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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Assessment for Mastery

Assessment for Mastery

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I need to change one of my assessment practices. Currently I assess students formatively during a unit, and then include some sort of summative assessment at the end of the unit to check for understanding. I use the formative assessment to guide my teaching during that unit, and to help me decide with students I focus my additional support. I can see that I need a change though, and have become convinced through the work of others that I need to be assessing for mastery, rather than at the completion of a unit. Essentially, when I hit the end of a unit, I don't go back and fix the problems students had with the unit, we move on and I hope I get a chance to help the students when we cycle back through review. I feel like this is a disastrous practice after much reflection and discussion with other educators. My friend described a system I could use, and I will probably modify his system to fit in with my world-view on what effective mathematics instruction looks like. First, I will create assessments for students to determine, for each skill that I teach, whether or not they get the skill. If they get it, they move on, if they don't, we remediate. Alongside this practice of the mathematics computations, I will provide many, many opportunities for students to situate these skills in (mostly) open-ended problems focused on "real world" applications. I'm wondering who else includes a mixture of self-paced skills along side in-context open ended problems?

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Steve Johnson's picture
Steve Johnson
Technology Facilitator, Writer
Blogger 2014

We've had a lot of good discussion on this topic in my school this summer as we move forward with becoming a problem-based learning environment. One thing that keeps coming up is that if you want to assess for mastery you have to really follow through with it. If a kid doesn't master something, they have to be given opportunities to learn and then illustrate mastery in different ways. We're trying to incorporate a lot of student-generated ideas as to all the different ways they can showcase mastery- creating movies, making models, reflecting through their blog, making a mindmap, etc. I'd definitely suggest opening the floodgates up to students and have them tell you ways they could demonstrate mastery of concepts- we were very pleasantly surprised with the variety of things our kids suggested (and since they suggest them, they were of course far more likely to tackle it!).

Thanks for sharing and we'll definitely have to keep tabs on all this as all the kinks pop up to be ironed out.....

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