measureable outcomes & student intentions

I think good assessment tools:

  • give students a window in
  • tell us as teachers why things are going well or not
  • build legitimacy for our work in the eyes of other teachers and administrators

These thoughts are a continuation of my reading in the Theory Into Practice journal’s issue on classroom assessment – “Promoting Learning and Achievement Through Self-Assessment” by Heidi Andrade and Anna Valtcheva.

Some quotes from the article:

[In self-assessment students are engaged] in thinking about the quality of their own work, rather than relying on their teacher as the sole source of evaluative judgments.

A good rubric describes the kinds of mistakes students tend to make, as well as the ways in which good work shines.

Students are savvy, and will not self-assess thoughtfully unless they know that their efforts can lead to opportunities to actually make improvements . . .

Simply handing out a rubric does not guarantee much of anything. Actively involving students in using a rubric to self-assess their work, however, has been associated with noticeable improvements in students’ work.

There was sometimes a tension between teachers’ expectations and student’ own standards of quality.

The researchers suggest a conversation on what defines quality for the assignment. The teacher and the students co-define what will be the criteria for excellence.

I realize this is another facet of what I find vexing in so many rubrics – vague language. It gets us in trouble and doesn’t teach the student anything about the generally agreed upon values of the art form.

Descriptions like “highly creative,” “interesting” and “beautiful” are highly subjective.

Consider the difference between:

A. Student skillfully applied watercolor paint.

and

B. I painted my box keeping the paint exactly where I wanted it.

A. Student continued to work enthusiastically until the project was completed and went beyond requirements.

and

B. I continued to work carefully until the box was completed. I took the time to include all my important ideas in my design.

In addition to being more specific, I also sense both of the “B” examples take into consideration the student’s intention. To my mind a rubric that can make expectations of quality more transparent and make it possible for students to validate their own expectations is a gold standard.

When we describe desired outcomes to students are they something that can be measured? Are they something we value but when asked “exactly what would that look or sound like” we can’t really give an example. I realize that everything in the arts can’t be assessed by “I see” and “I hear” but those two might get us a long way down the road to giving students a window into what we intuitively understand as artists.

Link to Theory Into Practice on the internet:

http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~db=all~content=t775653706

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