"Informative Assessment" Keeps Student Progress on Track
December 5, 2013
by Kay Haas
In a valuable new book from ASCD, Carol Ann Tomlinson and Tonya R. Moon provide a model for looking at formative assessment as the most efficient and effective way to move an individual student toward a specified learning target.
Their framework calls for rethinking the traditional way educators assess and assign grades. Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom
(2013) offers an approach for assessment that is motivational, empowering, and differentiated for each learner. As Tomlinson and Moon note in the opening chapter
(an overview of differentiation):
The teacher simply must have a regular and evolving sense of a student's academic progress to plan for that student's academic health. For differentiation to be effective, teachers need to know, for each student, where that student begins and where that student is in the individual journey toward meeting the criteria of the lesson or unit (Hattie, 2012b). In other words, assessment is the compass for daily planning in a differentiated classroom.
Such “informative assessment” is based on the premise that students should have a voice in how they learn best and how they wish to demonstrate their progress toward the learning goal. Assessment is not viewed as a judgment of learning, but rather as feedback to both the student and teacher on the quality of the learning progression.
This method of assessment pushes learning forward toward a predetermined, crucial expectation. To be fully successful, the student must know exactly what is expected, what success looks like, and where he/she is in relation to the expected outcome at all times. This partnership between the teacher and the learner builds self-efficacy and connects effort to success.
My mind is spinning with ideas from this book. It is a jewel!
Kay Haas is the Instructional Partner at Arcadia Elementary in the Tuscaloosa City Schools. Her education career includes 19 years as a teacher and six as an instructional coach.Read More
Keys to Successful Teaching: An Interview with Carol Ann Tomlinson (Part 2)
November 25, 2013
In the second part of Cathy Gassenheimer's conversation with teaching expert and University of Virginia scholar Carol Ann Tomlinson, she talks about respect and high expectations for both students and teachers. Best of all, she shares a memorable list of enduring truths about being a teacher that we think will ring true for every committed educator here in the Thanksgiving season. For more background about Carol Ann and her latest book
from ASCD, Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom, see Part 1 of the interview.
Cathy Gassenheimer: You have such a strong moral compass. All of your readings speak of respect for students, holding high expectations for both students and yourself. In what ways were these attitudes/dispositions developed? What can we learn from your learning?
Carol Ann Tomlinson:
My students have always been my best teachers. I began teaching in a very complicated setting in the rural South in the early days of forced integration. Emotions were high and it was easy to see the nation’s struggles in the students who came to me every day.
Their courage was often my mentor. On the other hand, they were high school kids who needed someone to “see” them and trust them and believe in them. They taught me the power of laughter – and, because of their limited experience outside of their small community, the power of teaching to open up the world. Their lives were very different from mine in many ways – more “restricted” or closed off from the larger world—and yet they knew so many things I didn’t know that I saw quickly they were my teachers as much as I was their teacher.
As an adolescent, I swore vehemently that I would never be a teacher. Until the day I entered the classroom accidentally, I held tight to that vow. On that day, I began to realize the “profound humanity” of the young people with whom I worked – and I’ve never wanted to do anything other than teach since that point. I guess the bottom line is that students help me explore and find evolving answers to questions about life’s meaning. Pretty cool job!
Click below to read Carol Ann Tomlinson's enduring truths about teaching.Read More
Success, Student-by-Student: Our Interview with Carol Ann Tomlinson
November 21, 2013
Carol Ann Tomlinson is one of America's outstanding thought leaders in the area of developing K12 classrooms that provide effective instruction for academically diverse student populations. She's an honored professor at the University of Virginia and an expert in differentiated instruction (her books on the subject are available in 13 languages). Most important, perhaps, Tomlinson's research and writing are framed by her experience as a classroom teacher for 21 years, working with high school, preschool, and middle school students, as well as administering district programs for struggling and advanced learners.
Tomlinson's new book
from ASCD, Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom
, is co-authored
with her UVA colleague Tonya Moon. In the Preface, Tomlinson writes that "this book is a practical one designed for teachers who work in real classrooms, with real students, amid the real pressures of schools every day." It's a wonderful book that we've been recommending to educators in all of our ABPC-supported professional networks this fall.
Recently, ABPC's Cathy Gassenheimer asked Dr. Tomlinson if she would participate in an interview about the book and her work. She generously agreed and were pleased to offer the interview here in two parts. This is the first segment – the second will be posted on November 25.
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Cathy Gassenheimer: With the new standards, a teacher’s ability to effectively differentiate is even more important than ever. In the overview to your new book, you remind us that, “in a differentiated classroom, the teacher’s aim is to make the classroom work for each student…” (p. 4) What role does assessment play in helping a teacher actualize that differentiated classroom?
Carol Ann Tomlinson:
Formative assessment is really a compass for daily planning. Lorna Earl, a Canadian educator and author, says in one of her books that if teachers have clear learning targets in mind and assess to understand where students are relative to those goals at a given time, differentiation will no longer look like an “extra,” but rather will be the next logical step. I think she’s right. . . .Read More