Beginning With the End in Mind

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As a student, and active learner, I know I have always struggled to overcome the fear – and even anxiety – that comes along with any assignment, quiz, or project. I would always hesitantly hand my assignments or exams in, and upon receiving the handed in work, I became even more nervous to find the grade attached at the end. We grew up extremely mark-driven, and I can honestly say that even if there was any form of constructive feedback, I would not have remembered it, simply because I would never have looked at the feedback given. In class, when we were handed out the diagram and asked to fill it in based on our readings of a few of the chapters from Anne Davies “Making Classroom Assessment Work”, I knew I had read and understood the chapters, and I also understood that the assignment was not for marks, but more to see what the students knew – in other words, it was a form of diagnostic assessment. Still, the anxiety came back, and I struggled to recall what I had read, words started to mix together, and my thoughts began to be unclear and jumbled together. It seems crazy to think that in a matter of a few minutes, I went from being “normal” into a state of panic as soon as I was asked to complete something for assessment.

In chapter 3, Davies talks about creating a clear link, or destination as she would say, towards what the students should be learning. When looking at the curriculum, it is assumed that all students in the classroom at a High School level are starting at the same place, with the same (or similar) knowledge, and all learn the same way at the same pace. We know this is not true, but from a curriculum standpoint, it is, or should be, true. As teachers we know this is not the case. As Davies pointed out, “teachers find out what students already know, can do, and can articulate, and then they teach”, which basically says that we need to find a multitude of ways to reach our students and meet their ever-increasing needs. It also goes on to say that we need to have a comprehensive understanding of our subject to help students learn. Even though I do agree to the said statements above to a point, I cannot help but to also think that this seems extremely theoretical, and almost impractical – especially as a new teacher. Not to mention, being a Health major in a secondary setting, there really are no options available for myself. Therefor, stating that a teacher needs to have a comprehensive understanding of their subject matter before teaching the students, although is true, I think would be a lot to ask as a new teacher, who even though might have majored in Health, or English, to end up teaching a subject outside of their comfort zone. 

I think it is important to be honest with students, especially when it comes to assessment. Diagnostic assessment can most definitely be effective if used properly. This website demonstrates several different types of Diagnostic assessment, which during our class discussions, we seemed to use a lot as a good frame of reference. Along with the website, there are several other PowerPoint’s with information regarding assessment in general. As a (be)coming teacher, I think it will really help to understand both the positive and negative sides of each type of assessment used, as some individuals will love exams, while others may love to perform. In the classroom, it is extremely important to explore, and let students have the opportunity to choose, their own “final projects” or assessments in terms of assignments.

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One response »

  1. You make some great points here! As someone who fortunately never had to experience anxiety with most assessments it is interesting to hear that perspective. I can definitely understand why many students feel anxiety and I agree that our society has become way too mark driven. It is not good that we focus on extrinsic motivation so much because it casts a shadow on what is really important, the growth, learning, and achievement of the student. I think a good way to get students to understand and value constructive feedback would be to hand this back to the students first. Then after students have had time to process this (could be 10 minutes, could be a day) we could give them their actually mark back.

    In regards to helping students progress through classes, especially classes a teacher is instructing that is out of their expertise, I think it is imperative to rely on peers for support. Contacting a friend or colleague in the subject area could be a great way to obtain help with understanding the curriculum, assessment ideas, learning activities and many other things. In Chapter 3 of Making Classroom Assessment Work, Davies states “Choose one subject area or one unit of study for a focus. Summarize the outcomes or goals in simple, clear language that corresponds to how the learning needs to be reported later” (p.27). This could be something a colleague could help with, and would go a long way towards helping students achieve learning outcomes.

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