Last week we discussed the importance of developing assessments appropriate for the instruction we create.
During the lecture, I realized that often, a certain assessment may be assessing more than what I think it is going to. I spaced out (sorry, Prof. Monson) and started thinking about the math assessments I took while in school. Usually, I was assessed on my knowledge of, say, equations — but I was also assessed on my reading comprehension. If I’d had a conversation with my teachers, I imagine that they would not have listed reading comprehension as one of the things they were intending to test for by giving story problems on a math test. However, lengthy math story problems that contain the bulk of important information necessary for the task embedded in written context are really testing a student’s ability dissect the story problem and translate it into numbers before they ever use math. If a teacher gives story problems on a test without delivering enough instruction on reading comprehension necessary for the assessment (or ensuring that they get it somewhere else, like another class, at the same time), then they are, in fact, testing on something they did not teach.
This perspective on assessments is important when designing instruction in all kinds of instructional situations. Since instruction designed with assessment in mind, it is important to carefully select the assessment intended for use and analyze what is truly being assessed. If the assessment chosen requires instruction that we do not intend to give, then a different assessment should be chosen. Or, if it requires certain background knowledge, then the instructor should verify that the students have the knowledge necessary to do the assessment before it is given.
An example of this in media would be designing a message board for students to post responses to an assigned article. The intention is to test on what the students were supposed to have read, sure. But what we’re also (and likely without knowing it) testing on their ability to use a message board. (We could go farther, to the point of “well, duh” and add Internet connection and usage, basic computer skills, and school skills.) So the possibility exists that, before students are able to complete the task, instruction on how to use the message board should be considered. Or at the very least, we should know if they’ve already learned about message boards and make sure that those who can’t use them get trained. While this kind of instruction may not be part of the intended learning outcomes of the class, it is still part of the instruction because it is part of the assessment given.
Does this sound familiar? It’s an interesting throwback to the analysis phase of our instruction where we figure out what students already know and how to build on it, or what they need to know before we can give them our instruction. Especially when considering how to build appropriate tests, that phase seems all the more important now.