What are some simple ways to get started using assessment, evaluation, and curriculum redesign?
First, we offer an example of the shift from an activity-driven curriculum to an assessment-focused one. Then we will talk about sampling student work to build evaluation criteria and the construction of rubrics.
. Shifting Focus: Activity to Assessment
Moving from activity to assessment often requires reviewing your past work in a new light. Here's an example:
For many years, sixth-grade students at a school in Connecticut have participated in Colonial Day, when teachers turn the school and its grounds into a series of learning stations.
Several specialists come to set up demonstrations and activities students can participate in. An antique collector sets up a display of Revolutionary War military artifacts. A weaver visits with two ewes, and shows how to shear and spin wool. A herbologist makes a potpourri from herbs grown in Colonial America. An author talks about the Revolutionary War's effect on local youth.
All of these are exciting activities for students. But what do students actually learn, or -- a better question -- what are the goals of the educators who have planned these activities, and what do they want the students to be able to demonstrate as a result?
One year, a teacher decides that the students should be able to produce a timeline of a typical year in Colonial New England. Developing this outcome suddenly gives new focus to the activities. The students, informed about the timeline assignment in advance, arrive at the demonstrations with particular questions prepared: What yearly activities did Colonial sheep herding involve? When did the planting and harvesting of crops take place? What did Revolutionary soldiers do during the winter? What happened to the army when spring chores or autumn harvest activities took precedence over fighting?
The simple act of choosing an assessment goal, and informing students about the task that has been set, changes the character of this annual event and its impact on student learning.
. Add a Rubric
Create a rubric to help judge your students' work. A rubric will help you and your students address issues of quality. Here's an example of a rubric you might create for the timeline activity discussed in the previous section.
Grade students' work using the following evaluations:
Ask yourself these questions:
I. Choice of Items
II. Chronological Scale and Sequence
- Evidence of care taken in choosing items (either most significant or revealing some pattern, or showing cause/effect relationship).
- Items meet criteria of assignment; few or no inaccuracies.
- Includes required number of items; some inaccuracies.
- Does not include required number of items.
- Scale consistent and accurate; very appropriate for subject matter; all items in sequence with care taken on placement within increments.
- Scale consistent, accurate, and appropriate; items in sequence; increments marked.
- Scale roughly drawn; a few items out of sequence; increments marked.
- No apparent scale; numerous items out of sequence; time increments not marked.
- Few mechanical errors.
- Some errors in spelling, identification, or dating.
- Many errors in spelling, identification, or dating.
- Visually striking; attention apparent to making timeline an effective tool for communicating information.
- Clear, uncluttered, and attractive.
- Illegible or messy.
Adopting this rubric for assessing the timelines created by your students is fairly direct. Section one evaluates the elements the students chose from their experience on Colonial Day. Section two evaluates their comprehension of the passage of time. The third section explores students' craftsmanship, and the final section evaluates their expression of order and design. Making your students familiar with these criteria, perhaps by providing models, helps them to focus their efforts.
Some of these criteria are quite obvious. The process of how these criteria were developed is more complicated, and takes effort and a fair amount of time. The benefit -- thinking clearly about students' goals -- is invaluable. To see how rubric criteria are developed, see the "Implementation" section's step-by-step guide to assessment, evaluation, and curriculum redesign.