Joined: 19 Oct 2011
A True Test
A True Test
What is a true measure of our student’s success?
In this world of standardized testing, does our current system of evaluation in education mirror the real world, where students will spend the rest of their lives working and striving for success?
To arrive at an answer, I think we have to look closer at what is expected in the work environment. Where in the workplace is success measured by how many facts you can memorize or whether you can pass a standardized test?
Sure, we have to pass some exams. Teachers must take certification tests, as well as doctors, lawyers, nurses and other professionals. But how is effectiveness in the workforce, regardless of our profession, truly tested?
The answer is results.
Workers are tested by the results they produce and whether or not their efforts produce the intended outcome.
This point was driven home to me recently when reading a research study by Joseph Renzulli, the renowned expert on gifted education at the University of Connecticut. He wrote about what he called an “authentic evaluation” of a project. He wrote that, when considering assessments, “the ultimate test of quality in the world outside of school is whether products and services achieve the desired impact on clients or selected audiences.”
Think about it: in the real world, the true test of effectiveness is what impact you have on customers or your targeted audience.
Take teachers for example: an authentic assessment of teaching cannot be gained by testing teachers with certification exams, but rather, measuring the results they produce (in our current education system, that would involve mainly looking at standardized test scores, but it also can involve graduation rates, homework completion rates, scholarships, student engagement, parent satisfaction and other factors).
Currently, I’m testing this theory of authentic evaluation as I work with a gifted first and a gifted second grade student on a community service project. During enrichment time, the students chose to help the local animal shelter by collecting supplies. To market their cause, they have written letters to the editor of the local newspapers, created flyers to pass around school, and decorated collection boxes. During that process, they are developing all kind of important skills: planning, organization, technology skills, writing and researching skills, etc. However, the true assessment of their product, according to Renzulli, lies in whether the products achieve the desired impact on their audience. To date, the students have collected a handful of large dog food bags (not a bad start for these young children), but ultimately, if they refine their product and rethink their strategy, they may be able to collect even more supplies, thus having a greater impact on the community.
So when thinking about how to truly assess your students’ work, consider whether the product or performance created the desired result. Let students test their work in the real-world and allow them to see whether their efforts were truly successful. Maybe it’s a letter to the editor or creating flyers for a school bake sale. Perhaps it’s a new way to figure out a math problem or an experiment on the local water supply. Whatever the product, let the assessment be authentic, and in the process, you will be teaching children how to be truly successful.
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