Assessment is an integral aspect of teaching and can take a variety of different forms. It is essential that teachers integrate both formative and summative assessments in order to evaluate if students are reaching the desired learning targets. Not only are assessments used to gauge if individuals students are reaching the learning target, but assessments allow teachers to collect data on students and use that data to guide future instruction for both individuals and groups. Not only does data provide important information for the instructor, but it also allows for educators to provide feedback to students and highlight areas of improvement associated with the learning targets.
I exemplified implementing formative assessment during a recent unit on “The Kite Runner” at my internship placement. The learning target, which was communicated to students at the beginning of class, stated that “Student will be able to use knowledge of the text to further analyze character development through writing a letter from the narrator’s point of view.” This learning target aligns with the Common Core Standard CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.3: “Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.” Students were assigned to write a letter from the point of view of the protagonist and assessed on three determining factors: letter format, reference to at least one specific event, and tone of the letter. The nature of the assessment did not immediately allow for me to distinguish what students met the desired level of proficiency. Proficiency was checked after I had an opportunity to read letters and provide written feedback on each individual letter.
For some the students who did not meet the standard, it was evident that they had not completed the required reading. Without reading the text, meeting the standard is unrealistic. This assessment provided insight into students who were falling behind in the reading and were approached individually about their reading progress. Other students who did not meet the standard did not make at least one reference to a specific event in the text. I provided additional support for these students by writing brief comments on their letters with an example and challenging them to brainstorm an additional event. On the other hand, there were students who were proficient and reached the learning target. In hindsight, I should have challenged those students to predict the response of the character receiving the letter and include that in their letter.
Though I was not able to provide I provide immediate feedback to all students based on the written format of the assessment, fellow students and I provided feedback to those who decided to share their letter with the class. Feedback was provided to each student based on their level of proficiency in regards to the learning target. For example, those students who did not write in letter format were reminded of the first-person point of view. Students who did not include at least one reference to an event were provided an example and challenged to brainstorm an additional event. For student who did not write their letter with an accurate tone, I cited two specific areas where their tone does not fit the tone of the text. Students who met the learning target were given positive reinforcement for their work and challenged to predict the response of the letter’s recipient based off their comprehensive knowledge of the text.
The data I collected revealed that the vast majority of students reached the learning target. Though most students met the learning targets, students who did not received detailed individual feedback on their letters. It was established that most students possess foundational character development skills and analysis of student work helped guide my future instruction. The next instructional step after this lesson was to further the understanding of character development and recent events in the text through small group and class discussions. Students were prompted by guided questions to reach a deeper level of understanding in regards to character development. Furthermore, students listened to opinions of other students, which provided them alternative view points and additional pieces of textual evidence.
The reasoning behind this informal assessment was to practice higher-level thinking in regards to character development. Students will have to use these skills to complete their summative assessment at the end of this unit. Students will be asked to write a comparative essay between The Kite Runner and Purple Hibiscus. Students will be required to analyze character development in each of these novels and write an essay comparing and contrasting major characters and themes. This higher-level thinking will be imperative in order for students to reach their learning targets for the summative assessment.
I would consider using a similar informal assessment in the future, but I would provide more detailed expectations. In the future, I would present several models following the informal assessment. I would then have students write on the back of their letter – One strength, one weakness, and one goal for a future letter. For this assessment, I did not provide students an opportunity to use metacognition skills and set goals for related tasks in the future, which I would alter in the future. I continue to focus on returning targeted student feedback in a timely manner in order to effectively use data to progress students towards learning targets and create cohesion from class-to-class.