The Island of Ablai (pt. 14)
Pt 14 - Summative Assessment
I will start by saying that I have issues with this term. The word summative makes it seem that it is over, finished, the end. How can learning have an end? I understand the need to place a final assessment on a topic before moving on to a new one, but it seems like an artificial construct of school. A term that educators made up to fill some area of need.
I used to plan big, elaborate, complex, summative assessments. We would have been working on a book, or a magazine, or movie, and that artifact would stand as the summative piece. However, I found it hard to assess something with so many moving parts. I found it hard to see where their thinking was at this place in time. That is really what I want to know, and what I think the purpose of summative assessment should be; what are you thinking now, and how has your thinking changed?
Visible Thinking has some great strategies for this. In the past I have used longer versions of I Used to Think.... But Now I Think..... Today I used a simple question, and asked them to write a thoughtful reply.
How do our economic choices affect the world?
I gave them a good chunk of time, alone, with an iPad in a comfortable space, and asked them to think deeply on this question. We did a bit of group brainstorming before we started, but for the most part, it was an independent activity.
It was a very simple task, but from their writing and reflections, I know exactly where they currently are on this issue. This unit, and all good inquiry units, are not things that can be summative. They are ideas that evolve and change over time. My own views on Economic Systems continue to evolve as I grow older. They will never be static. They will never stop changing.
I am glad that I have captured their views at this point in time. I hope they go back to these artifacts they have created and reflect on what they used to think. The important question of summative assessment is not, what did you learn? or what do you know?, but how do you think at this point in time?
My Own Summative Assessment
This was one of the best units of my professional teaching life. The topic was fascinating for the kids, they had so many natural questions and curiosities about this. Money is something they are surrounded by, but have no idea about it. Their questions pushed the unit forward. I was able to change everything and move with them, while keeping the focus on the skills and concepts. What I had originally planned was not of much interest to them. They were fascinated by stuff, and why things cost what they cost. So, that is what we focused on.
It is interesting to look back on the first post in this series ad look at my original plan, and then to read the what occurred. Completely different!
As for the blogging of the entire unit, I find it a mixed bag. I liked it, it kept me focused on what was I was doing and forced me to self-reflect. There were moments however that it felt like more task that authentic reflection. I had so many other ideas for other blog posts that got pushed out to the side while I was working on these. I felt an obligation to something I started. Also, I don't work well with plans, goals, and schedules. I am more organic type of thinker, and I like to follow my interests and passions as they arise. Somebody asked what my hobby was, and I replied, "being curious". Having a schedule of blog posts got the edge of that curiosity for a while.
Still, it is a great artifact of a great unit. I am divided, I can't tell you it was a great experience, but I can't say that it was all bad.
Click here to see all the posts in this series