Imagine a learning experience that is designed so effectively that what the student learns is powered by how the learner is being assessed. Shared assessment practices are established when learners play a role in understanding, planning, and demonstrating evidence of their own learning. When educators adopt assessment practices that allow the learners to play an active role in the design, the assessment process becomes more relevant to the student, and helps them connect their classroom learning to life outside of school.
Assessing the learner, as well as the learning
In an attempt to re-balance the system, the adoption of certain assessment practices and approaches creates a system that can develop and measure the skills that the future requires, while also capturing traditional learning proficiencies. To begin measuring what matters, we need to intentionally invest in developing personal success skills, along with the capacity and inclination of the learner to be a learner for life. Intentionally developing students’ learnability prepares them for the world outside the classroom walls. When we shift the learner’s role, and support their skill development in the areas of self-assessment, resource curation, and presenting evidence of learning, we move to a system that assesses more than just content. This system invests in the learner as intentionally as the learning, and allows for the development of learner skills.
Co-designing alternative means of assessment
A teacher who designs a learning environment that shifts the role of the learner to a co-designer allows for customized learning paths and opens the doors to multiple means of assessments throughout the learning process. Creating dialogue around a learner’s personal goals and progress towards proficiency throughout the learning process helps them understand the importance of checkpoints and the collection of artifacts to demonstrate proficiency. This also allows learners to see how their efforts are generating progress.
In order for learners to be successful as co-designers of assessment, the educator needs to move into the role of a learning coach, relinquishing some of the overarching control in order to allow student voices to be heard. The fear of the unknown can be terrifying, especially in terms of assessment, but it is necessary if we want every learner to have the capacity and drive to learn for life. Putting that trust in learners shows them that we, as educators, acknowledge that they are capable. Imagine asking just one simple question to a group of learners: “How will you show what you have learned?” Such a question can promote a variety of responses, depending on the individual’s view of learning. Learners need to have the autonomy to consider that end result and the ability to bring aspects of their learner profile into the decision making.
When educators are clear about what the students need to learn, and when students understand the competency, or standard, they are working towards and why it is relevant, they move from wanting to get a “good grade” to true learning through proficiency based progress. They can then work backwards to break down what they need to know and how they will learn this information. Co-designing this learning and assessment process builds learner agency and leads to greater motivation and independence.
What matters most
Intentionally repositioning the learner in the assessment process is part of a comprehensive effort to develop an entirely learner centered system. Assessments can be used as an overall approach to nurture a powerful learner as part of a systemic personalized learning effort. Ultimately, we want learners to work in partnership with the educator as they strive toward demonstration of mastery. In a world where learning is the new currency, we must help learners see assessment not as the final chapter, but rather as a crucial step on their learning journey. Because the learner, and their journey, are what matter.