Friday, September 2, 2011

Differentiated Assessment

I have had a great enlightening summer and would like to start things off with a bang!  Differentiated Instruction (DI) and Differentiated Assessment (DA).

Most teachers speak of DI as a common practice in their class and truly teach to the needs of EVERY student.  However, some teachers require these same students to jump through a common hoop of assessment.  This assessment can take forms of unit exam, a worksheet, a quiz, or any assignment which is the same for ALL. 

If we speak of DI so commonly, where is DA?

Rick Wormelli in Fair Isn't Always Equal: Assessing and Grading in the Differentiated Classroom states that "Assessment informs practice, and we take action".

DI MUST lead to DA in a classroom!  In a truly differentiated class, students can work towards learning outcomes at different paces, using different strategies, and mastering outcomes in different order.  As a result, teachers will need to assess these strategies differently and accommodate the assortment of learning styles while still measuring the learning outcomes.  Assessment and instruction does not have to be different but can occur simultaneously and appear different for each individual student. 

Alberta Education states, "The goal is not to have an individualized assessment plan for each student, but to have a manageable class assessment plan that is flexible enough to accommodate a range of student needs."

Some say assessment OF learning has to be common (or standardized).  Here are some examples of how we can have DA in assessment OF learning. (From Alberta Education)

Assessment of learning (sometimes called summative assessment) is the process of collecting and interpreting information to judge student achievement against predetermined criteria for the purposes of grading and reporting. Assessment of learning occurs at benchmark points in learning, such as the end of a unit or chunk
of learning. Consider the following examples of differentiating assessment of learning.
• Some students in a class choose to demonstrate their learning by writing a report, while others choose to create a poster, and still others choose an oral presentation.
• A teacher provides text-to-speech software and a digital version of the test to a student who has significant difficulty reading the questions in a social studies test.
• A teacher discards some marks collected early in the semester for a student

It can be done, and some our already doing it.  Assessment should not be a democratic process but an individual process.  Nor should assessment be done TO students, but actually WITH students.  Always remember you are not teaching statistics, data points, trends, or even groups, but actually living students with heartbeats, emotions, interests, and passions.

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