For the last month I’ve been working on the report for the survey of arts education in Montana schools. 38% of the schools submitted information which I think is terrific. I will post information as soon as the report is available.
As a reward for the work on the report I took time to start reading the Theory Into Practice journal’s issue on classroom assessment. I realize for some of you this would be like jumping into vat of stink bugs but I was totally captivated. The first article is by W. James Popham who up until last year wrote a column on assessment for the Educational Leadership journal. I always found his writing was common sense and useful as I educated myself about assessment of student learning.
Popham writes that classroom assessments are powerful tools that can be used to provide evidence for “teachers to adjust their ongoing instructional activities, or by students to adjust the ways they are trying to learn something.” Classroom assessments are a means to offer immediate feedback to students. Learning is more effective when we get immediate feedback on our efforts. This is why video/computer games can be so useful in learning – you make a decision and instantly you get a response. It is also true that poorly designed assessments, that don’t provide students information about how their work can be improved, may end up discouraging them.
The arts can be a leader in this area. Many forms of classroom assessment are familiar to us – portfolios, exhibitions, performances, critiques, self assessment and peer assessment. It’s not as if we are starting at zero. There is a rich history to draw from.
A concern I have is that perhaps grantees and teaching artists perceive the arts council’s requirement for assessment of student learning as a managerial requirement at the expense of real learning. The enthusiasm in the response when a student realizes specifically what can improve his or her work is the real driving force behind this requirement. As Popham’s article states, “When classroom assessments are conceived as assessments for learning, rather than assessments of learning, students will learn better what their teacher wants them to learn.” (Popham will be presenting a two-day workshop in Helena on assessment at the Montana Educators’ Institute June 15-17. http://www.mtascd.org/Portals/0/MEI%202010/2010%20MEI%20Information%20Brochure.pdf )
Here’s my question to those of you that are interested in developing your skills in classroom assessment, What is the best way to offer Montana teaching artists – and perhaps even arts teachers – professional development programs on classroom assessment? Provide workshops where there are many opportunities to share experience, to ask questions and to create assessment tools? Assistance in setting up professional learning communities where peers share assessment strategy successes and difficulties, discuss articles and create resources for the field?
If you are interested in learning more about using classroom assessments in your teaching please say what would be most helpful for you. In the best possible worlds how does this play out? Leave a comment and we’ll go from there.
Popham, W. James (2009) ‘Assessment Literacy for Teachers: Faddish or Fundamental?’, Theory Into Practice, 48: 4-11
Link to Theory Into Practice on the internet: