Are Your Assessments Aligned?

By | 2016-10-29T11:36:16+00:00 May 16th, 2013|

One of the biggest fears of many teachers when working through an integrated lesson is how to assess the other content area.  Part of this fear comes from just not “knowing”.  We can punch that fear in the face if we take a few extra steps to ensure that we map out the assessments we intend to use, include a reason for why they measure what we’re looking to achieve and then provide a way to reflect on whether or not that assessment was effective.  This makes assessment a process and not a product.  As educators, we can look at assessments as either a stamp of judgment or as a diagnostic tool that we can use to learn about where our students are and where they need to go.  I like door number 2 because it aligns with my philosophy of education as a pathway, not a destination.

Just as it’s critical to go through the process of curriculum mapping to ensure that the standards for integrated lessons are aligned, so too is it essential that we map our assessments.  If we go through the assessment alignment process, we are ensuring that we are choosing assessments that are truly measuring the standards we set out to teach.  This brings back authenticity to the lesson and allows us to have richer and more meaningful data conversations.  So…are your assessments aligned?

If not, it’s completely understandable.  Many districts and schools have bypassed this step because there are so many other pressing needs.  But I promise you that by investing the time up front, you will save yourself a lot of work on the backend because you will have valid and reliable data that truly measures student progress.  To get started, you’ll need an assessment map.   Here’s a sample from our assessment for makers online class that you can use:

assessment alignment

At first glance, this may look intimidating, but we’ve got you covered with a step-by-step process for using this map to its highest potential.

creative mindset class
  1. Write your lesson standards in the correct columns.  These should be naturally-aligned objectives for your integrated lesson.
  2. What is your essential question that you would like your students to think about?  Remember that essential questions do not contain a right or wrong answer, but rather cause students to think deeply about a topic and explain their reasoning.
  3. Write the type of assessment that you will be using to measure student growth in this lesson.  A rubric? A selected response?  Write a brief description about the assessment you plan to use and make sure that it is measuring the objectives you listed at the front of the chart.
  4. Give a brief, 1-2 sentence description of your lesson activities.  This could also be a bulleted list. How are you engaging your students in the thinking process?
  5. After completing steps 1-4 of the chart, use this to guide your instruction.  Don’t worry about the last two columns until after you are done with your instruction of the lesson.
  6. After you administer the assessment, record the scores for that assessment.  You may choose to record the scores of all the students in your class, a targeted group of students, or the class average.  While the choice is yours, be sure that you have enough data to reflect on the effectiveness of your lesson and think about moving students forward.
  7. What are the next steps for this topic/concept/unit based upon the data you’ve recorded?  Did your assessment align with and measure the objectives you listed?  Was the lesson clear and cohesive?  Were students able to think through the essential questions?  What factors caused this lesson to be a success or to need improvement?  Write your reflections and engage in a conversation about this data.

We hope this helps on your journey to integration and can’t wait to hear other ideas out there for assessing with integrity!

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About the Author:

Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.Email Susan

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