Assessment – The Key to Precision

Last month I wrote a post called, “Preciseness Will Impact Student Achievement”.  After posting it, I remembered something that I had written a few years ago. Due to a stroke in December 2011 that left my husband unable to speak or write we became involved in the InteRACT program at Dalhousie University (Halifax) in July 2012.

I could not help making comparisons between the work being done in the InteRACT program and our work in classrooms.  I saw teaching at its best because it contained all of the components that ensure success and accountability.

Some Background:

  • Seven participants whose speech had been impacted by a stroke.
  • Seven participants with different needs and challenges.
  • Five hours of study each day for 4 1/2 weeks.
  • Each participant worked individually with 3 out of 4 clinicians for 3 of those hours.
  • A student intern implemented a computer lesson for one hour.
  • One hour was a whole group session in which all seven participants were involved in group interaction.

Prior to going there we had to fill out some information and do a short video.  This was reviewed by the clinicians ahead of time.  Once we got there two days were spent on testing so that an individualized program could be implemented.  This information was also used for the pre-test data.  The next four weeks were spent on teaching and learning.  The clinician had a daily plan in front of her at all times and used this for recording  purposes as well.  Observation by the clinicians was a key assessment strategy at each session.  Plans for the day were revised as needed based on this information.  The clinicians had a way of recording their observations that allowed for them to come up with a numerical score in which they turned into percentages. The numerical documentation was for the clinicians use only not as a means of feedback.  Specific timely feedback was given regularly throughout each days session.  The feedback was given orally and on the spot so the learner could make adjustments right away.  At the end of the four weeks another two days were spent on the exact same tests given at the beginning,  We were provided with a very extensive report that clearly showed the pre and post test results.  Although the clinicians did not know exactly how each participant would score on the post test they would have had a very good idea based on their ongoing assessments.

Key Points:

  • The seven participants were given the exact same pre and post tests.
  • Their learning goals were set based on this information.
  • The daily lessons were not a repeat of what we saw in the pretest.
  • Each participant had an individualized program, but some parts were the same from one participant to another.
  • Daily lessons were planned and revised based on ongoing daily assessment.
  • Specific, timely feedback was given throughout each hourly session.
  • Evaluation was  based on the pre and post test scores.

What does this mean for our work in education when teachers have many students and several subjects to teach?

Some thoughts that came to mind:
– Educators need to have a thorough knowledge of the big ideas of the curriculum and make the student the centre of the learning.
– The same test could be given at the beginning and at the end of a time period so that results can be compared.
– How might we turn our observational data into scores for our “eyes” only to inform out next steps and give our students the specific, timely feedback that they need in order to improve?
– There is a place for drill, but it has to be purposeful and based on student need.
– Repetition of a strategy, but changing the content. E.g., contrast drills ( the words changed), barrier exercises (the pictures changed), parallel reading (the story changed), tile exercises( the words changed).  This has several benefits:  the student gets used to the process and can concentrate on the work that needs to be done in order to learn, the teacher can measure results more accurately and revise lessons as needed in order to ensure success, planning is based on student data and not focused on coming  up with different ideas just for the sake of doing that.  This original strategy was chosen for a reason based on student need.
– The importance of purposeful student groupings (whole, small, individual).

Although each participant within this program had the same goals for themselves, they would not have experienced success if they were given the exact same program.  Yes, assessment is the key to precision!  How are your assessment practices impacting student achievement?

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