reflect on student data and to reflect on teaching of the material. As a teacher, it is important to ask yourself questions. Questions that I often ask myself after a lesson or when assessing student performance is: Did I sample all Intended Learning Outcomes? Did I model instruction in an effective way? Did I carry out all important parts of a procedure? Did I differentiate instruction? and Did I allow for enough wait time to allow students to ask specific questions? Also, the key question that I always ask myself to prepare for future lessons is: What went well, what would I keep the same for future instruction, and what would I change, and improve for future instruction? I think that teaching is a process, and it is important to assess yourself!


Again, one of the most important parts of assessment is to assess your own effectiveness as a teacher. Below is a written reflection of what I learned from my Test Creation Assignment. Here I discussed the importance of validity and reliability, and understanding that while I cannot control random error, I can do my best to avoid systemic error to promote equal opportunity on assessments. Please take a look at my reflection:

This assignment was an exercise in understanding what constitutes a valid, reliable test. I learned how to focus on the Essential Skills and Knowledge and align the ILOs with Bloom's Taxonomy Cognitive levels in order to create test questions that assessed both the correct content and cognitive level. This assessment was extremely helpful in creating an awareness of validity and reliability. I learned to look for the four facets of validity--construct or face validity, (ensuring that the assessment measures what it purports to measure), content validity, adequately sampling the intended learning outcomes, standards, and objectives of an instructional unit. In order to foster content validity, the Table of Specifications was extremely helpful in accounting for each of the learning objectives as well as ensure that the ILOs that I wanted to emphasize had three or more questions. Learning how to do a Table of Specifications was helpful in establishing predictive validity in that making sure that the same amount ILOs are on both tests. Finally, I learned that Consequential Validity is as important as the other three types of validity. The appropriateness of the ILOs for the student is very important to take into account when creating an assessment. Student motivation and attitudes need to be taken to account and a teacher must have the overall goal of ensuring their well-being when creating assessments.

This assignment was also an exercise in promoting reliability. I learned how to reduce systematic error and how to accommodate as many students in my classroom in a least restricted environment as possible. For example, I learned how to avoid culturally based language that would give certain students unfair advantages and confuse others. I also learned how to create questions that were at a developmentally appropriate reading level and had sufficient and clear directions. I learned how to use an appropriate assessment layout (with same style questions together and increasing cognitive level as one went up.) I also learned how to develop a rubric to help fairly assess supply response items.

The assignment demonstrates William and Mary's competency #16, which focuses on creating and selecting appropriate assessments for learning. This assessment will be one of four formal assessments for the unit, but this project also helped me think about formative assessments that I will give throughout the semester when soliciting class participation and responses to homework assignments. In accordance with this competency, the creation project helps identify how to use oral, nonverbal, and written forms of performance assessment. One of the most helpful parts of the assignment was becoming competent in selecting assessment techniques that provide a reliable representation of student learning. With certain supply response questions that target and can be generalized to any book of various reading levels, the assessment accounts for students of various instructional ranges and levels.

Most importantly, this assessment clarifies expectations for student learning, and with a targeted Table of Specifications, a teacher can specifically target questions that students both excelled and at missed, so that student can go back and receive instruction for the content with which they need to improve. The most helpful part of this assessment project was to diagnose student learning and needs in a very targeted and specific way.