Reforming Assessment

When thinking about the word “assessment” many things come to mind. The most vivid comes from my personal memories of taking countless assessments in my 15+ years of school. I have never been a student that thrived in test taking situations. In fact, the thought of exams, AP tests, and the ACT often made me nauseous. Over my three years in college, I was forced to face my fear of test taking since I literally had semesters with 2 exams every week for 10 weeks straight! But now, as I embark on the journey of teaching the word “assessment” takes on a whole new meaning. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a way to torture the students for an hour while I sit in the corner gaining satisfaction or even a way to force the students to study all night because I want to make their lives miserable. As a teacher, I view assessment as a necessary step in the education process because I need to determine what/where the students lack understanding so that I can assist them in the ultimate goal of improvement and learning. I do always try to keep in mind that there are many students that I will be teaching who fear assessment in the same way that I did so I attempt to make the assessment setting, not the assessment itself, as comfortable as possible to avoid adding extra stress.
The article, “Changing Assessment Practices in an Algebra Class, or “Will This be on the Test?”” addresses many of the feelings that I have about ways we assess students in math classes today. I have witnessed a shift in mathematics teaching from the time I was taught Algebra in 7th grade to the way I am being encouraged to teach it currently. The attempt to teach math through investigation, reasoning, and critical thinking in hopes of creating a deeper ulster standing of the subject is quite different than the rote memorization and “drilling” that I experienced as a student. Yet, the practice of assessment seems relatively unchanged. Logically this just doesn’t make sense- why would we emphasize deep thinking when we teach but then not require that when we assess? Because its easier? Perhaps. Murphy makes a simple statement, “what we assess communicates what we value,” so if we truly value reasoning and investigations we must change our assessments! (248) Now, this seems easier said then done but when I am given the opportunity to have my own classroom, I hope to move in this direction. I know it will take a lot of time and practice but is apparent that if we actually want students to improve “they need to have these skills, but they also need more” (Murphy, 248).

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