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Using Information from Assessments Effectively

The Early Career Framework states that teachers must learn that... To be of value, teachers use information from assessments to inform the decisions they make; in turn, pupils must be able to act on feedback for it to have an effect.

Teachers' use of assessment data

The first thing to do before assessing students is ask yourself, what are you hoping to accomplish? Here are examples of some of the questions assessments can help you answer:

  • As a teacher, how can I adjust my instruction to meet students’ needs? How will I know what kind of progress they’re making?

  • As a school principal, how can I ensure that the students in my school are tracking toward key milestones? How can I offer the best professional development to support teachers?

  • As a district administrator, how can I evaluate our district’s programs for improvement planning? What’s working best, and what should we stop doing?

  • As a family member, how do I know my child is receiving instruction that will extend their current knowledge and skills?

  • As a student, how does my learning connect with my goals?

Here are four ways teachers can leverage assessment data in their classroom:

1. To Better Understand Where Students are in their Learning

Assessments that are solely used as a measurement of learning do not benefit students in a timely manner; assessments for learning however are game changers! Formative assessment, which includes things like short quizzes, exit tickets, thumbs-up/thumbs-down, and interviews give teachers learning feedback in the moment on where students are in their learning. It gives the teacher the ability to make adjustments to their teaching so that no students are left behind.

Understanding where students are in their learning in today’s current education landscape with the pandemic is critical, and assessments for learning – like formative assessment – can deliver on this ideal.

2. To Adjust Instruction Based on Feedback

The ability for teachers to adjust their instruction to meet the needs of students is paramount. Assessment data should be viewed as a tool for guiding further instruction and evaluating how teachers can improve their own classroom practice. Immediate assessment feedback can help teachers deliver on this principle by answering the question, “Where are we in our learning today and what do we need to improve on tomorrow?”

Immediate feedback can also help teachers adjust their instruction to meet individual student needs as well as group students based on their progress. This can facilitate remediation groups that may be in need of intervention strategies or acceleration groups that might benefit from deeper learning.

3. To Use as a Springboard for Collaboration

Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) give school districts the framework to improve educational outcomes through teacher collaboration. Assessment data can serve as the foundation for PLCs when reflecting on instructional practices and teacher strategies, and help answer the key questions, “What do we want students to learn?” and “How will we know if they have learned it?”

4. To Connect with Students

For the sake of students and teachers, assessments need to be reframed. It’s important that students understand assessment doesn’t always mean grades and test scores. Rather, it’s a way for them to demonstrate what they know and, perhaps more importantly, what they might need more help with.

Use assessment data as a conversation starter with students and help them set academic goals and take responsibility for their learning.

Data driven instruction is critical in today’s education landscape. It can empower teachers, help inform instruction, provide insight into their students’ learning needs, and form the backbone for educator collaboration. The value of the data starts with a smart education assessment system and an understanding of how to leverage the data in the classroom.

Pupil response to feedback

Create opportunities for students to interact with feedback during class sessions. One opportunity may include students working with peers to explore action steps in response to feedback. Ask students to assess the teacher’s comments with attention to which comments are the most pressing or unexpected. Students can use their analysis of the comments to prioritize how to incorporate feedback.

Students may work with peers to rate their overall performance based on the teacher’s feedback. For example, students may identify which teacher comments suggest that the work is strong and which indicate that the work needs more attention. The exercise helps clarify if the student should continue on the same course or shift gears to make needed adjustments.

Another option is for students to develop a written response to teacher feedback as a quick activity. Ask students to identify one reaction, one area for clarification, or one action step related to the feedback. Adjust classroom assessment routines such as allowing students to use feedback to analyse errors and then attempt to improve their performance by applying the comments/hints that I have provided.

Feedback is an ongoing process. It is an intentional dialogue that may start with the teacher, but it must not end there. Demonstrate how feedback connects with performance, check for student understanding, and offer opportunities for student engagement.

In his post "Should students respond to feedback?", David Didau suggests that feedback is only worthwhile if it is acted upon and discusses what constitutes useful feedback and pupil interaction with teacher feedback. It is worth reading to further understand the benefits (and the pitfalls!) of pupil response to feedback.

[ECF Further reading recommendations are indicated with an asterisk.]

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