As I mentioned in my last post, I have had some difficulty incorporating formative assessment into my elementary media center. I have, however, noticed many educators that I respect are champions of using this type of assessment. This year it is one of our school goals and even a district goal. Still, I must admit, I haven’t been able to grasp why it is beneficial and how I will make it work in a media center environment. I have wondered if my time might be better spent focusing on learning new content, creating lessons, and collaborating with other teachers.
Then, when I read the introduction to the Literacy Teachers Playbook, something clicked. Serravallo recalled an experience she had as student teacher when she created a wonderful lesson and was given complimentary feedback from her instructor. She then went on to confess, that when creating that lesson she did not consider the needs of the students. She also admitted that she continued the practice of creating lessons without consideration of student’s needs for several more years. She said, “I didn’t understand the difference between assessing students to check up on understanding and assessing students to form my teaching plan.
This was an “aha” moment for me. Many of us can relate to planning what to teach without consideration for the needs of the students that we teach. Typically, I look at standards, create lessons, and present the information to students. And yet, often I am disappointed with the quality of student work whether it is a research project or a media project.
I am beginning to wonder if my lack of consideration for student needs contributes to the lack of quality. What would happen if I spent more time with individual students or small groups of students providing feedback about how to make the project better? In the past, I’ve used the excuse that I only have a little more than one hour per week with students. My thinking has shifted. Now I am thinking that since I have limited time, it is even more critical that I focus on what students need. Sometimes it is hard to give up lessons we like to teach, even if they are no longer needed or relevant to what the students need. But, I am starting to see that it is the right thing to do.
Reading the Introduction to this text, has helped begin to understand the potential and reason for using formative assessments. Formative Assessments help to ensure what is being taught addresses student need and ultimately helps them grow and learn. Additionally, formative assessments help teachers identify what they to focus on.