Extending my understanding of understanding the assessment

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The title of this post was written after I finished putting my thoughts into writing.  It sounds philosophical but it’s what I have in my mind.  Thinking about my thinking and questioning about my questions. Do I understand what I understand? How do I know?

The assessment workshop which my school had last weekend was like a church bell in my ears.  Although I am continuously reading articles, following PYP educators’ blogs, chatting with colleagues and PYP educators virtually and all of these have inspired me to be a better educator,  I can say that I am not 100% stepping out of my comfort zone.  I am eager and willing to apply new ways/strategies to improve the teaching and  learning in my class but I sometimes just lose the ‘sense’ of doing it.

The workshop was great.  I learned lots of strategies and tools which I could do with my students in the class.  It was like a refreshment of my understanding of assessment.  These are the questions which I asked myself as I reflect on my understanding of the assessment.

How well have I been assessing the students in my class?

Have I been clear about the assessment process in the class?

Do my students know why and how they are assessed?

How do assessment effect my student’s learning?

How do assessment effect my teaching?

How do parents and students see and benefit from the assessment process in my class?

More questions could be added to the list above.  And the answers would be….. ‘yes’, ‘sometimes’, ‘not exactly’, ‘perhaps’, etc.  This means there are lots of areas which could be improved and all I should do is to take an action by implementing what I have learned, what I’ve heard, what I’ve read in order to improve the assessment process in my class.  ‘So..what’s next?’

I have to say to myself as I always say to my students in the class.  I have to be principled and be honest about the assessment practices in my class.  Using the 6 facets of understanding which was discussed at the workshop, I try to extend my understanding of understanding.

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Reflecting on my practice in the classroom, I asked myself,

Have I assessed student’s understanding?

Have I used proper tools/strategies to assess student’s understanding?

Have I been clear about what I meant by student’s understanding?

Do the learning experiences develop student’s understanding of particular subject/concept/etc.?

Have the learning experiences allowed students to explore and construct knowledge?

Have I as a teacher given them continuous and constructive feedback throughout the process of developing their understanding?

The word ‘understanding‘ is such an abstract.  How do I know that I understand?  How do I know that I have an understanding of …?  I myself sometimes say, ‘I understand how it works but I can’t explain.  I can only show how it works.’  Does it mean that I have a good understanding if I only can show but can’t explain?  How do I assess an understanding?  Which kind of understanding needs to be assessed?’ Do the assessment tools and strategies which I use assess the understanding of a concept/knowledge/skills?

The 6 facets of understanding will guide us to structure our thinking of how we assess our understanding.  I reckon my understanding of understanding how assessment works  is a part of the formative assessment.

Reflecting on my assessment practices, I believe once we know what understanding we are looking for, we know what and how to assess.  This means we know what needs to be built up.

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