Sunday, January 20, 2008

Connecting Assessment to Learning Goals

From an ASCD conference presentation by Jay McTighe as reported in the Education Update (January 2008):

"...Applying what students know through real-life circumstances --- like purposeful writing, scientific investigation, and issues debates --- is not the same as test-prep drilling. Overreliance on test preparation can stand in the way of meaningful learning and does not actually lead to better performance on the test. In fact, McTighe likened teachers' obsession with test preparation to an athletic team that concentrates only on performing 'sideline drills' --- practicing and testing discrete skills in a decontextualized way --- rather than playing the actual game, which requires putting all the skills and knowledge together in an authentic and contextualized way."

"We need to connect assesment practices to learning goals. If what is assessed signals what is important to learn, then how it is assessed signals how it should be learned. We want kids to use knowledge in game-like situations, not just in sideline drills," he said. "For many kids in many subjects school is an endless stream of sideline drills with no opportunity to play the game with knowledge."


Anonymous said...

Should I respond with




Once again, we have Yalta Conference Policy - all the big people wave their arms and wave their hands and the armies and the hordes march to where they're told, after the some non-big people figure out that pesky detail stuff.

I actually agree with what is quoted, but how come the people who write this kind of big picture stuff for big people can't put in some detail about what kind of time it would take for what kind of skills, hence what is the appx. cost of these great hand waving ideas?

If someone has worked in a policy position for 5 or more years, in any public or private sector organizaiton, and they can't put together quick estimates of required time and money for their big ideas, WHY ARE THEY EMPLOYED?

Anonymous said...

I totally agree. The devil is in the details. And assessing the big contextualized skills isn't easy. I find this sort of vague big-picture arm waving irksome. The WASL claims it is trying to assess game play sorts of skills, like critical thinking, scientific reasoning. I think it does a terrible job, but I am not convinced that it's possible to create good stand-alone assessments that really do assess the game-play sorts of knowledge.

dan dempsey said...


WASL = Terrible -- no doubt.
Student Accountability reporting would be great but the WASL is not even that.
The WASL has distorted what goes on in classrooms and even distorted high school schedules.

Consider the following as an extension to McT's sports analogy.

In the 1950's in Math kids did all the skills & drills but never understood the true game of mathematical thinking and process.

In 2007 we put kids in the game without skills and expect them to pick up the skills while playing the game. But kids are not allowed to practice the skills or receive instruction in skills because that would be bad, they will just learn all the skills while playing the game and only the game.

If that sounds absurd to you -- well that is because no sports coach would ever believe such nonsense.

It does however explain exactly why we have so many kids with poor math skills and no ability to play the math game.

If you think that this statement about not allowing kids appropriate practice in math is an exaggeration, then I encourage you to check out the following video. In it you will see Dr. Uri Treisman of the Dana Center of the University of Texas at Austin saying that it is essential the math programs intent not be complicated with any supplementation. (You will also see Phil Daro and his mislead the Math public about Calculators talk).


This "Fidelity of Implementation" without supplementation is exactly what Bellevue has done for the last few years with TERC/Investigations and we have seen the achievement gap for children of poverty widen. (because they can not afford Sylvan, Kumon, private tutors, etc.)
Ms. Santorno of Seattle speaks of the necessity of "Fidelity of Implementation".

McT is correct it would be nice to resume educating rather than teach how to take a test. Lots of folks believe that. When the WASL was getting under way in the Blaine School District. Every fourth grade teacher transferred to a different grade level because they wanted to teach something more than how to take the test and test preparation.

The rest of the world sees it this way. To go to the top of the economic ladder will require excellent math and science skills for a good segment of the population. Arithmetic skills lead to Algebra skills which lead to Calculus skills. They have the data to back up their claim.

USA sees it differently and is now pathetic in producing students who will pursue collegiate level math and science successfully.

The American century is drawing to a close. The century preceded by the English/European centuries and soon to be followed by the Asian century.

In math and science education leaders refuse to do the obvious -- emulate the successful patterns of others when you are failing.