معرفي كتاب پاپهام با عنوانTransformative Assessment in Action: An Inside Look at Applying the Process

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Transformative Assessment in Action: An Inside Look at Applying the Process
by W. James Popham

In this follow-up to the best-selling Transformative Assessment, W. James Popham focuses on the decisions involved in the planning and implementation of formative assessment, providing the practical guidance and models you need to turn "formative assessment talk" into "formative assessment action."

 

Contents:

 

  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction (and Reprise)
  • Chapter 1. Applying the Formative Assessment Process
  • Chapter 2. Learning Progressions: Blueprints for the Formative Assessment Process
  • Chapter 3. Immediate Instructional Adjustments Based on Assessed Performance
  • Chapter 4. Immediate Instructional Adjustments Based on Student-Reported Understanding
  • Chapter 5. Near-Future Instructional Adjustments
  • Chapter 6. Last-Chance Instructional Adjustments
  • Chapter 7. Students' Learning Tactic Adjustments
  • Chapter 8. Classroom Climate Shifts
  • Chapter 9. Reports From the Field
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • About the Author
  • Related ASCD Resources: Formative Assessment
  • Copyright

                                                                               

 Copyright © 2011 by ASCD.                                   

 

Transformative Assessment in Action

by W. James Popham

Table of Contents

 

Introduction (and Reprise)

Not too long ago, I wrote a book about formative assessment (Popham, 2008). In that book's first paragraph, I said I would be describing a kind of classroom assessment intended to "fundamentally transform the way a teacher teaches" (p. vii), and as a consequence, the book's publisher gave it the title of Transformative Assessment. This book, the book you've just started to read, is a sequel to that earlier volume. In an effort to reduce confusion, I will refer to the earlier book as "TA1" and to this sequel as "TA2."

Why a Sequel?

I've never written a sequel before. Oh, I've certainly revised books, especially textbooks, so that my publishers could sell updated versions of the books to those who want "the latest word." But those revised editions aren't really sequels; they are updated, yet structurally similar, versions of an already written book. In contrast, TA2 is a brand new book, with a mission that's different from that of its elder sibling. Let me explain.

As Transformative Assessment made its way into educators' hands, I found myself invited to make presentations and to direct workshops focused on how formative assessment could enhance teachers' effectiveness and improve students' learning. I was delighted to accept these invitations and, in 2009, I ended up making many such presentations throughout the United States, elaborating on the mission and content of TA1 and spelling out what formative assessment is, what it isn't, how it is supported by solid research evidence, and the ways in which teachers could be encouraged to start using it.

These sorts of professional development sessions afford great opportunities to get acquainted with one's colleagues, and I established e-mail communication with educators from many of those sessions, especially with the school leaders who had set up my presentations. At first, I picked up some useful insights about the way formative assessment was being accepted in these schools. But, as time went by, what I began finding out from those e-mail communications was troubling.

"Yes," my school-leader correspondents told me, "the teachers you met at our sessions were and still are quite supportive of formative assessment. But relatively few of our teachers are actually using formative assessment in their own classrooms." According to my contacts, the most prevalent obstacle to getting teachers to use formative assessment was insufficient professional development time. Teachers didn't feel they had the time they needed to consider procedures and issues associated with formative assessment. Right behind the obstacle of insufficient professional development time, though, was a desperate need for models of formative assessment in action.

The Majesty of Modeling

For more than a year now, I've been polling local educators to get a better fix on what sorts of "examples" of formative assessment they want—what kinds of models would be most useful in getting them and their colleagues to give the formative assessment process a try. Most replied that they wanted videos of classrooms in which teachers and students were using formative assessment. And although I appreciated their suggestions, I think that what those educators were asking for isn't what they really need.

