31 March 2007

Establishing Formative Assessment in the Early Classroom

The question of how to assess student work and the role that assessment should play in the classroom is both a prevalent and important one. Often students are given an assignment with some criteria and a deadline and they receive either a numerical or letter grade in return. These types of assessments allow students to compare their quality of work to that of their fellow students but lacks vital information about what criteria were not met and how student could have done better. The assessment process has so much more potential to benefit the educational process and CAPITAL, through working with teachers, has found several ways that this can be done.

Through implementing formative assessment teacher can “guide students in developing scientific habits of mind and also gauge students’ conceptions – or misconceptions – about scientific ideas [along the way].” These types of practices not only assess the students work, but also help student further develop their understanding and help the teacher adjust the lesson plan appropriately. While changing ones methods of teaching can be difficult and “scary”, the benefits can be great.

Formative assessment can be implemented by allowing the students to conduct self- and peer assessment. Such practices have the benefit of providing the students with a great deal of information about what the instructor expects and what a good product looks like. Many teachers give criteria for what needs to be accomplished, but often leave out the other aspects that they may be evaluating, such as clarity of writing, understanding of material, ability to work with other. By allowing this information to be open and accessible, the student will think about these aspects of their work - while before they may have just thought about getting it finished. The type of expectations of good work will also be abundantly available to them resulting in the life practice of considering quality of ones work in addition to completion of it.

Further, by conducting formative assessments students will better be able to track their work and improve it before the completion of the project. Often students will begin a project and do not receive feedback until the project is handed in and nothing can be changed. Using formative assessments teachers can better guide the students to do good work. Teachers can also show their students exceptional examples of work from previous years. This allows the students to work around the image of what is quality and develop it further with their own style.

After giving feedback at different stages in a process, students should be given the opportunity to improve their work. Some teachers go so far as to require their students to revise their work again and again until it is of an acceptable quality. This seems like an extremely valuable practice, especially at a young age because it develops in the students a practice of working until their quality is good, and not just working. If the students develop this work ethic at an early age, as they grow they will contribute to a culture of where quality is expected, no matter what. It is most important to develop this practice at an early age. If at the high school and college level, instructor start to require more deadline (as will be necessary in many working world situations), the students will benefit greatly. Not only will they have the experience of producing quality work, but they will have the understanding that all work should be revised until it is satisfactory. Students will hopefully have these concepts so deeply ingrained in who they are that doing low-quality work simply is not an option and they will require themselves to begin their work early, allowing time for revision. Such a simple practice developed at an early age could raise the next generation of world citizen in a culture of quality of work, improve quality of life for all.