Nearly ten years into my career as an independent education consultant, I can say with confidence that a large portion of my time has been devoted to supporting teachers with assessment design. If you’ve walked a similar path, then you know how hard and humbling this work is. Perhaps, like me, you stand on the shoulders of assessment giants like Douglas Reeves, Rick Stiggins, Dylan Wiliam, Susan Brookhart, or James Popham. Perhaps you still define yourself as a learner too, despite any expertise you’ve gained.
If so, come sit next to me.
I’m wondering where your passions for this work lie. I’m wondering which assessment moments make the most difference, in your opinion. I’m wondering how your thinking has changed over the years. I’m wondering how your practices are as well.
Many of my colleagues know that my interest in pedagogical documentation grew out of my passion for formative assessment. I’m particularly motivated by teachers who are striving to assess learning without disrupting it, a challenge shared first by my friend Jennifer Borgioli Binis as she was facilitating an assessment design program of her own several years ago. “Formative assessment is a verb,” she suggested then. “It isn’t just a noun.” This changed everything.
Last week, my thinking was pushed once again as I sank into Kim Bailey and Chris Jakicic’s new book, Simplifying Common Assessment: A Guide for Professional Learning Communities at Work. My short review? This book is a gem for any educator who knows anything about assessment, and it’s a must-read for those who new to this work. Bailey and Jakicic have not only done their homework, they’ve sharpened their tools in the trenches, and they’re eager to share them with us.
Here, readers will find a gorgeous synthesis of the very best thinking and work in the area of assessment design. Bailey and Jakicic offer clear translations of complex theories, meaningful protocols, and sage advice as they move readers through the design process one solid step at a time. They begin by building a bit of assessment literacy, they coach readers to begin with the end in mind, they make the process of prioritizing and unwrapping standards explicit and manageable, and they provide designers elegant tools that better enable reliability and validity. Most importantly, Bailey and Jakicic accompany readers beyond the design phase, challenging them to reconsider they way they collect and interpret evidence of learning and how they use those findings to inform their feedback and their grading practices.
Although this text treats formative assessment as a noun more often than it does a verb, many of the recommendations serve teachers who might assume either stance, and readers are invited to reflect, interpret, and apply their own understandings at will. As I continue my own study of pedagogical documentation and continue to champion performance based assessments, I know that Bailey and Jakicic’s work will have important influence.
For all of these reasons, I wanted to take a moment to review their work here and recommend it to all who are just as geeky about assessment design as I am. Pick up a copy or borrow mine, if you’re interested. I’m happy to share!