Saturday, April 17, 2010

Assessement Options: A Rant

I'm currently working on my Masters in Educational Technology. It has been interesting to from time to time. I'm currently in an assessment class. My biggest problem I have is that I'm being "taught" the importance of the Multiple Choice test and things of that nature. I recently wrote about my goal to go 10 weeks without tests and it was a huge success. The problem though, is that it goes against everything I'm being asked to do for this class. My philosophy on testing changed during this experiment and now I ned to smile and jump through the hoops. I can put on the good face, but the recent Discussion Board posts by fellow students annoyed me. Here are some excerpts from the posts.

Question: Is providing options for student performance assessments a “good” idea for classroom teachers? Explain your answer.


"is it really preparing students for the future?  Many times in our lives something is asked of us and we have to do it.  Our boss tells us something is due or needs to be presented and we have to do it.  If we allow students to choice the way they get assessed, we are not expanding there knowledge of how to do or take other assessments.  My students would love to be able to not have to take a test or quiz, they would so much rather give an oral exam about some math topic, then have to do it."

"I also think that sometimes giving kids the options allows for many of them to simply take the "easy" way out.  It is true that when giving a list of options for performance assessments, students will usually choose what they think is the easiest."

These are just two of a few teachers that are not big fans of the options approach to assessment. In fairness, the 2nd response did say some options could be good, but...

I love giving my students options and I work very hard to make sure that all of the options are difficult in their own way. I'm not asking for students to choose between drawing a picture of a book and creating 20ftX20ft mural  for a school wall. All options are equal in work, assess the same thing, but require different skill sets. That is what options in assessments should look like. If there is an easy way out, don't fault the student, fault the assessment. I would take the easy assessment as well if I was a students. Who wouldn't? It requires more work from a teacher to review their assessments and make sure that there are options for most students and that they are equitable in the work load. I would prefer to take the easy way out and assign one assessment for every unit and move on to the next one. However, I'm a teacher and I need to teach students to be creative and grow as learners.

I tried to respond as nicely as I could to these teachers. I told them that taking tests is not the rest of their lives. Teaching students to be creative and solve problems in new ways is how we have innovation in the future. If we don't teach students to look at problems in a different light and come up with alternatives to solve them, we will never progress as a society. We need to stoke the fires of creation by giving students the option to create. Those options are crucial the building of a life long learner. Without options, we will be a nation of people that are really really good at filling in an oval with a #2 pencil. I refuse to create those people!

Thanks for reading this rant.

- @TheNerdyTeacher