Classroom Assessment: Enhancing the Quality of Teacher Decision Making (Communication)

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To those who have never taught, it is difficult to grasp how diverse and dynamic a skillset one needs to succeed in a busy, demanding classroom setting. Consider these six qualities — and the actionable methods for putting them into practice — to shar pen and develop your own skills. The results, as you may find, can make all the difference. Justin is Prodigy's Content Marketing Lead. He's interested in EdTech, soccer, podcasts, soccer podcasts — and is inordinately proud of having made more than six thousand Wikipedia edits.

I never thought about it that way before.

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It makes me wonder how this could be translated when a teacher is being observed. Your email address will not be published. Loved by more than , teachers and 30 million students, Prodigy is the world's most engaging math game and platform. And it's free for everyone. Keep up with our blog's research-backed advice by signing up for your Prodigy account now!

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A good teacher instills confidence In the book 50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior , middle school teacher Todd Whitaker highlights low student confidence as one of the most persistent obstacles to the success of any teacher. Teacher skills to build student confidence Make learning goal-oriented — If you set defined goals with your students — at the beginning of the school year or even of each lesson — the whole class will have a better understanding of its individual and collective accomplishments. Instill a growth mindset — According to psychologist Carol Dweck, a fixed mindset conceives of student skills as rigid and inflexible.

The growth mindset, Dweck notes, helps students become more receptive to lessons and feedback. While the details of the pedagogy can be subtle, a few common ways to instill a growth mindset include actions as simple as encouraging students to expand their answers more consistently or using success folders. Far too many teachers forget to do this — to tell and show their students they actually believe in them.

Using educational technology in the classroom makes it easier to teach students of all learning backgrounds, helping teachers bring even the most timid of students out of their shells. Curriculum-aligned math games, such as Prodigy , boost student confidence and learning outcomes.

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Grounding math in a fun, video-game environment that appeals to students can produce remarkable changes in learning outcomes, and even test scores. A good teacher manages the classroom effectively A teacher can be knowledgeable, prepared — and even a great communicator — but still fail simply because of an inability to deal with misbehavior in the classroom. To cultivate a positive and orderly learning environment, establish a routine and system wherever necessary for your daily tasks and requirements — from the general to the specific.

For example, if a student becomes stuck on an assignment, outline clear, teacher-approved guidelines for seeking help in a timely way e. Infographic: How to manage your classroom more effectively. Click to expand! Consider a flexible seating arrangement — Research has shown that physically adjusting the classroom environment can foster greater collaboration, communication, and interaction between students and teachers alike.

A good teacher is prepared Every day, the effective teacher comes to class prepared to teach. Dispositions — The teacher realizes that subject matter knowledge is not a fixed body of facts but is complex and ever evolving. This highlights the importance of using praise and rewards strategically — and emphasizes the significance of using feedback correctly as a teacher.

For example, checking questions, performing over-the-shoulder observations of student work, and listening in to group talk are all strategies you can use to communicate your high expectations as a teacher. We need to find out what is happening and make a plan to get you back on track. When interpreting the graph in Figure 2, it becomes clear that intensive reading intervention was needed. Based on this information, Jaime is not likely to reach the level of reading 90 words correctly by the end of second grade and will probably only reach the benchmark expected for a student at the beginning of second grade.

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It is also likely that Jaime will need to continue receiving intervention into third grade, and progress monitoring can determine, along with other assessment information, when his oral reading fluency improves to the point where intervention may be changed, reduced, or even discontinued.

You may wonder how the intervention team would determine whether Jaime is progressing at an adequate pace when he is in third grade.

If his slope shows a lack of adequate progress, his teachers can revisit the need for intervention to ensure that Jaime does not fall behind again. Computer-adapted assessments are increasing in popularity in schools, in part, because they do not require a lot of time or effort to administer and score, but they do require schools to have an adequate technology infrastructure. Or it could be that the student does not know the meaning of many vocabulary words and needs to build background knowledge to read fluently Adams, , which would require the use of different assessment procedures specifically designed to assess and monitor progress related to these skills.

Even more vexing is when low oral reading fluency scores are caused by multiple, intermingling factors that need to be identified before intervention begins. When the problem is more complex, more specialized assessments are needed to disentangle the factors contributing to it. For example, a student reading 10 correct words per minute on an oral reading fluency measure whose growth is at the 5th percentile is improving much more slowly compared to the other children who also started out reading only 10 words correctly per minute.