Perhaps you already know that formative assessment is a planned process in which teachers or students use assessment-elicited evidence to improve what they're doing. It calls for teachers and, in some instances, students to make a host of decisions. And because formative assessment is primarily about decisions, what is most important about it is not what goes on inside a classroom and can be captured by a camera crew, but what goes on inside a teacher's head and inside students' heads. We might be able to catch on video what it looks like for a teacher to gather assessment evidence that will be used in the formative assessment process. But for that video to be truly helpful as a model, it would need to play with a simultaneous voice-over track—something like the director's commentaries you find on DVDs—in which the teacher would explain the rationale for collecting this evidence at this particular time as well as the subsequent decisions about an instructional adjustment that the evidence informed.

I expect this kind of high-quality video professional development tool will be available one day. But I didn't want to wait. Every day that formative assessment is not used in a teacher's classroom is a day that students are not being taught as well as they could be—as well as they should be. So I decided to write a book that would take a reader "inside a teacher's head" as that teacher got ready for and implemented the formative assessment process. My paper-and-ink modeling may not be as vivid as a DVD with a director's commentary, and it's neither high-def nor 3–D, but I think it does what I set out to do: depict what goes on in the mind of a teacher who is employing formative assessment.

What's on the Menu

This book covers both the foundation of formative assessment and its applications. As you might guess, the foundation comes first.

In Chapter 1, I provide a new framework intended to give educators a firmer grasp on the various applications of the formative assessment process. I've done a heap of thinking about such an easy-to-understand framework, and those thoughts have been informed by literally hundreds of interactions with teachers and administrators throughout the United States. This framework might not be needed by all educators, but it surely helped me think more clearly about the most appropriate moments to employ the formative assessment process. I hope it helps you, too.

Chapter 2 takes a closer look at what I believe to be the blueprint for effective formative assessment—the learning progression—and prompts teachers to uncover the learning progressions that may already be present within their unit plans.

Then, it's on to formative assessment's applications and my own illustrations. In Chapters 3 through 8, we will first look at the various decisions—or choice-points—involved in planning various applications of formative assessment and then go inside some classrooms to focus on particular ways that teachers are using these applications. Immediately after the depictions of the classroom goings-on, you will read an interview with the classroom teacher whom you (and the interviewer) have just seen in action. This teacher comments on what he or she was thinking, planning, or deciding at key points of the formative assessment process. At the close of each chapter's interview, I isolate the chief insights I hope you will have snared from the interviews.

The obvious question: Who are these teachers we'll be seeing in action—these teachers who will be giving us an inside look at the process of formative assessment? They are amalgams, each an imagined combination based on what I've learned from (1) teachers who successfully use formative assessment, (2) supervisors who have observed and discussed formative assessment with teachers who use it, and (3) what the research evidence suggests is a sensible way for a formatively assessing teacher to behave in such situations. These teachers are not written as never-make-an-error pedagogical paragons but, rather, as professionals who look to their own experiences or the results of relevant research and arrive at instructional decisions they believe make sense for the kids they teach.

Happily, one of the most consoling findings of formative assessment research is that teachers do not need to carry out formative assessment in a single, prescribed manner. The teachers in these interviews are meant to be savvy educators who have tried certain approaches, have sometimes stumbled, and yet have arrived at what are, for them, viable ways to use the formative assessment process. As you "see" them in action, read their interview comments, and read my follow-up commentary on their comments, I hope that you will think about how you, as a teacher yourself or as a school leader working with teachers, would approach the same decisions they encounter.

Because I knew I wanted to use a series of fictional teachers to illustrate various applications of formative assessment in this book, I immediately invited contributions from real teachers, identified by friends and colleagues as top-flight users of formative assessment —the very same sorts of educators I hoped to conjure in my amalgamations. I was delighted with the number of them who agreed to submit commentaries for inclusion in the book. In these commentaries, which you'll find in Chapter 9, they describe why they use formative assessment and, in several cases, how they go about making important formative assessment decisions.

Finally, after we have squeezed all the insights out of our teachers, real and fictional, we'll close the book with some next-step actions for educators who want to see formative assessment used more widely.

