Thoughts on Student Assessment


Will this assessment help me to identify student’s needs as learners? Will it help me to guide next steps?  These questions swirl around my brain.  See that determined orange tabby climbing higher to to new levels?  That’s what I want for my students.

Recently this phrase, caught my attention, actionable feedback. Feedback kids know they must act upon, as apposed to feedback that sounds like advice or a mere suggestion. Actionable feedback gives a clear message about the next step or goal.  An example might be asking a student to revise a piece of writing by adding lively action words. It could also be just the right question to push a student’s thinking forward. How will I do this? Specifically identify what was done well, then drive the learning forward with a clear next step or insightful question. This requires mindfulness on my part as I guide students to next steps.

 What about exemplars and rubrics? We have all used exemplars when assessing student work. I have to admit that I sometimes look at a piece of student writing and compare it to exemplars at each level.  Hmmm… is it most like the limited, adequate, proficient or excellent example? I use the exemplars to determine the achievement level.  Now turn this thinking around, the exemplars also clarify the rubric when I assess student work. For example what does ‘descriptive language is simple‘ really mean?  Looking at an exemplar to see how ‘descriptive language is simple‘, is demonstrated, gives me better idea of what that descriptor on the rubric means.  An exemplar should make the meaning of each descriptor on the rubric clear to me and reveal the next step for actionable feedback.

Imagine what this would be like for a student.  How does a rubric and exemplar help a student to self assess? For a student, what does ‘descriptive language is simple’ really mean?  Maybe nothing at all! Exemplars can make next steps clearer for students too; by helping them see what their learning looks like and what is missing in order to move it forward. When a student says my work is like the ‘3’ exemplar, I can ask them why it is not like the’4′ exemplar; this may prompt them to identify a next step and they will be on their way. Actionable feedback once again.

It is about helping students internalize this reflective and iterative process.