Reflections on Deeper Learning: Chapter 9 – Assessment Systems for Deeper Learning

I chose Chapter 9, written by Linda Darling-Hammond and David T. Conley, because I am participating in a Middle School research and design grant opportunity this summer through MVIFI. The driving question of the grant is:

How might we reimagine our current assessment practices (including classwork, homework, quizzes, tests, etc.) and reporting system to provide more valuable feedback to teachers, students, and parents, as well as strategies for driving learning forward?

(Side note – I’m also looking forward to diving into a few other books on the topic: Hacking Homework, Hacking Assessment, Developing Standards-Based Report Cards, and Charting a Course to Standards Based Grading. Additionally, one of my grad courses this summer centers on assessment for gifted children. It’ll be interesting to see what overlaps I find between all these resources. If you have other recommendations for me, please let me know!)

Chapter 9 of Deeper Learning focused mostly on large school systems’ overall sytems of assessment. I had hoped for something different, perhaps a model of an independent school or even a single classroom’s approach to a system of assessments. Nevertheless, I found several takeaways that will inform my thinking on this grant work and beyond.

Who is the user?

“A primary, though often forgotten, purpose of high-quality assessments is to help students learn how to improve their own work and learning strategies… it is critical that assessments help students internalize standards, become increasingly able to reflect on and evaluate their own work, be motivated and capable of revising and improving it, and seek out additional resources (human and other) to answer emerging questions” (p. 238).

This particular quote resonated with me because it reminds me that one of the main purposes of any assessment is to help the student grow. Any assessment designed by a teacher should keep the student, the primary “user” (to borrow from design thinking language), at the forefront. How will completing this assessment and recieving feedback on his/her performance help a student learn? Even in cases where a student may not see results of a particular assessment, like a state-wide or nationally standardized test, I wonder how we as leaders might remain mindful of how to best utilize the data to help students learn, be motivated to improve, and ask questions about next steps.

Five Components of a Coordinated System of Assessment (p. 240-241)

  1. Assessment of higher order cognitive skills – skills that support transferrable learning
  2. High fidelity assessment of critical abilities – collaboration, communication, problem-solving (reminds me of the Mount Vernon mindsets)
  3. Benchmarked to international standards – should be at least as intellectually challenging as some of the top countries in education
  4. Instructionally sensitive and educationally valuable – I found this component to be a little vaguely worded. My interpretation is that assessment should be accessible to those from all socioeconomic statuses and it should motivate students to continue learning
  5. Valid, reliable, and fair – tests should measure what they purport to measure

Portfolios (again)

New Hampshire (cue my husband saying “Yeah, Granite State!” in the background) has “introduced a technology eportfolio for graduation, which allows students to collect evidence to show how they have met standards…” (p. 251). I’m curious to learn more about this piece. Is it required? Optional? Who looks at the portfolios?

In Australia, in the high schools, student work is collected into an eportfolio to be used as a measure for college readiness. Teachers from other schools and professors from universities assist in the scoring of the portfolios.

Assessment Continuum

Apologies for the bootleg photo. Figure 9.4 is found on page 258

There’s a time and a place for each example of assessment in the chart, but it’s clear that some are better than others for truly assessing deeper learning.

Process and Product

In Singapore, students participate in a collaborative interdisciplinary project as part of their high school graduation requirements. They document both process and product through three pieces of assessment:

  • A written report, which demonstrates the group’s ability to create and analyze ideas for the project
  • An oral presentation, in which each group member is responsible for communicating clearly. The whole group is also assessed on the effectiveness of the presentation. (I wonder if teachers give “group grades” for that part?)
  • A group project file, in which each individual group member provides documents that serve as snapshots of the project in progress. This is a chance for each individual to showcase his/her mastery of knowledge and skills developed during this project.

These ideas could definitely work for an eportfolio. I love the idea of documenting the process as a project develops. If reflection is the key to cementing learning, it is teachers’ responsibility to provide time, space, and scaffolding (when needed) for students to reflect on their work and their learning. Taking care to document snapshots in the form of photos, videos, audio clips, or informal written pieces allows individual learners to demonstrate their own knowledge and skills, even in a group project. Additioally, taking snapshots along the way makes the overall reflection process easier and probably more fun, because learners can draw from the momentos saved along the journey.




One thought on “Reflections on Deeper Learning: Chapter 9 – Assessment Systems for Deeper Learning

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  1. This is a helpful summary of Chapter 9 – Assessment Systems for Deeper Learning. I, too, would have liked more specific detail for an individual classroom, or examples of assessments for different disciplines, so I would have more ‘take away’ ideas. But, these theories sound right on target and I can see it driving a lot of discussions at Mount Vernon. Thank you for sharing your insights – I look forward to learning from you and the Summer Grant team on this.

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