But despite frustration with testing and concerns about letter grades, schools know that measuring and communicating student progress remains as vital as ever – if not more. As the level and complexity of student learning have increased, technology is playing a critical role in improving assessment. Smart ‘adaptive tests’ adjust the difficulty of assessment items as students progress through them for more precise measurement. Other kinds of technology-enhanced questions such as drawing or arranging graphics or text “allow students to demonstrate more complex thinking and share their understanding of material in a way that was previously difficult to assess using traditional means,” notes the U.S. Department of Education. Indeed, future testing may be ‘stealth,’ unnoticed by students as it is integrated into the regular learning process: “The record of a student’s time-on-task, keystrokes and mouse-clicks collected by interactive ebooks, adaptive instructional software, and educational games provides a multitude of data for 7 firstname.lastname@example.org educators to track a student’s learning progress, and offers the potential to blend instruction with both formative and summative assessments into one continuous process that engages the student,” observes former district technologist Gee Kin Chou.
In this context, what will it take to fix assessments and grades? By focusing on the intended purposes of assessment, schools and educators can take concrete steps to reimagine assessment. Those steps could very well lead us not only to better testing but better teaching and better schooling.
Purpose of Assessment
Rather, assessment ought to be an indicator of, and even a means for, mastery of the content and skills that students need to be successful in college, career, and life. Good assessment serves three primary purposes:
Innovative Approaches To Assessment
Redesigning our systems of assessments and creating new, better tests can be daunting – but its effects could be inspiring. Imagine how public education might look and feel different if we approached assessment in this way:
No matter your role in schooling, it is time to move toward a vision of assessments that enhance learning. While the responsibility for shifting policies and practices rests with administrators and school leaders, individual teachers can make a difference. They can craft authentic assessments whose data capture true learning, administering only assessments whose results inform specific actions. Above all, teachers and schools can dissolve the boundaries between assessment and learning, by putting more measurement tools and transparent data directly in the hands of students; in this way, with the informed support of teachers and parents, students can guide their own learning and begin to master their own destinies.
As a teaching artist, I've been partnering with teachers to integrate circus arts into curricula for the past 3 years, funded through Artstarts' Artist in the Classroom Grant programs. A teaching artist is a practising professional artist with the complementary skills and sensibilities of an educator, who engages people in learning experiences in and through the arts. My company, Vesta Education, specializes in integrating Circus Arts into Curricula with programs such as the Science of Circus, Patterns of Math, and of course Performing Arts, Dance, and Physical Education. This year, ArtStarts is embarking on a new initiative focusing on mentorship and community for teaching artists across BC.
I believe that by building the capacities of artists across BC, I can enable them to confidently work with teachers to design relevant and engaging art projects for students. Mentorship is a way to build meaningful relationships between aspiring and experienced teaching artists - building capacities and ensuring that there is a sustainable community of artists working for the benefit of young people and education.
I am contracting with Artstarts to create and host an Arts & Education Mentorship Salon to convene aspiring and experienced teaching artists to share their experiences, create dialogue, and generate ideas about building local communities of mentorship. ArtStarts will be instigating five salons, one each in Smithers, Nanaimo, Kelowna, Vancouver, and Nelson. I will be co-planning and facilitating the Arts & Education Mentorship Salon in Nanaimo. I will also be presenting at a summit in Vancouver where I’ll be developing recommendations for supporting mentorship across BC.
I am so excited to be sharing my expertise in integrating arts into education under the new BC curriculum with my fellow artists in this community! Many thanks to Artstarts and the BC Arts Council for this opportunity!
Karina Strong is currently a full time Education student at VIU in the Post Bac program. Her undergraduate degree is in Social Work and Small Business Management. She is a professional Circus performer and owner of Vesta Entertainment, a multifaceted entertainment company on Vancouver Island.