International best-selling author and wellness expert Greg Anderson once said, “Joy is found not in finishing an activity, but in doing it.” This may be true, but for most teachers and students, joy is probably not a word either would associate with assessment in math. It’s undeniable, traditional methods of assessment carry a significant amount of baggage—for both teacher and student. Perhaps it is time to ditch this baggage, and rethink the old paradigm of how we evaluate student progress!
More recently, discussion about assessment has shifted from focusing solely on the finished product to an ongoing, process-oriented approach. Unlike traditional methods, ongoing evaluation assesses students throughout the process of “doing.” Teachers constantly interact and collaborate with learners, and students continuously engage in self-reflection. This multi-faceted approach is happening all the time, in and out of the classroom.
Ongoing assessment has long been used in the rigors athletic training.
At each practice, a football coach continually provides feedback to players in order to improve individual and team performance. In every drill the coach analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of each player and the team as a whole, and modifies future practices to reflect their needs. Ongoing feedback is provided based on observation and analysis throughout the actual games, and the data are used to plan the next series of practices. This coaching model is very similar to the work of a teacher who uses ongoing assessment. It works.
There are multiple benefits of implementing ongoing assessment in mathematics:
- Clear, relevant criteria. Ongoing assessment in mathematics utilizes clear, easy to understand criteria that are explicitly articulated at the outset of a unit of study. For example, in a primary unit on telling time the students understand that there will be informal, ongoing performance assessments. A teacher can utilize a variety of assessment to gather ongoing data such as performance assessment, student reflection, anecdotal observations, student/teacher discussion, and problem solving.
- Frequent feedback. Students frequently receive feedback when a teacher is using ongoing assessment in mathematics. This feedback continues from the beginning of the unit to the final assessment, and at every instructional point in between. In the previous telling time example; the teacher doesn't wait until the end of the unit to determine if the child can tell time to the minute. Instead, there is ongoing data regarding the child's progress in telling time to the hour, half hour, quarter hour, five minutes, and minute. At each of these points there is feedback to the students.
- Instructional modification. Ongoing assessment in mathematics provides feedback not only to students regarding their performance, but also to the teacher regarding lesson planning. As the teacher collects data from the ongoing assessments, future lessons can be shaped based on needs. These modifications can be for the entire group or targeted for students who need remediation. They may also be used to provide additional, more challenging concepts to students who are already displaying mastery. For example, the teacher may find that when monitoring students' ability to understand place value to 1000, there are some that need remediation and reteaching on place value to 100 and others that have completely mastered the skill. The teacher can then use this ongoing data to shape future instruction.
Ongoing assessment has a rhythm to it, and takes some time and practice to master. New teachers should start out slowly; soon you will feel the joy of doing it, as you are able to measure the impact on your students' progress!
For more ways to boost your students’ enjoyment of math, download our Math Literacy Guide full of helpful hints from teachers, for teachers!