Sunday, March 16, 2014

Using Assessments To Improve Solutions

I just had two great days of professional development on assessment.  Yes, I said assessment.  Our instructor was Jan Chappuis.  The entire focus was how to use assessment in a formative way rather than just assigning a grade.  As a matter of fact, grading was discussed very little.  Jan's view is that formative assessments should not be graded but used by teachers and, more importantly, students to determine where they are in terms of mastery.  It means establishing clear learning targets and providing time for students to reflect on assessment results.  A really good explanation of these ideas can be found in an article from the November 2005 issue of "School Leadership" (link).

So what does this mean for my curriculum.  The diagram below illustrates a rudimentary outline of a unit (click to enlarge).  

The first lesson introduces the unit problem.  This previews unit concepts prior to the students taking a pre-assessment.  The idea is to give students a diagnostic way to see what they need to learn in order to create a solution to the problem.  The lesson concludes with students imagining solutions for the next day.

Theoretically, the teacher will receive the pre-assessment information from the assessment system in order to create student work teams.  During the second lesson, these teams share their ideas, create a plan based on these ideas.  The team then builds an its initial solution.    This may take several forms depending on the performance expectations.  As described in the previous post (2017: Innovation Block) that may take the form of an engineering design solution such as a car.

The one thing I really like about building the prototype up front is its immediate capacity for differentiation.  Students that are really good at designing a solution have a much harder road ahead of them in order to improve on their original designs.  The lowest performing students can then have tremendous growth.

 Once the teams develop their first solution, they will get to evaluate it in light of their pre-assessment information.  This reflection on the pre-assessment is really important as it sets up Lessons 3 to (X).  The "X" is an unknown variable depending on the number of lessons in the unit.  Each lesson should be designed to answer the question "How will this help me improve my solution?"  At the end, teams revise their solutions and test a second time.  This constitutes their summative assessment.

A word about the engineering design process.  I'm sure many of you have seen the many variations of the engineering design process which usually take the form of cycle.  I agree that this process can be cyclic, but in the real world a solution is eventually marketed.  I have created a hybrid of several versions (below).

You will note the spur that says "Final Design". Yes, solutions can always be improved, but if that was the case, no technology would ever be sold.  What changed my mind about this was a video I watched several years ago about IDEO and the process they used while redesigning a shopping cart.  They tested several designs but in the end made one final version.  

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