Preliminary research shows some promise in using growth percentiles to measure progress as an alternative to slope, and teachers should be on the lookout for more research related to improving ways to monitor student progress. How can teachers figure out the details of what a student needs in terms of intervention? You may be starting to recognize some overlap among different types of assessments across categories. For example, state tests are usually both formal and summative.

Literacy screeners and progress-monitoring assessments are often formal and formative. And some assessments, such as portfolio assessments, have many overlapping qualities across the various assessment categories e. In bringing up portfolio assessments, this takes us back to points raised at the beginning of this chapter related to the authenticity of literacy assessments.

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  7. So why do multiple choice tests exist if options such as portfolio assessment, which are so much more authentic, are an option? High-quality multiple choice tests tend to have stronger psychometric properties discussed in the next section than performance assessments like portfolios, which make multiple choice tests desirable when assessment time is limited and scores need to have strong measurement properties.

    Multiple choice test items are often easy to score and do not require a great deal of inference to interpret i. Portfolio assessments often take longer to do but also reflect the use of many important literacy skills that multiple choice items simply cannot assess. Based on this discussion, you may wonder if portfolio assessments are superior to multiple choice tests, or if the reverse is true.

    As always, an answer about a preferred format depends on the purpose of the assessment and what kinds of decisions will be made based on findings. A chapter about literacy assessment would not be complete without some discussion about psychometric properties of assessment scores, such as reliability and validity Trochim, Reliable assessment means that the information gathered is consistent and dependable—that the same or similar results would be obtained if the student were assessed on a different day, by a different person, or using a similar version of the same assessment Trochim, If these same inconsistencies in ratings arose across other items on the reading behavior scale or with other students, you would conclude that the scale has problems.

    These problems could include that the scale is poorly constructed, or that there may simply be inter-rater reliability problems related to a lack of training or experience with the people doing the ratings.

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    Reliability of formal assessment instruments, such as tests, inventories, or surveys, is usually investigated through research that is published in academic journal articles or test manuals. This kind of research involves administering the instrument to a sample of individuals, and findings are reported based on how those individuals scored. The more stable reliability estimates are across multiple diverse samples, the more teachers can count on scores or ratings being reliable for their students. When reliability is unknown, then decisions made based on assessment information may not be trustworthy.

    The need for strong reliability versus the need for authenticity i. In addition to assessments needing to be reliable, information gathered from assessments must also be valid for making decisions. A test has evidence of validity when research shows that it measures what it is supposed to measure Trochim, A weekly spelling test score may lack evidence of validity for applied spelling ability because some students may just be good memorizers and not be able to spell the same words accurately or use the words in their writing.

    When assessment information is not reliable, then it cannot be valid, so reliability is a keystone for the evaluation of assessments. Sometimes, a test that seems to test what it is supposed to test will have issues with validity that are not apparent. For example, if students are tested on math applications problems to see who may need math intervention, a problem could arise if the children may not be able to read the words in the problems.

    In this case, the students may get many items incorrect, making the math test more like a reading test for these students. It is research on validity and observations by astute educators that help uncover these sorts of problems and prevent the delivery of a math intervention when what may actually be needed is a reading intervention. The validity issue described above is one reason why some students may receive accommodations e. If students with reading disabilities had the above math test read to them, then their resulting scores would likely be a truer indicator of math ability because the accommodation ruled out their reading difficulties.

    This same logic applies to English language learners ELLs who can understand spoken English much better than they can read it. If a high school exam assessing knowledge of biology is administered and ELL students are unable to pass it, is it because they do not know biology or is it because they do not know how to read English?

    If the goal is to assess their knowledge of biology, then the test scores may not be valid. Another example of a validity issue occurs if a student with visual impairment were assessed using a reading task featuring print in point font. If the student scored poorly, would you refer him or her for reading intervention? Hopefully, not. The student might actually need reading intervention, but there is a validity problem with the assessment results, so that in reality, you would need more information before making any decisions.

    On the other hand, if the student still scored low even with appropriately enlarged print, you would conclude that the student may have a visual impairment and a reading problem, in which case providing reading intervention, along with the accommodation of large print material, would be needed.

    While there is little controversy surrounding literacy assessments that are informal and part of normal classroom practices, formal assessments activate huge controversy in schools, in research communities, on Internet discussion boards, and in textbooks like this. When considering the scope of educational assessment, one thing is clear: many school districts give far too many tests to far too many students and waste far too many hours of instruction gathering data that may or may not prove to have any value Nelson , The over testing problem is especially problematic when so much time and effort go into gathering data that do not even end up being used.

