Thursday, July 13, 2017

Partial Book Review: Transformative Assessment

This has been a very people-y week, so today was a quiet day at home with a book. :)

(Am I the only one that totally becomes a hermit in the summer months?  I really value my quiet time!)

Anyway, so earlier, I tweeted out this photo:


Around the time I was finishing up Math Tools, @pamjwilson texted me a picture of a book she had found in her stash called Transformative Assessment by Popham.  I happened to have it in my stack as well, so it became my next #EduRead of the summer.  When I'm actually reading, I take very messy notes in a small notebook, which this summer is being transcribed into a more permanent (and neater) notebook using the forms I shared a few weeks ago.

I'm about halfway done with this book and while it's not been an easy read, there have been some really valid points made that I wanted to share.  Below are some quotes and thoughts that I have had while reading this book:


  • From the preface:  "Don't let the pursuit of the instructionally perfect prevent you from reaping the rewards of the instructionally possible."
    • Wow!  Talk about hitting me in the forehead!  How many of us wait and wait and wait because we want perfection?  This reminds of the 51% effort in "5 Habits of a Woman that Doesn't Quit".  You can't always give 100%, sometimes you need to just give 51%.  I am guilty of perfectionism and it often stands in my way of getting anything done because I struggle with turning out a less than perfect product.

  • On the differences of Formative vs Summative Assessment:  "We see FA as a way to improve the caliber of still-underway instructional activities and SA as a way to determine the effectiveness of already completed instruction."
    • This book has really opened my eyes on Formative Assessment and what it really means.  I think FA has been an educational buzz word for many years and I'm just as guilty of using it as the next person.  I have tons of books with FA strategies, but until now, I've never really appreciated the nuances of FA, I've never really been as intentional with FA as the author describes.  The definition given in this book keeps talking about a *planned process* and I'm pretty guilty of a more "spur of the moment" style of FA.  Now that I know better, I must do better!

  • On the the usage of FA:  "Any teacher made modifications in instruction activities must focus on CURRENT curricular goals.  It's NOT a matter of looking at test data and deciding to try something new next time - it's a matter of doing something different NOW." (emphasis mine)
    • Have you ever had a text just "step on your toes"?  That's what happened to me here.  I've definitely been guilty of calling things (such as quizzes) formative assessment, when they truly aren't.  Formative Assessment is something that modifies what I am currently teaching.  It's not about next time I teach it, it's about what is happening in my classroom NOW (as in today / tomorrow).  To make matters worse, I often use some FA strategy but then I don't use it to actually change my instructional methods.  But again... now I know!

  • On the FA process:  (paraphrased) As a teacher, you must: 1) assess the *CRITICAL* skills / knowledge needed for students to master the big target; 2) do this *BEFORE* proceeding to the next building block in the progression; 3) *USE* the resulting evidence to make the necessary adjustments in your instruction (pacing, methodology, etc)
    • Earlier I said that FA is an intentional and planned process.  Here's the recipe for that process.  Decide what are the necessary skills and check for mastery, but do it BEFORE moving on so you will know if you need to reteach or change your pace.  This is hard for me.  I often don't get a chance to check their progress on those critical skills before moving on, so it's something I need to work on this year.

  • On whether FA is necessary: "Instruction, if properly conceptualized and skillfully implemented can be effective without any FA whatsoever, BUT, it is less likely to be and here's why:  the function of FA is to help teachers and students decide whether they need to make any adjustments in what they are doing."
    • Good teaching can (and does) take place without any formative assessment at all.  But the overall goal of FA is to improve student learning.  With it, teachers can make decisions about the most effective instructional techniques and students can make decisions about the most effective learning techniques.  It allows us to make "data-based decisions" for lack of a better buzz word. :)

  • On "trigger points": "...the teacher, in advance of the actual assessment, [must] arrive at a decision regarding the levels of student performance that would lead the teacher to make an instructional adjustment."
    • This reminded me of an #eduread of many years ago from "How to Support Struggling Students" by Robyn Jackson.  We need to know what level causes a red flag to go up and therefore causes a change in our instruction.  Popham mentions that we need to know the minimum per-student performance level and the minimum per-class performance level.  Those triggers are not set in stone, but they do need to be in place prior to gathering the results.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on Formative Assessment!  

2 comments:

Lynn Adsit said...

WOW! I really appreciate your succinct summaries and subsequent ruminations. This gives me lots to consider when planning a unit. It makes me realize that I need to purposely use the data I collect from student responses. It may require that I collect student work daily and review it more thoughtfully. May need to find a system that allows me to pursue 150 papers daily in a thoughtful manner. Great wool-gathering material. Thanks!

Lynn Adsit said...

WOW! I really appreciate your succinct summaries and subsequent ruminations. This gives me lots to consider when planning a unit. It makes me realize that I need to purposely use the data I collect from student responses. It may require that I collect student work daily and review it more thoughtfully. May need to find a system that allows me to pursue 150 papers daily in a thoughtful manner. Great wool-gathering material. Thanks!