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What is curriculum redesign?
Why have a workshop about assessment, evaluation, and curriculum redesign?
What is the range of assessments and evaluations that students and teachers face?
How does focusing on assessment, evaluation, and curriculum redesign differ from the traditional approach?
Another perspective

How does focusing on assessment, evaluation, and curriculum redesign differ from the traditional approach?

American teachers have always done assessment and evaluation. But many of them have not worked it into their curriculum-planning process. Many experts agree that assessment should be interwoven seamlessly into teaching. Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, in their book UNDERSTANDING BY DESIGN, advise teachers to adopt a practice of "backward design," beginning with what they want students to be able to do and then designing assessments, lessons, units, and curriculum accordingly.


Tim O'Keefe, a teacher at the Center for Inquiry Elementary School in Columbia, South Carolina, talks about the importance of student self-evaluation.

In an assessment-focused classroom, the role of the teacher shifts in a number of ways:

1. The teacher starts the planning of curriculum with a vision of what he/she intends ALL students to achieve.

When teaching tenth-grade social studies students about the Civil War, for example, the teacher begins by specifying what students should be able to do at the end of the unit. For instance, a student who participates in this unit should be able to present an expert speech with graphic aids about how the Civil War affected and still affects New York City.

2. The teacher reviews national and state standards to ensure that her work fulfills the requirements.
3. The teacher should involve students in the development of criteria for assessment. These may be in the form of checklists or rubrics 1.


A rubric for evaluating the student's speech might include: primary and secondary sources are researched; main points of the speech are noted on slides; student speaks clearly; and student knows facts to back up her assertions. The scale for evaluating each of these might go from a low of 4 to a high of 1.

4. The teacher uses the results of assessment to plan further instruction.

If the teacher finds that a student's research skills need polishing, for instance, the teacher can plan a unit based on finding and consulting primary sources. If the students need to develop better presentation skills, the teacher might collaborate with the drama teacher on creating a project to enhance the students' stage presence.

The role of the student also changes in assessment-focused classrooms.

1. Students have a good idea of what they are expected to accomplish and how they can demonstrate their knowledge.

For example, a student researching the Civil War's impact on New York City can direct his efforts knowing that he needs specific primary sources and graphic images to support a speech.

2. Students perceive the relationship between content acquisition, skill proficiency, and assessment opportunities. By setting their sights on a demonstration, students can more readily see the connections and the relevance of their work.

A student whose knowledge of the Civil War will be measured solely by a multiple-choice/matching test, in contrast, may find little intrinsic value in adopting the tools and role of a historian. He may well devote more energy to reviewing copies of a test provided by students who previously took the course.

3. Students work toward self-assessment.

In addition to participating in criteria-setting activities, the student in an assessment-focused classroom, for instance, might record her observations in a journal. On a field trip to Lower Manhattan, she might sketch Civil War-era buildings and write reflective notes about how this activity helps her to understand the historian's role.

4. The student assumes the role of a researcher and uses critical thinking skills as he or she finds facts and makes inferences to reach more conclusions. They are not receiving information passively and then simply giving it back to the teacher after memorizing it.

A focus on assessment also implies changes in the role of the administrator.

1. The administrator provides her staff with an overview of assessment throughout the institution. She might explain how one year leads to the next, how students' strengths are built on experience, and how one course complements another. She might also delve into how the variety of assessment practices balance each other, and how each course progresses and is developmentally appropriate. Some administrators have adopted a practice called curriculum mapping 2, which involves collecting and publishing a record of what happens in each class during the school year. This record gives colleagues opportunities to collaborate and support each other in the assessment-focused design process.


2. The administrator adopts an analogous approach to that of the teacher -- i.e., she begins by defining the desired performance, and sets conditions to facilitate its accomplishment.

A curriculum director might want classroom teachers to be aware of the math curriculum in the grade above and below them so that their instruction is part of the school's continuum. The director might also develop an appropriate activity with the teachers that models the results she desires. She might also furnish computers with appropriate software and training, and offer time at a staff meeting to share curriculum maps.

3. The administrator provides guidance in student assessment by ensuring links between classroom practices and standards at the national, state, and local levels.

An elementary-school principal, for instance, might take a proactive stance toward her state's mastery testing of the narrative-writing abilities of fourth-grade students by working with second-, third-, and fourth-grade teachers to provide opportunities for student performance in narrative writing.

4. The administrators and curriculum directors initiate and support a dynamic approach to curriculum planning. Scope and sequence publications are fine for a content-oriented approach to the curriculum and documenting an activity. But they are too static for an assessment-focused curriculum.

An assessment-focused curriculum director, for example, updates the curriculum frequently. She supports the idea that curricular change grows from an examination of assessment results. She develops a structure where educators understand that the goal is continual improvement in students' performance.

5. The administrators must reevaluate their views about staff development. They must allow for common preparation times so teachers can plan curricula together; allocate more money for substantive staff development and training; and facilitate discussions and work as a collaborator. Administrators need to do more parent education about different forms of assessment. Many still think that testing is the only way, and they don't understand portfolios. Administrators also need to support what teachers do in classrooms, especially when/if parents complain.


Workshop: Assessment, Evaluation, and Curriculum Redesign
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