This summer I enrolled in the level 3 advanced course about Authentic Assessments prepared by the Learning that Transfers Team. The holidays are some of the best times for learning and after 6 weeks of intense study, collaboration, and reflections it was clear this was a fantastic choice of professional development. I came away feeling excited about all the changes I’d be able to make the following school year.
What is Authentic Assessment of Learning that Transfers
This course is designed for experienced educators who wish to reimagine the purpose and possibilities of assessment in a transfer-focused classroom. The curriculum supports educators efforts to create a summative assessment task, devise a purposeful rubric, and design a system of feedback to support students ability to transfer their learning to unique situations and contexts.
You’ll learn about:
- The role and purpose of assessments
- How concepts and patterns impact the transfer of learning
- Creating systems of feedback that empower students
- How to prioritize transfer to novel situations
- Facilitating opportunities for students to impact the world
- The alignment between summative and formative assessments
- The relationship between feedback, self-assessment and self-directed learning
Source: © Julie Stern, Krista Ferraro, Kayla Duncan, Trevor Aleo
Why Authentic Assessments?
If we hope to shift our students relationship with learning and assessment, we have to constantly be making intentional improvements to our assessment practices. We have to consider ways to move beyond grading and ranking students and towards supporting their efforts to become autonomous learners and problem solvers. This not only makes for better assessment, but helps prepare them for the complex world outside of school. The Authentic Assessment course helped me realize the importance of developing students’ conceptual understanding of different domains to support their ability to tackle complex problems and develop a life long love of learning.
I used to think that assessments were the driving purpose behind learning. Even as a child, tests instilled feelings of fear, intimidation, and a sense of not being worthy. Preparing for exams meant endless late-night studying and missed opportunities to live a healthier life. Instead of measuring my growth or competence in a meaning way, they were an obstacle in my process of becoming. Instead of helping me understand where I was on my learning journey, they made me too nervous to take the next step.
Now I think of assessments from the perspective of a life-long learner. I see them as a system of feedback that help me understand where I am and where I need to go next. They provide me feedback, guidance, and encouragement when I fail to meet standards I have set for myself. They help me realize that failure is a part of the process of transformation that leads to a better self. These are ideas that I not only share with my students, but my children as well.
From my perspective, setting clear learning goals and success criteria, providing opportunities for self and peer assessment, as well as encouraging feedback (and feedforward!) are the elements of a healthier assessment. As a learner, I should acknowledge what I am able to do now, feel confident about it, and yes, I should be able to transfer this new learning in any aspect of my life. This will communicate to me that I am more efficient and I can make an impact.
Last, celebrating small successes is key, so allowing time and space to acknowledge the transformation as a result of learning confirmed by assessment will keep me engaged and motivated.
Here are the examples of my unit planners designed during the course.
Educators must grow in a culture of collaboration where trust and the value of relationships are prime. These rock-star educators must be trusted to model, coach, and scaffold learning that is valuable in the life that students are likely to live in. What and how they assess should reflect the human values and goals, and most importantly, they should communicate the learning transfer aims of these practices.
‘If there is one single shift that had the power to transform a coverage-based classroom into a transfer-focused one, this would be it: assess for transfer.’(Stern et al., 2021)
There should be less talking about how we teach and more about how we learn; less reflective teaching and more reflective learning. With clear and cohesive systems of feedback that encourage self-assessment and implicitly self-directed learning, students take learning into their own hands, develop autonomy, control, and metacognitive thinking, ultimately becoming better human beings.
Julie Stern, Krista Ferraro, Kayla Duncan, Trevor Aleo. 2021. Learning That Transfers: Designing Curriculum for a Changing World. Corwin Teaching Essentials