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Assess, Teach, Learn, Repeat: Why Assessment Comes First
Imagine you have decided to learn a new skill: Perhaps Medieval cookery or competitive stone skipping. But, how do you begin? An internet search may explain strategies and give you examples of people who achieved prominence. You may also decide to read articles and watch videos of successful performance.
Then what? Most likely you wouldn’t immediately open a restaurant, join the tournament team, or take a written exam. It is more likely you would try it, practice it, and confer with others. Along the way you might get befuddled or bruised, but like “Horton” in the Dr. Seuss story, you would persist or like the “Beautiful Oops”, learn to make the best from your mistakes.
Assessment is the route to achievement. I don’t mean a 100 question bubble sheet: Rather, the type of assessment that supports and steers learning. Beginning with pre-assessments to determine the starting point, followed by formative check-ins to inform instructional decisions, and incorporating ongoing measures that provide evidence of learning, these approaches engage learners and encourage improvement.
Assessments that drive instruction rely on just-right timing and just-right focus. In these settings, goals, assessment, and instruction are seamlessly merged. Rather than judging answers, student’s responses are used to guide their learning. This in turn, informs instructional strategies, pacing, and resources. It is this continuous dip-sticking that confirms progress and identifies lingering gaps. As with Medieval cuisine or stone skipping, the focus remains on individual growth and personal best.