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Assessment: Process as important as product

At the beginning of the semester, I considered myself fairly knowledgeable about assessment. After all, as a teacher, I had participated in overhauling my first school’s assessment system and participated in campaigns for standard-based grading. Nevertheless, this class — particularly my peers in discussions and class activities — pushed my thinking about assessment in three important ways.

First, I learned about the distinction between formative and summative assessment and the importance of both types. In our transformations, my partners and I struggled at first. We knew the difference between the two but had trouble lining up our goals and objectives to their corresponding assessments. After taking a look at the Carnegie Mellon University’s Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence’s website (http://goo.gl/x6aEN), however, our understanding became much clearer. I appreciated the succinct definitions and the easy-to-understand examples.

Second, I learned that the assessment of process goals is as important as the assessment of content goals. This was a major shift for me. After all, as a teacher, I have been taught — especially over the past decade, since the advent of No Child Left Behind — that content is king. Process is secondary. What matters most is whether the student gets there, not how she got there. But Professor Loertscher and my peers cajoled my thinking. Particularly with information literacy and 21st century skills, which emphasize critical thinking, the assessment of process is critical. The Big Think — in which students practice metacognition and consider their growth in product and process — is also an important step for teachers and teacher librarians.

Third, much of my learning came in reading the Common Core and the AASL standards closely and thoroughly. I’ve become obsessed with the Common Core’s ELA standards and the controversy surrounding David Coleman, who argues against pre-reading activities and reader response pedagogy. Despite the ongoing debate about the Common Core, I found the standards helpful for interdisciplinary projects and for learning that involves research and support from teacher librarians. Specifically, the focus on argument and evidence aligns well with several learning models, specifically “Take a Stand.” I also appreciated perusing the AASL standards, especially their focus on problem solving, critical thinking, and the production and sharing of knowledge. If the library is to become a 21st-century learning commons, our curriculum and assessment must center on the exchange of ideas.

My reading this semester has deepened my understanding of curriculum and assessment. Shifting from being a classroom teacher to a teacher librarian has encouraged me to consider assessment differently. My journey has led me to believe in the importance of assessing not just the discrete content standards but also the more fundamental aspects of learning — the why and the how.

Please share your brilliant insights!