Thursday, January 29, 2015

How Subjectivity Creeps into Assessment

The last few weeks of our fall 2014 semester, I was stumped while grading. I jotted down very short comments on the students' papers and entered numbers onto my grade book before handing the papers back. Part of me didn't know if this was the right way to go about assessing students. In the middle of it all, I stopped, looked at some other teachers, and wondered how they complete their grades. Before I could continue, I had to examine none other than myself. Why look at the sticks in others' eyes before the log in my own, right? (That line is out of context, but the importance of self-examination before placing blame is crucial in many aspects.)

Q1: What assessments do I use?

It was then, ashamedly, that I went back to finish my grading and didn't think of this topic again. Until now...upon reading chapter two of Assessment 3.0.

To illustrate what I picked up from this part, I strongly recommend you with a group of colleagues review a student's assignment. Individually look at the teacher's guidelines and come up with a grade you think the student should receive. Then group back together and discuss how you all decided on the grades you would give the student. (If you don't get my drift, take time to honestly consider the difficulties or actually follow through with this. I, as a member of the #TTOG Facebook group, would love to hear how the discussion ended up going.)
"Arguments in favor of grades lose buoyancy when the previous examples are seriously contemplated. If the teacher's opinion plays even the slightest role in assessment, the process becomes alarmingly punitive" (Barnes, 28, emphasis mine).
Barnes gives a couple phenomenal examples that should hit home for any educator wanting to truly know where the students are in their progress and what the next steps should be in moving forward.

Remember Q1 that I asked myself weeks ago (see above)? The next questions flooding my mind now are:

Q2: How much influence do my feelings and opinions have in creating and carrying out my assessments?

Q3: Would other teachers agree with me on my grading scale, rubrics, and standards?

Q4: How can I solve these conundrums with modern methods that provide authentic feedback?

I need to expose these uncertainties. Why? This is a road worth traveling. In evaluating this part of education, revamping the road will lead to greater and more beautiful destinations for the students. And it will definitely make all the difference.

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