Determining what students understand is key to learning. But when it’s based on test results and not actual performance, depth of understanding can be lost.
Assessment starts at the beginning – in the early planning stages and continues throughout the entire life of the inquiry, including the day-to-day teaching. Assessment guides the teaching and the learning throughout the inquiry.
Teachers are in the best position to identify what students need to learn. However, students have a strong role to play in discussing and debating what understanding might look like. What does exemplary work look and feel like? By involving students in establishing assessment criteria, everyone will have a clear understanding of how work will be assessed.
Other points on how assessment is central to effective inquiry-based work:
- All assessment practices are tied to specific tasks that make up the study. Whatever students have designed and constructed must work. The impact of the work on others is an integral component of assessment.
- Standards of assessment are more closely tied to the actual standards of the disciplines as they currently exist. Students are the artists, the scientists and the explorers.
- Adults other than the teacher are involved in performance assessment. These can be experts and other community members.
- Exhibitions of learning become a valued component of assessment. Self and peer evaluation is also a critical component of assessment.
- Students’ ability to defend their solutions, points of view or products is essential.
- The assessment program supports diverse points of view, different approaches to a problem and unique solutions, rather than standardization.
Once the teacher and the students have a clear idea of how the inquiry work will be assessed, it’s time to share this information with parents. Communicate in clear, ordinary language what students need to know, what they should be able to do, and what high quality work looks like.