Shifting the Assessment Paradigm

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Karen Wootton, Director of Curriculum & Assessment, karenwootton@cpm.org

Assessing students is an issue that all teachers grapple with, not just CPM teachers. Having students share what they know and understand sounds easy enough, but as any teacher knows, assessing students is rarely simple. Do students always convey what they know? Does the teacher sometimes focus on what the student does not know? Was the wording on the test adding an obstacle to the student? Did the time constraints add an obstacle for the student or cause the student undo anxiety? Did the student just have a bad day? There are so many questions and not enough answers.

All teachers want the time spent on assessment to be useful and productive. But with all these questions, how can we be sure it really is? Many teachers have realized the power of feedback in supporting student learning and incorporate feedback into the assessment as a way to make the assessment process more productive. Providing feedback is another beast, especially when the teacher has 150 or more students who require feedback.

Recently, a teacher shared this bit of feedback on a Desmos activity in the Inspirations & Ideas curriculum: “Tech lets kids recover from mistakes more easily because of undo button, so they take more risks, and they like the visual animation. The easy do-over part helps kids persist instead of crumpling up paper and giving up.” With a Desmos activity, students can try something, and then based on the feedback, they can try again or improve their answers. This is what happens in most video games: players try something, die or lose, and then try again. Gamers play games over and over, using what they have learned in the previous games to move forward in the next game.

This feedback loop is at the heart of gamification, which makes ordinary tasks into a game. The best feedback in Desmos activities is a natural consequence of the situation, and students can often use the feedback to revise. It is through this loop that students improve and learn.

If learning is what education is all about, how can we change our assessment paradigm to help support learning through this feedback loop? Instead of viewing assessments as a moment in time where a student’s knowledge is measured, can we start to recast assessments as opportunities to improve student learning and understanding? Would it matter if a student redid a problem several times until the student “got” it? Would that somehow be “less” understanding than someone who solved a problem correctly the first time? Or would the student that kept trying, improving each time, be demonstrating more than just understanding, like perseverance or grit?

This is a different idea than allowing retakes or test corrections. It is the idea that students can keep trying during the assessment so that they are informing their teacher about more than just their understanding of knowledge or skills. It is making the assessment become an opportunity for learning.

While this might seem completely impossible right now, how can we start shifting the paradigm to help us reach such a situation? Imagine if we could get to a place in which state testing consisted of activities where students could keep trying and revising, based on the natural feedback that the activity provided. It would not give the student the correct answer but just enough feedback for the student to adjust. This would probably be a much less stressful situation for many students, and it completely changes the purpose of assessments. It is in these adjustments that students make where we can really see what students know.

Share your thoughts via a slow Twitter chat, #STAP (Shift the Assessment Paradigm) by sharing the ways you can think of to shift the way we think about assessment.

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Algebra Tiles Session

  • Used throughout CPM middle and high school courses
  • Concrete, geometric representation of algebraic concepts.
  • Two-hour virtual session,
  •  Learn how students build their conceptual understanding of simplifying algebraic expressions
  • Solving equations using these tools.  
  • Determining perimeter,
  • Combining like terms,
  • Comparing expressions,
  • Solving equations
  • Use an area model to multiply polynomials,
  • Factor quadratics and other polynomials, and
  • Complete the square.
  • Support the transition from a concrete (manipulative) representation to an abstract model of mathematics..

Foundations for Implementation

This professional learning is designed for teachers as they begin their implementation of CPM. This series contains multiple components and is grounded in multiple active experiences delivered over the first year. This learning experience will encourage teachers to adjust their instructional practices, expand their content knowledge, and challenge their beliefs about teaching and learning. Teachers and leaders will gain first-hand experience with CPM with emphasis on what they will be teaching. Throughout this series educators will experience the mathematics, consider instructional practices, and learn about the classroom environment necessary for a successful implementation of CPM curriculum resources.

Page 2 of the Professional Learning Progression (PDF) describes all of the components of this learning event and the additional support available. Teachers new to a course, but have previously attended Foundations for Implementation, can choose to engage in the course Content Modules in the Professional Learning Portal rather than attending the entire series of learning events again.

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Building on Instructional Practice Series

This series contains three different courses, taken in either order. The courses are designed for schools and teachers with a minimum of one year of experience teaching with CPM curriculum materials. Teachers will develop further understanding of strategies and tools for instructional practices and assessment.

Building on Equity

In this course, participants will learn how to include equitable practices in their  classroom and support traditionally underserved students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Participants will reflect on how their math identity and mindsets impact student learning. They will begin working on a plan for implementing Chapter 1 that creates an equitable classroom culture and curate strategies for supporting all students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Follow-up during the school year will support ongoing implementation of equitable classroom practices.

Building on Assessment

In this course, participants will apply assessment research to develop methods to provide feedback to students and to inform equitable assessment decisions. Participants will develop assessment action plans that will encourage continued collaboration within their learning community.

Building on Discourse

This professional learning builds upon the Foundations for Implementation Series by improving teachers’ ability to facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse. This learning experience will encourage participants to adjust their instructional practices in the areas of sharing math authority, developing independent learners, and the creation of equitable classroom environments. Participants will plan for student learning by using teaching practices such as posing purposeful questioning, supporting productive struggle, and facilitating meaningful mathematical discourse. In doing so, participants learn to support students collaboratively engaged with rigorous, team-worthy tasks with all elements of the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices.