Monday, March 26, 2012

Book Review: Advancing Formative Assessment in Every Classroom

Advancing Formative Assessment in Every Classroom (2009), by Connie Moss and Susan Brookhart, was actually better than I thought it would be. Some educational books are so theoretical that they offer little to be practically implemented in schools and classrooms, but I didn't feel that was the case at all with this book. In fact, Moss and Brookhart were intentional about addressing the issues of carrying out their suggestions.

The idea that basically serves as the central theme throughout the book is utilizing "feedback that feeds forward." I like this phrase because it reminds me how important it is that we take students somewhere in their learning, that we help them progress, or move forward. So, the authors do a good job of analyzing certain practices, such as grading, goal-setting, and questioning, views them through the formative assessment lens.

There are a lot of practical ideas in the book, but the overall take-away for me is to remember how important it is that I teach and resource students how to learn. This represents a shift from a focus on what to learn. While both are important, great learning requires a feedback cycle that includes the following elements:
  • specific
  • positive
  • focused on work
  • descriptive
  • compared to the target (objective, goal)
One of the more interesting discussions in the book dealt with goal-setting. Moss and Brookhart contend that goal-setting is not an event, but a process that needs to be practiced in a minute-by-minute manner as part of learning.

In their own words, the bottom line is that either "students are the captain of their own ship of learning or there is no ship" (page 95). For all the talk these days about students owning their learning, there has to be practical tools in place to encourage them to take ownership. We have to equip students with ways to ask themselves questions, set goals, and evaluate their progress toward those goals. And the key to all of this is evidence. There has to be evidence of learning!

Therefore, the whole process begins with clearly defining the learning target.

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