Assessment Strategies Proven to Work

Ben ArcuriBy Ben Arcuri

There is no bigger topic in education these days than the topic of assessment. Assessment has many definitions depending on who is doing the talking. The purpose of assessments and the intended users of  assessment information differ tremendously as well. Assessment can serve as a guide to the students; it has the ability to guide the teacher and can also drive education policy and reform.

In my opinion, one the most important functions of assessment is the ability to subconsciously change how the students feel about themselves. This term is loosely defined as student disposition. The disposition of a student is quite complicated and involves many characteristics. The list includes: motivations, feelings, desires, competence, confidence, curiosity, intentionality, self-control, relatedness, communication, cooperation, self-efficacy, and achievement. The way assessment is used in the classroom has the ability to affect student disposition in a positive way and in turn cause a profound positive change to the lives of the students and teachers.

Throughout the past 11 years I have made simple changes to my assessment structure. I have spent time designing an efficient system that creates a balance between formative and summative techniques. I wanted to create a system that was easy for the students but that also made things easier for me.

I was overwhelmed with the time I was spending collecting and grading homework and assignments. I was overwhelmed with the archaic process of dealing with incomplete work. I was unhappy with the inefficient use of class time. I (as well as my administrators) was unhappy with the class results on the provincial standardized test. Most of all, I was shocked at the students’ inability to schedule their time and prepare for anything effectively. The high school students I was working with at the time relied on me 100% to prepare them for everything in class. I knew I could not add anything extra to my teaching plate at that time. The only solution I thought of was to starting cutting things out. So I started to cut. And cut I did.

  • I stopped assigning and grading homework.
  • I stopped grading practice questions.
  • I posted the answers to all of the “assignments” on the wall in my room and then eventually on my website.
  • The overall grade breakdown is now incredibly simple and efficient.
  • I only have due dates for lab reports (I teach science and chemistry), and those dates are flexible.
  • I only grade lab reports and unit tests! That is true, I promise.
  • I created a simple system of quizzes and re-quizzes that guide the students through each unit.
  • I created a simple homework checklist process that the students maintain and complete on their own. The students now create their own custom list of practice questions from the textbook and the “assignments”. I no longer assign the entire class practice questions in any form.

The students are included in the decision making process and are now in full control of their own learning. The practice, quiz, and re-quiz system has fundamentally changed everything in my classes. The quiz provides immediate personal feedback to each student and to me as the teacher. The results of the quiz will guide the instructional process AND student practice. The re-quiz that follows a couple days later gives the students a chance to see if any new learning has occurred, after specific individual practice has been completed. At some point throughout the semester, I actually stop collecting and grading the quizzes entirely. The students grade their own quiz and plan for the re-quiz. I simply talk each day with the class or individual student about the results and change up the review process to keep students engaged and interested. The system is so efficient that I now have time to develop and create new labs and engaging review activities. Which, in my opinion, is how I should be spending my time.

I look forward to sharing with you the unique way my students complete practice questions, review, and prepare for the quizzes and re-quizzes at at the ATI/Pearson conference on June 23 and 24 this year.

During the presentation, I will give you all of the templates, describe in detail the fundamental processes in my classroom, and show you what my daily lessons look like. Visit my class homepage at www.arcuricacid.weebly.com and my YouTube channel, ArcuricAcid, to see the process chapter by chapter. My hope is that after the 90-minute presentation you will have ideas that can be immediately incorporated into your lesson. You are only limited by your own creativity. Thank you for reading my first ever blog post.

Ben Arcuri
benarcuri15@gmail.com
@BenArcuri

Senior Chemistry Teacher
Science Department Head
Penticton Secondary School
British Columbia, Canada

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