    Whether a school is overwhelmed with testing is not universal. School districts have a great deal of influence over the use of assessments, but all too often when new assessments are adopted, they are added to a collection of previously adopted assessments, and the district becomes unsure about which assessments are still needed and which should be eliminated. Assessments also are added based on policy changes at federal and state levels. For example, the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act of NCLB , expanded state testing to occur in all grades three through eight, compared to previous mandates which were much less stringent.

    Some tests are mandated for schools to receive funding, such as state tests; however, the use of other assessments is largely up to school districts. It is important for educators and school leaders to periodically inventory procedures being used, discuss the extent to which they are needed, and make decisions that will provide answers without over testing students. In other words, the validity of assessments is not only limited to how they are used with individual students but must be evaluated at a larger system level in which benefits to the whole student body are also considered.

    When assessments provide data that are helpful in making instructional decisions but also take away weeks of instructional time, educators and school leaders must work toward solutions that maximize the value of assessments while minimizing potential negative effects. Not liking test findings is a different issue than test findings not being valid.

    For example if a test designed to identify students behind in reading is used to change instruction, then it may be quite valuable, even if it is unpleasant to find out that many students are having difficulty. As a society, we tend to want indicators of student accountability, such as that a minimum standard has been met for students to earn a high school diploma. Often, earning a diploma requires students to pass high-stakes exit exams; however, this seemingly straightforward use of test scores can easily lead to social injustice, particularly for students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

    Because high-stakes tests may be inadequate at providing complete information about what many students know and can do, the International Reading Association IRA, released a position statement that included the following recommendation:. There is no easy answer for how to use assessments to precisely communicate how well students are prepared for college, careers, and life, and we are likely many reform movements away from designing a suitable plan. Literacy assessments can only be used to improve outcomes for students if educators have deep knowledge of research-based instruction, assessment, and intervention and can use that knowledge in their classrooms.

    For this reason, information from this chapter should be combined with other chapters from this book and other texts outlining the use of effective literacy strategies, including students who are at risk for developing reading problems or who are English language learners. Although literacy assessment is often associated with high-stakes standardized tests, in reality, literacy assessments encompass an array of procedures to help teachers make instructional decisions.

    Knowing about the different kinds of assessments and their purposes will allow you to be a valuable addition to these important conversations. Literacy assessments can be informal or formal, formative or summative, screenings or diagnostic tests. They can provide data at single points in time or to monitor progress over time. Ask yourself, "Who needs my attention now? Which students need a different approach?

    Which students are not learning anything new, because I haven't challenged them? We must be prepared to provide both corrective activities and enrichment activities for those who need them. Your challenge will be to find a new and different pathway to understanding.

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    The suggestions for struggling learners will help students during their "second-chance" learning on the road toward mastery. The suggestions for advanced learners will challenge those students who, in my opinion, are frequently forgotten in mixed-ability classrooms. With these easy adjustments to your lesson plans, you will be able to respond to the diverse readiness needs of students in your heterogeneous classroom.


    In differentiated classrooms everywhere, a resounding mantra is "Fair is not equal; fair is getting what you need. But for our assessments to be accurate, we need multiple measures of student understanding. We need evidence gathered over time in different ways to evaluate how effective the teaching and learning process has been. Tomlinson and McTighe suggest that when we gather a "photo album" rather than a "snapshot" of our students, we can differentiate instruction based on a more accurate evaluation of our students' learning needs.

    I wish you success as you gather your own "photo album" of your students and choose from a variety of reflective, unique, and engaging assessment tools. This book offers you an "assessment tool kit" to choose from as you create a classroom that is continually more responsive to the needs of your diverse learners. These assessments will provide you and your students "evidence" of their learning and help them on their journey to greater achievement in school.

    This new way of delivering intervention to struggling students encompasses a three-tiered model. Tier 1 interventions include monitoring at-risk students within the general education classroom, ensuring that each student has access to a high-quality education that is matched to his or her needs. RTI focuses on improving academic achievement by using scientifically based instructional practices.

    According to the National Association of State Directors of Special Education , Tier 1 strategies encompass "alternative assessment which utilizes quality interventions matched to student needs, coupled with formative evaluation to obtain data over time to make critical educational decisions. The evidence-based formative assessments provided in this book are excellent methods for classroom teachers to measure the progress of their Tier 1 students. Educator and author Judith Dodge provides a variety of techniques for incorporating formative assessments into classroom practice and describes how this can assist in differentiating instruction.

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