I once had a college professor tell a story about a particular language in which the word for "teaching" and the word for "learning" were in fact the same word. She went on to discuss the cyclical and interwoven nature of teaching and learning, and posed a curious question: If there is no evidence of learning, can we say that there has been teaching?" I've gone back to that lecture in my mind often and pondered her question, especially as I read this chapter about assessment.
A knee-jerk reaction some teachers may have when students don't learn material is "Well, I taught it!" but the fact is that we must use formative assessment to ensure that students are actually learning.
In this chapter Sammons says, "Assessment in Guided Math classrooms is ongoing and informs instructional decisions. The strong links between teaching, learning, and assessment are evident." I would venture to generalize the same is true for all the subjects we teach. Ongoing assessment is crucial for helping guide students to leaning outcomes.
As I read this chapter several key points kept recurring in my mind:
- Feedback should be specific: Students need to know what they are doing right, as well as what the next steps are to further learning. I couldn't agree more! This was one of the key points I learned and practiced as a Reading Recovery teacher, so the connection with math made perfect sense.
- Feedback should be timely: We've all done it, right? That stack of papers that need to be graded but doesn't get finished until 4 or 5 days later? I do try very hard to grade things right away and hand them back immediately because quite frankly, by the time the Tuesday folder goes home, the feedback is not so important anymore. Not just in math, but in every subject, I've found that when I can get the papers back to the students very quickly, they become a teaching tool!
- Provide examples of what success looks like: This one has been a no-brainer for me in writing instruction, but is a little hard to wrap my brain around in math. I'm having trouble figuring out exactly what sorts of samples or exemplars I'll need...Are they like the example problems I complete for students when modeling? Are they the finished graphs I make to show students how to make their own?
- Involve students in their own assessment: I do this some, but feel like I could improve in this area. I do a lot of formative assessment in which I ask students to rate how well they understand the concept, or maybe text in something they've learned or are wondering about with our ActivExpressions, but I feel like I could tackle this aspect of assessment better during conferences and small groups.
Want to read more about Guided Math? Check out our book study hosts:
Chapter 1: Primary Inspired
Chapter 2: Third Grade Gridiron
Chapter 3: Making It as a Middle School Teacher
Chapter 8: Primary Inspired