Yesterday was a teacher institute day. Along with middle and high school teachers I took part in a session dedicated to discussing common assessments. The session covered topics of what role common assessments play and why they should be given. We discussed what qualifies as a common assessment and the need for teachers to be involved in the creation process. As we delved deeper into conversations I found that many of middle and high school colleagues create their assessments since there isn’t really a textbook that covers all the standards that they teach.
This often isn’t the case at the elementary level. In math, I find that the content publisher creates assessments and teachers rely on giving that piece to students in the form of quizzes/tests. Although the publisher-created content is decent, it can sometimes provide little value to the teacher beyond writing a score in the grade book. In addition, the teacher may have been required to give the assessment per district protocol. In many cases teachers might not have any type of ownership to the pre-created content.
Later in the session the participants were given the opportunity to create their own common assessment. During the process we filled out a common assessment mapping tool. The mapping tool included fields for the learning objective, item number and type (i.e. multiple choice, short answer …) , item domain (i.e. informational or skill item), item depth (i.e. recall, understanding, strategic thinking, evaluation/creating), and point value.
While filling out the map we had to keep in mind what type of question was being asked. We eliminated some of the multiple-choice questions and decided to add questions that give students opportunities show their mathematical thinking. After picking the questions we looked at the item depth. The item depth determines the depth of understanding that the teacher is seeking. At the end of each question the team decided on a point value for that assessment item. Near the end of the session our mapping tool looked something like this:
I could see my team using this mapping tool for additional common assessments. Not only does it give our team more information that can be used to adjust/inform our instruction, it’s also valuable to the student. After completing the common assessment, students can reflect, set and make goals. Creating common assessments may also provide opportunities for teachers to take more of an ownership role because they helped in the creation process.