Vol 5 . . . No 4 . . . December, 1995

Assessment for Navigation

The best assessment provides rapid and frequent feedback to the innovators so that adjustments can be made while the program is underway. The assessment data is used along with other information to navigate past obstacles and problems, steering the program forward in a sound manner.

Unfortunately, much educational research of the past emphasized summative evaluation, assessments near the end of a project which indicate whether or not the project met its goals. Research which helps the participants change direction and steer the program more wisely, formative evaluation, is rare, and yet this is likely to be the kind of research most helpful to a school council, a technology committee and a group of innovators. Teachers can learn from day to day what is working and what needs changing.

Another important source of insight is qualitative research which takes the perspectives of anthropology and looks at information such as interviews, journals and observations to make judgements rather than relying upon quantitative research which relies upon numerical measures. The tools associated with qualitative research are more accessible to school practitioners than are the statistical models associated with quantitative research.

Authentic assessment as used by the Coalition of Essential Schools refers to student activities which demonstrate learning other than the traditional paper and pencil exams and standardized tests. The student reveals insight and skill by providing a performance or portfolio at the end of the unit which requires personal translation of key ideas.

Technology rich learning may ask that teachers re-write old scripts. Instead of relying upon patterns that have worked in the past, they are inventing new versions. As Making the Connection points out, the technology suggests an adjustment toward student-centered classrooms. The "sage on the stage" becomes "the guide on the side."

Assessment makes it possible to peek over the horizon and steer a safe course.

The Sad and Sorry State of Technology Program Assessment---Hypotheses for the Sad and Sorry State---Why Bother? What's the Pay-Off?---The Centrality of Clear Goals and Outcome Statements---Assessment for Navigation---Self-Assessment Instruments---Performance Assessment Instruments---When all is said and done---Resources

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