What about assessments?!

After reading Janet S. Allen’s “Potato Barrels, Animal Traps, Birth Control, and Unicorns,” I have been really considering how teachers set up their lesson plans for their classrooms.

In almost all of my education courses, the teachers try to pound into our heads that we must learn the standards in order to apply them to our lesson plans. We must know how to asses our students to measure their learning. Assessment, assessment, assessment, assessment. Standards, standards, standards, standards.

Quite frankly, it is driving me bananas.

The English classroom is not the same as a math classroom or a science classroom,. You can’t measure a students learning with assessment (It is hard to believe that is how it works there either, but I don’t know). We can have lesson after lesson after lesson about grammar and linguistics, but worksheets and assessments are not the way to teach them or to measure their learning. Having the kids actually write and apply grammar and punctuation to their own writing is the best way to get them to learn. Teaching them how to do something without giving them the chance to apply the lesson is completely pointless. We drill it into their head, they take the test, and then they forget.

“We need you to take an AR test to prove that you read the book.” – This statement drives me insane. More assessments to measure learning. Why can’t we give students the opportunity to think of a way to prove they read the book themselves. Why can’t students have freedom to decide how they want to portray what they learned form the book instead of making them take a test.

It amazes me that so many teachers are stuck in this belief that we have to give tests to measure learning and that is the only way. The best way to get students involved in their learning is to get them engaged. Give them freedom over what they read. Give them freedom on what they write. If they are interested in what they are reading and writing, that is when learning happens.


4 thoughts on “What about assessments?!

  1. An unassessment! Love it! We really do need to know if, what, and how our students are learning because that’s the only way we can refine and improve our teaching, but all too often, assessments don’t tell us what we need to know. One of the problems, for me, in the way education currently conceives of assessment is that it’s totally teacher-driven. The teacher decides what students need to learn and how they’re going to learn it, and then they decide how students will show they’ve learned it. I so prefer reflections as assessments–any kind of assignment that allows students freedom to explain to me what they’ve learned and how they know they’ve learned it. It’s very important to me that my students are learning, but I don’t know why I would assume that I am necessarily the best judge of what they need to learn and how they’re going to learn it. If I’m serious about students taking responsibility for their learning (and we pay a lot of lip service to that in education too), why wouldn’t I shift the responsibility for showing what they’ve learned to my students?


  2. That’s the sad fact about education. It’s not about what you’ve learned, it’s about what your final grade. That’s why cheating exists. It’s hard to escape data: averages, means, medians, standard deviations, ranges, etc. Everyone can agree on quantitative data. Qualitative data is subject to interpretation. We do it because we haven’t found anything better, so there’s a discovery in the pipeline; a focus for future research.


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