Assessment as Evidence of Learning

Twas the night before the assessment when out on the porch
Blake and Susan were prepping, each with a different approach.
One assessment was crafted by the teacher with care,
With hope that the students would show up prepared.  

The children were talking about how much they’ve learned,
With visions of proficiency showing what they earned.
And mama with a reminder to do their best,
Had just shouted out “What’s on this test?”

When out of the chair Sue arose with a file,
She said “I have lots of evidence – a rather large pile!”
Her learning revealed via artifacts in a stack,
Repeatedly improved via formative feedback.

The tone in Blake’s voice had changed to a groan,
His test the next day would be given, not owned.
When what’s on the test is vague and not known,
His concern was that it would not show how he’s grown.

He reviewed his notes, he studied and read,
And hoped all the info would stay in his head.
Susan thought of next steps and proficiencies she was earning
And enjoyed the assessment as evidence of learning.

No true, no false, no multiple choice,
For assessments designed with learner voice.
To learners, assessments should always have relevance,
And allow them to own and share their evidence!

Assessment in a Personalized Learning Environment
Educators in classrooms, across grade levels, are constantly looking for ways to prove the success of their students. To determine what their students know, teachers typically interrupt the learning process to administer an end of unit assessment and provide feedback in the form of a letter grade before moving on. However, does doing well on the test truly mean that learning has occurred? Most would argue against that notion, knowing we have all crammed for an exam only to forget the content shortly thereafter.

The take on the classic poem above depicts the spectrum that exists in the world of assessment today –  from completing educator-driven summative options, to a world where the learner co-designs assessment opportunities with the teacher. The story of these two learners, and their different assessment experiences, is a story about how the learners show what they know.

Imagine educators looking for ways to assess learners in a meaningful way. Imagine a balanced system of assessment, used throughout the learning process and offered through varied means such as performance, application, demonstration and student interaction. Imagine moving beyond the quantitative data, and looking for ways to study, analyze, and document throughout the learning process. Imagine a student having greater and greater control and ownership of their learning path, including determination of proficiency. Looking at assessment as evidence of learning allows educators to assess learners in meaningful ways, drawing attention to the deeper understanding, not just the end game.

Assessment activities in the Honeycomb Model play a variety of roles. A balanced system of assessment is used throughout the learning process and determines mastery of the concept and next steps in the learning path.

Assessments for Learning (formative assessments) occur – formally and informally –  throughout the learning cycle. The results let educators and learners know what progress has been made, what next steps are appropriate, and/or whether it is time for a more formal summative checkpoint. Teachers often have a variety of formative assessment options, but must be deliberate and draw attention to the understanding taking place in order to use the information to drive future instruction and learning.

Assessments as Learning are those assessments that double as learning experiences and evidence of learning–these are usually classroom activities of some sort. These assessments often are formative but could also be seen as summative.

Assessments of Learning (summative assessments) are formal assessment opportunities that typically occur at the end of the learning cycle. Assessments are passed back and feedback is provided by the educator, at time when it may be too late to intervene. In a personalized learning environment however, there really should be no doubt as to the outcome of a summative assessment, if educators have used assessments for learning and as learning along the way.

Teachers have traditionally relied on assessment of learning to measure student understanding. Assessment for learning and as learning opportunities need to become an integral part of the classroom experience as well. These artifacts, with the necessary rapid cycle feedback, provide learners with the data needed to move forward. To truly check for student understanding, educators need to plan for opportunities to do this during the lesson or learning cycle. This information should not be used as a grade in the gradebook, but rather to guide learning and drive future instruction. Here are a few quick ways to check for student understanding:

  • Hand Signals 
    • A simple “5, 4, 3, 2, 1” finger test can be used to self-assess and rate students’ understanding of the material.
  • 3-2-1
    To reflect on and process the information learned, students can respond to the following prompt:
    Jot down

    • 3 things you learned
    • 2 questions you have
    • 1 connection you can make to other learning
  • Think-Pair-Share
    • The teacher poses a question to the group. Students have a few moments to think and generate an answer, before sharing their knowledge and insight with a partner and then the whole group.
  • Exit/Entrance Tickets
    • A quick exit ticket out the door can check for immediate understanding of the day’s lesson. This formative check-in can then be used to group students based on their readiness level and comfortability with the topic.
    • Entrance tickets could also be used at the beginning of a lesson to determine if a mini lesson/instruction is necessary for the learner.
  • Evidence Bulletin Board
    • Create a purposeful bulletin board within your learning environment where students can easily post the evidence of their learning. Learners could use something as informal as Post-Its or concept maps to share their thinking and learning.
  • Socratic Seminars
    • Socratic seminars help deepen student understanding through a formal discussion around a given topic, idea, and/or text. The open dialogue between students is around a series of questions or topics, generated by the learners. This student-led seminar work must be planned for, taught and modeled to learners to ensure success. The teacher’s role should be one of an active listener, not using the time to insert one’s opinion or redirection. Evidence of student learning can occur when educators watch student interactions and listen in on the conversations.
  • Clarification, Please
    • Provide a list of vocabulary words or big ideas for discussion. Students can review the list and select 1-3 ideas that need clarification from their perspective. Students partner up to share those ideas with others before the teacher calls on one student to pose a clarifying idea. At that time, teachers and students offer clarity to the topic, offer differing opinions, and review terms/concepts.
  • Be the Decision Maker
    • Provide students with an opportunity to be the decision maker. Put forth a problem learners need to solve or work through. Better yet, let them generate the problem! Then allow them time to develop a plan of action based on what they have learned and bring forth the material when they feel they are ready to demonstrate their learning.

The element Assessment as Evidence of Learning is based on a number of critical ideas. Each idea is foundational to personalized learning. Our ultimate goal should be student learning and understanding, not just teaching.