Focus On Assessment

Students created an eight-page newsletter entirely on their own, learning new tech skills as needed, and working exclusively during homeroom periods.

Last year, I co-taught fourth and fifth grade technology classes with the homeroom teachers. The first time through, I focused primarily on designing effective learning environments for elementary students. The best activities provided open-ended project opportunities for the kids, taught some basic skills, and tied tightly to homeroom activities.

This year, I plan to emphasize assessment design in my planning. Wiggins and McTighe remind me that assessment design ought to precede lesson design. Identify the learning goals and objectives and then construct assessments to determine student mastery. Paul Black suggests that I vary assessments in form and provide students with feedback useful for further improvement. Bill Fitzgerald makes a push for portfolio-based assessment.

I will certainly tap into the common forms of assessment used at Catlin Gabel. I only teach one 40 minute period per week (the homeroom teachers cover the other 40 minute period). The teachers have designed effective assessments and put a lot of energy into building students’ familiarity with them. Rubric-based assessment is common, which fits the project-based tech curriculum nicely. It also suggests that I could have the kids self-assess, which would build their self-knowledge, provide them with formative feedback, and assess their skill and content mastery.

Students also build summative portfolios in homeroom, which they finalize and share at the end of the year. I could tap into that, but since nearly all tech activities are already grounded in a homeroom project, students may already build portfolio artifacts around them. It seems counterproductive to insist on a technology portfolio piece, when we go to great effort to teach technology as a tool that helps the students get homeroom work done.

Also worth remembering: I have 88 students and a full-time job back in the IT office! I am unlikely to find hours to pore over long assessments. However, if students post assessment products to our course website or their network folder, that will help me review these items quickly and write feedback and notes for future reports.

What assessment techniques do you use with elementary-age students? How do you record them in a way that is useful for future reference?

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