At the end of every chapter, you'll find a set of reflection questions intended to extend your thinking about the chapter's content. In some instances, you'll be asked to reflect on particular formative assessment activities or, possibly, on choices that are almost certain to confront users of formative assessment. Hopefully, these questions will serve as discussion catalysts for those reading the book as part of professional study.

Well, this is what's coming in TA2. Before we get to that, though, let's look quickly at what went on in TA1.

Reprise, or a Substantially Squeezed Summary of TA1's Most Important Content

If you've already read TA1, preferably with such fevered intensity that you committed enormous portions of that book to memory, then what's in the rest of this Introduction will pretty familiar—a refresher, let us say. If, however, you have not read TA1, and can deal with the shame of such a shortcoming, the following recapitulation will ready you for the upcoming chapters in this book.

A Key Definition

In my 2008 book Transformative Assessment, I offered this definition of formative assessment:

Formative assessment is a planned process in which assessment-elicited evidence of students' status is used by teachers to adjust their ongoing instructional procedures or by students to adjust their current learning tactics. (p. 6)

If I had to choose the single, most important thing I hope readers would have learned from TA1, it would be this definition, stressing that formative assessment is a process, not a test, and a process that's carefully planned. In this process, assessments, both formal and informal, supply the evidence about "where students currently are" so that teachers and students can figure out how to reduce the gap between where students currently are and where those students should be when instruction wraps up.

Formative assessment is not a collection of "interim tests" administered periodically to all students in a school or district. Such interim tests may be called "formative," but labeling them as such does not automatically make those tests what commercial vendors have chosen to call them. Nor is formative assessment what takes place when teachers make an instructional adjustment in response to "sensing" student confusion or by inferring it, based on a classroom full of puzzled faces or abuzz with atypical murmuring. Yes, after an apparent instructional misfire, a sensible teacher will regroup and try another sort of explanation. That's good teaching, and it's something that all teachers should do. But it is not formative assessment—because there's been no planning, no assessment-elicited evidence, and no prior thought on the teacher's part about what sort of instructional adjustments might work to set the lesson to rights. Being responsive to students' reactions makes all sorts of pedagogical sense, but teachers who point to this kind of sound practice as proof that they are "already doing formative assessment" are mistaken.

Note also that, according to this definition, the formative assessment process can be used either by teachers to alter their instructional activities or by students to spruce up their learning tactics. It can also be used by both teachers and students at the same time.

Research Ratification

Teachers and students paying attention to the assessed consequences of instruction and taking action upon them makes gallons of good sense without any research support whatsoever. Happily, we have it anyway. As I noted in TA1, the most compelling collection of relevant empirical research supporting formative assessment is found in the review of classroom assessment investigations by two British researchers, Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam (1998). Starting with about 10 years' worth of published research studies dealing with classroom assessment, almost 700 studies in all, these two analysts selected the 250 strongest investigations, reviewed the findings pertinent to instructionally oriented use of classroom assessments, and then drew the following conclusion:

The research reported here shows conclusively that formative assessment does improve learning. (Black and Wiliam, 1998, p. 61)

Moreover, Black and Wiliam concluded that the student gains in learning triggered by formative assessment were "amongst the largest ever reported for educational interventions" (p. 61) and that "we have not come across any report of negative effects following an enhancement of formative practice" (p. 17). Finally, these two researchers affirmed the robustness of the formative assessment process by asserting that "Significant gains can be achieved by many different routes, and initiatives here are not likely to fail through neglect of delicate and subtle features" (p. 61).

It is difficult for anyone to spend much time with the influential Black and Wiliam review of classroom assessment research without concluding that formative assessment works, it works big time, and its positive effect can be obtained in many ways, as long those employing it incorporate the process's central attributes.

