As term one approaches its end and I meet daily with students and parents to review their progress and generate report cards, I am plagued with an uncomfortable feeling associated with the “power” of assessment.  I have stated clearly to my families that, together, we are generating the report card, and for the first time we will not be assigning grades.  Comments are generated based on work samples, observation and interviews and progress (or lack thereof) is noted.  Coming from a special ed background where I have always used a performance scale (NYM, AP, MM, M, EX) to compare students progress towards individualized goals, I find the process adequate and fitting for where each individual student is at.  The marks that were sometimes generated “out of thin air” in the past were arbitrary and irrelevant because they did not help move students forward. Now, I can be specific about the behaviours that show effort and work that shows progress and can offer critical feedback about what needs to change to improve both.   Without criteria, or standards of achievement, it is near impossible to determine the “grade”, though criteria and expectations still need to be generated and known for growth and development.  If students are working individually on their goals, as is in our blended learning environment, knowing expectations and learning then it just makes sense to monitor progress, and report out with comments.

Formative assessment is critical however, as students move towards achieving learning goals.  Without feedback, it is impossible to know if you are on the right track and if you are making progress.  As I have progressed through this course, I have very much appreciated the feedback from Mary and have hopefully improved my work with her guidance.  As I spent the weekend working towards completing the final project, I was consumed with the responsibility (and feelings of lack of ability) of figuring out how I was going to assess my unit work.  I have not had much experience creating units from scratch and have found the responsibility of assessment – trying to create lessons that are worthwhile and meaningful, look at establishing clear criteria, and then eventually being tasked with assessment, to be a big one.  Authentic assessment is important.  Clear guidance along the learning path is crucial.  I often wonder what makes me “the expert”, and if the way I assess is adequate.  Using the new curriculum in BC as a guide, I am relieved to see ideas reflected in the work I am asking my students to do.  Now I need to figure out how to assess it properly.

As I continue to struggle with the concept of authentic assessment, I look to the work of my colleagues, and examples of assessment around me.  I appreciate the support I receive from families in the workplace who value my feedback, and are grateful that we are not assigning “marks” this year.  I believe in honesty, hard work and commitment to learning and know that when my students display this they move forward.  My work on my final project continues today, and I hope that as I continue to struggle with parts of the assignment, my perseverance, inquiry and hard work will also show my learning path in the end.  I look forward to my own summative assessment feedback and know it will help me progress as an online teacher/learner.

3 Comments on In the Moment – My Take on Assessment

  1. ducheckd16 says:

    Hi Nicole,

    What does (NYM, AP, MM, M, EX) stand for? In Special Ed you said you compared students progress towards individualized goals? Does that mean two students could receive similar high evaluations eventhough the quality differs from both assignments? Most Improved?


    • Nic says:

      Hi Delano,

      Not yet meeting, approaching, minimally meeting, meeting and exceeding – scale used to assess progress towards individualized goals. Students set goals based on learning needs and criteria is set in the goal. For example: Ciara will be reading at PM Benchmark 8 by June, 2017. As we evaluate the goal each reporting period we note on the scale where she’s at and provide loads of feedback about how it’s going. Formative in nature for sure. Theoretically, two students working on different programs could easily get the same “exceeding” feedback if indeed that’s how they are doing compared to their goal. Hope that makes sense!


  2. Mary says:

    Nicole, your example of the varying objective accomplishments versus “marks” is really interesting. I work in a somewhat similar situation — a writing course where the expectation is that people’s writing will improve, but where there is no single standard and the amounts of improvement vary. It’s fascinating to work in these fields I find — it seems to value the learner more than the content, which I think is appropriate in a lot of settings.

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