By: Kendall Hunt RPD with contributions from the writing team of Pathways 2.0
Although assessments might not be the most thrilling part of education, when implemented intentionally, they have great value for student learning. According to educator Carol Campbell, “ongoing, visible, lifelong learning is the goal” of educational assessment, and assessments can be used before, during, and after a lesson to support and verify student learning.
However, all assessments are not created equal, and each “category” has its own considerations. Here’s what you need to craft quality pre-assessments, formative assessments, and summative assessments.
Whether it’s a spelling pretest or an interest inventory, pre-assessments let students show what they know before instruction begins. They give teachers valuable information to shape their instruction and focus on student needs or interests within the theme of the unit.
Pathways 2.0 puts new emphasis on pre-assessment, both in formal assessments such as the Basic Reading Inventory and in more informal self-assessment tasks such as independent word sorts in spelling and vocabulary lessons. Not only does pre-assessment allow teachers to gauge students’ standing on a topic or skill, but it also lets students see where they are as they enter a unit. This can boost student confidence, as they often realize that they know more about a topic than they think they do!
Formative assessments give an ongoing analysis of student learning. They bridge the gap between pre- and summative assessments by marking what students have learned so far but also guiding a teacher’s subsequent lessons. According to Campbell, “a student can’t learn content without thinking about it in a meaningful way … instructional units should include activities that require students to understand and grapple with the topics explored in class, and to be able to apply, analyze, and create personal and practical applications as a result of their learning.”
That’s where formative assessments come in. They enrich the learning experience by providing new ways for students to apply the information in the textbook. By asking students to explain information through a new medium, formative assessments help them make the content their own.
The Pathways 2.0 program incorporates many options for teachers to use quick progress checks for formative assessments, such as student journals, electronic voting, exit cards, or Think-Pair-Share activities. Formative assessments can even become games (e.g., through online applications such as Quizlet or Kahoot!), making them more enjoyable for students.
However, the important thing to keep in mind when designing formative assessments is their purpose: they aren’t designed to verify student learning but, rather, to support it. They’re assessments for learning, not assessments of learning, so help students remember that immediate accuracy is not paramount. Rather, engagement and understanding over time will reap more benefits in the long run.
Summative assessments measure students’ achievement, growth, and progress after a unit or project has concluded. Campbell explains that these assessments should include “cognitive tasks … that require learners to use the content as the vehicle to engage in the types of thinking that have been referenced in the standards.” Summative assessments aren’t designed to test whether students have acquired knowledge but, rather, whether they have acquired skills that they can apply to that knowledge and, most importantly, that they can apply to new knowledge.
Summative assessments ask students to analyze information that they may not have seen before by using the skills that their formative assessments have honed. For example, a summative assessment that asks students to provide the definition of a brand-new word that contains a Greek root that the class has discussed isn’t testing students’ knowledge of new or obscure words. It’s testing their ability to take acquired knowledge (i.e., the process of using Greek roots to understand words) and apply it in a new context.
Pathways 2.0 summative assessments, whether they are end-of-unit reading tests or guided reading running records, measure the application of knowledge rather than plain knowledge itself, which will serve students well in the long run.
Pathways 2.0 assessment resources
As you can see, Pathways 2.0 provides great resources to help teachers administer quality assessments. Each Pathways 2.0 Daily Lesson Guide (DLG) contains a chart that lists the suggested assessments for that DLG, distinguishing between pre-assessments, formative assessments, and summative assessments. Appendix C of each DLG offers printables and teacher guides for many of these suggested assessments.
The Pathways 2.0 program makes it easy for teachers to administer clear, effective, quality assessments that will enhance student learning. Discover its potential for your classroom this fall!
How will you incorporate assessments into your classroom in a new way this year?