Gathering Guest Post: Triangulating Assessment with a Student’s Perspective

Gathering Guest Post: Triangulating Assessment with a Student’s Perspective

by Tammy Mulligan & Clare Landrigan

Our Fall online PD celebration, the #TheEdCollabGathering, is fast approaching! On Saturday, September 24, Tammy and Clare will be presenting during session four of our gathering. You can watch them at 2:00 pm EST. Learn more about their presentation here.

Our students should never be defined as a number.  In order to ensure this, we triangulate our data.  We use multiple sources of data to dig deeper and puzzle together what is happening for a student. When we triangulate our data, we are always looking at different types, sources, and intervals of data. We want our students to know that we use data to uncover and understand, not to label and define. We also want our students to know that they provide one of the best sources of data for triangulating.

In the past we found ourselves inferring why a student was struggling, disengaged, frustrated or confused.  We then began wondering why we were inferring when we could just ask them?  So we did.  What we found is that their insights and thoughts on the process of learning often give us the information we need to understand what we notice from an initial analysis of data. The more we talk with them about their learning process the more we understand and the more they want to share with us.  Now our students have come to expect us to ask questions, observe, and analyze their work. We find that once our readers understand their role in triangulating data, they begin to engage in this process themselves. They begin to analyze, question, and assess their own learning.  

The research overwhelmingly supports the importance of involving our students in the process of assessment:

“Once they feel they understand what to do and why, most students develop a feeling that they have control over their own learning.”
Susan M. Brookhart, How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students (2008)

“Effective feedback requires that a person has a goal, takes action to achieve the goal, and receives goal-related information about his or her actions. Learners are often unclear about the specific goal of the task or lesson, so it is crucial to remind them about the goal” (Wiggins 2012)

“When anyone is trying to learn, feedback about the effort has three elements: recognition of the desired goal, evidence about present position, and some understanding of a way to close the gap between the two.  All three must be understood to some degree by anyone before he or she can take action to improve understanding” (Black and William 1998)

This makes complete sense!  How can anyone get better at something if they don’t know what they are trying to get better at or how the process is going?

We are committed to triangulating our assessments by talking with students about the purpose, the results, and the analysis of all assessments.  They need to know why we are assessing them and how we plan to use the information to help them meet their goals as readers.  We have been overwhelmed by our students’ responses.  They ask insightful questions, add information about the process of their learning and provide a critical perspective about their learning –their perspective!  Who better to help us understand their learning process than them!

Assessment is about knowing our students — their strengths, weaknesses, hopes, fears and most importantly their stories.  They have incredible insights into their learning process and can help us give them the support they need to monitor, revise and meet their goals.  We are now convinced that we need to include our students in the assessment process because without knowing our students, truly knowing them, we cannot teach them.

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