Each year we choose a focus area that we will develop into good classroom practice. This year we will focus on Formative Assessment. Before we can start improving one aspect we need to understand the big picture: Assessment types that we use:

Diagnostic Assessment
(as Pre-Assessment)

One way to think about it: Assesses a student’s strengths, weaknesses, knowledge, and skills prior to instruction.

Another way to think about it: A baseline to work from

Pre-assessment provides invaluable information about what is already known about a topic at hand and students readiness to start new unit of inquiry. Discovering prior knowledge allows the teacher to plan for instruction and design learning engagements at an appropriate level for the students. This is  an essential element of a constructivist classroom best practice. All Units of Inquiry begin by teachers designing appropriate assessment tasks for student to share they knowledge, skills, and conceptual understandings.

This process should continue throughout the learning process, so that learning engagements can be adjusted according to student need:

Formative Assessment

One way to think about it: Assesses a student’s performance during instruction, and usually occurs regularly throughout the instruction process.

Another way to think about it: Like a doctor’s “check-up” to provide data to revise instruction

Formative assessment is a process used by teachers and students during instruction that provides explicit feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning to improve students’ achievement. It is a method of continually assessing students’ academic needs and immediately responding by differentiating and adjusting instruction. During Units of Inquiry we focus on providing feedback on the Transdisciplinary Skills and strategies they are learning. This is part of our approach during our Standalone Subject teaching, however we can also assess content knowledge in addition to subject skills.

Formative assessment will provide an insight on the development within the classroom and it always precedes any benchmark assessments and end of unit summative assessment task.

Summative Assessment

One way to think about it: Measures a student’s achievement at the end of instruction.

Another way to think about it: It’s macabre, but if formative assessment is the check-up, you might think of summative assessment as the autopsy. What happened? Now that it’s all over, what went right and what went wrong?

In the PYP we begin our planning with the goal in mind. In our planners we first define the Central Idea; what do we want our students to understand. Then we plan our summative assessment tasks that are used to assess that understanding, skill acquisition, and ability to transfer their understandings at the conclusion of unit of inquiry and standalone subject teaching. A key element is to communicate both the assessment criteria and learning intentions clearly so that the students know what is expected from them.

Almost any assessment instrument can be used for summative or formative purposes, but some, by design, are better suited to summative use and others to formative use. Therefore improving one aspect of our assessment should have a positive impact upon the other types as well.

Quotes are from  6 types of assessment.

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