Chapter 7: Using Assessment to Guide Instruction


Think about a time when students in your classroom were most engaged in learning. Reflect on the following questions:

  • What was happening? What were they doing?
  • Where were you? What were you doing?
  • Did the students know the learning destination?
  • Did they know what was expected of them in terms of doing the learning?
  • Did they know what kind of evidence they would need to produce?
  • Were they able to self monitor in relation to models, criteria and/or samples?

This chapter focussed on the merits to using assessment along with instructions to help the students in day-to-day classroom work. Students who are assessed daily, and are a part of it, have a more solid framework for their learning. There are several examples of teachers who use non-formal assessment in their classrooms, from kindergarten to the possibilities in post-secondary education. Students need to know the “big picture” and then have it broken down into a step by step process in order for them to connect the material with their prior knowledge and be able to make assumptions about where their learning is headed.

The chapter is straight-forward and concise, filled with examples to prove its point. One critique for the examples is that while there are several detailed examples, they range from kindergarten to middle years, and then jumps to a post-secondary self-assessment sheet example. There are no high school years, which is of particular interest to me because that is my focus area. This may be in part due to Davies’s experiences as a teacher, and not an oversight on her part. Another critique of this chapter is that aside from the examples there are only four paragraphs in this chapter. I think that Davies could have went more in depth on describing the relevance of daily assessment, and perhaps even link it to current research. One idea that resonated with me was the heading “The Big Picture.” This is because during my ECS 300 field experience, my co-operating teacher stressed the importance of giving students the big picture or over-arching goal, and then breaking it into manageable parts. This was the students could connect their knowledge and not have a disjointed experience. She often used the phrase “big picture” or “big idea,” and because her students were familiar with her teaching, they knew that their teacher was going to describe something important in detail and they began to take notes and listen carefully. As she spoke she wrote a number bulleted list on the board to help the students visualize the process in an assignment, or even the schedule for the class. Aside, she mentioned that this was a good strategy for visual learners or learners with special needs. I had thought it was just another habit of good teaching!

Since I do not have enough experience in the field to do the chapter question, I will discuss an event when I was a learner. In my high school Biology class we were learning about dissections. Before we even went into the Lab, my teacher had us stay in our desks in the classroom as we reviewed the sheets on proper conduct in the lab and our directions for the dissection. At this point my classmates and I were seated and anxiously, or not so anxiously, waiting to get into the lab to start the fun (or not so fun!) part. The teacher could tell we were distracted and went around the room asking clarifying questions to keep us on task. By reviewing the sheets, we knew what we were supposed to do and how we were expected to do it, and even who our partner was. When we had finished our tasks, we were to raise our hands and wait for the teacher to examine our trays. We were able to monitor ourselves by following the procedures and examining the picture and our trays to confirm the various parts. In all, it was definitely an experience to remember, and one that kept everyone interested, no matter how nauseous!

My questions for you: what have you found to be the most successful way to have students self- or peer-assess? How do you use assessment to guide your instructions?

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