Thinking in Levels

In my exploration of formative assessment in TA1, I broke it down into the following four "levels":

  • Level 1: Teachers' Instructional Adjustments, wherein teachers collect assessment evidence and use it to decide whether to adjust their current or immediately upcoming instruction in order to improve its effectiveness.
  • Level 2: Students' Learning Tactic Adjustments, in which students rely on assessment evidence regarding their current skills/ knowledge status to decide whether to adjust the procedures they use when trying to learn something.
  • Level 3: Classroom Climate Shift, whereby an attempt is made to bring about a fundamental change in the teacher's and students' (1) learning expectations, (2) perceptions about who is responsible for students' learning, and (3) attitude about the role of classroom assessment.
  • Level 4: Schoolwide Implementation, in which an entire school or a district adopts one or more levels of formative assessment, typically via professional development or the use of professional learning communities (PLCs).

In retrospect, it would have been better for me to have described these four variations of formative assessment as "types" or "categories" rather than as levels, because it's not strictly necessary to implement them in numerical order, that is, to use Level 1, then Level 2, and so on. A school's leaders might decide to initially adopt only Level 1 formative assessment (teachers' instructional adjustments), then move directly to Level 4 formative assessment (schoolwide implementation) without necessarily first trying to install either Level 2 or Level 3.

What does installing these categories of formative assessment entail? Well, in TA1, I identify several suggested steps. You'll see them depicted in Figure A, and you can read more about these steps in the pages of that book.

 

Figure A. Transformative Assessment's Suggested Steps for Establishing Formative Assessment


Level 1: Teachers' Instructional Adjustments

1.      Identify adjustment occasions.

2.      Select assessments.

3.      Establish adjustment triggers.

4.      Make instructional adjustments.

 

Level 2: Students' Learning Tactic Adjustments

1.      Consider adjustment occasions.

2.      Consider assessments.

3.      Consider adjustment triggers.

4.      Consider adjusting learning tactics.

 

Level 3: Classroom Climate Shifts

1.      Distribute classroom climate guidelines.

2.      Seek trust constantly and nurture it seriously.

3.      Model and reinforce appropriate conduct.

4.      Solicit students' advice on classroom climate.

5.      Assess students' relevant affective status.

 

Level 4: Schoolwide Implementation

1.      Establish professional development to support formative assessment.

2.      Establish professional learning communities focused on the implementation and refinement of formative assessment.

 

Adapted with permission from Transformative Assessment by W. James Popham. © 2008 by ASCD. 

 

Learning Progressions as the Process Foundation

In TA1, I explained that a learning progression is a sequenced set of subskills and bodies of knowledge (building blocks) a teacher believes students must master en route to mastering a demanding cognitive skill of significant curricular importance (a target curricular aim). To put it another way, a learning progression is a formal, thought-through outline of the key content of instruction—what's pivotal to be taught and mastered, and in what sequence. As such, it's a foundation for sound instruction and effective planning. It's also the backbone of a sensible, planned approach to formative assessment.

As I look back at TA1, though, I fear I may have made learning progressions too fear-inducing. Yes, coming up with superb learning progressions can be a really challenging task for teachers. But to make the formative assessment process purr, it is not necessary that every learning progression be "superb." In this book, I'll offer some suggestions about how teachers can draw on available curricular and instructional materials to come up with suitably serviceable learning progressions. Sure it's tough to think through the components of a learning progression. But any teacher can do it.

Thematic Threads

One of my missions is to help educators see formative assessment as something that is both worth doing and eminently doable. Of course, many of today's teachers, with considerable justification, have become negatively disposed toward anything even remotely related to testing. Such teachers think there's far too much testing going on, its consequences are way too serious, and it gobbles up too much teaching time. As an antidote to this sort of anti-test thinking, I want to reiterate a persistent theme from TA1: Formative assessment is more about teaching than it is about testing. At bottom, it is an instruction-enhancing process. It really is.

All right, now that we have taken a terse, over-the-shoulder look back at TA1, it's time to turn our attention to how the formative assessment process can be applied. As the title of this sequel suggests, TA2 is focused on the application of formative assessment. Chapter 1, then, lays out a framework for educators who want to think about ways to turn formative assessment talk into formative assessment action.

 

 

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