Earlier this week, I recounted my first day of performance based assessment design with a new group of teachers and administrators. If you happened to read, you might remember that someone in the room that day shared a beautiful question, and the exchange that followed altered our design approach in significant ways. In essence, the question challenged us to consider how we might craft a performance based assessment that could help teachers develop closer relationships with their students.

This begs other equally compelling questions. Specifically:

  • How do learners establish close relationships with teachers?
  • What specific experiences create closeness?
  • Which experiences diminish the potential for closeness?
  • If our intention is to design an assessment that enables teachers to develop closer relationships with their students, what must we be sure to include in our design? What should we be careful to limit?
  • How can we be sure to align our performance based assessment to this standard first?

It’s important to remember that the Common Core Learning Standards don’t supplant our own–they support them. The wisest teachers I work with are deeply committed to this vision.

For instance, rewarding relationships are fostered when teachers and peers provide learners criteria specific feedback on their works in progress rather than criticism.  When learners use this feedback to build upon their strengths and take new (and often uncertain) steps their confidence grows.  Their trust in others does as well. This understanding inspires many of the teachers that I work with to maintain very high standards for peer review, and even though the Common Core doesn’t speak to them specifically, they don’t intend to sacrifice these standards in order to align to the Common Core. In fact, they plan to situate the Common Core Learning Standards inside of their own.

Take a peek at CCLS.W.6: Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

Of course, teachers want the writers that they support to do these things well. Wrapping their personal standards for peer review around  CCLS.W.6 ensures that they will use the Core in service to this far greater and more meaningful vision. Designing in this way ensures that their assessment will honor their values and goals.

We don’t have to sacrifice what matters most in order to meet the demands of the Common Core. In fact, it’s critical that we don’t. The thing is, what matters most is often very particular to each system and culture. Defining this is an important first step for teams approaching performance based assessment design.





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