Assessment: the bogeyman of modern education. Stressing out teachers and students alike, it can feel like the spectre of assessment never quite leaves the classroom. But assessment doesn’t have to be a dirty word. In fact, assessment can play a crucial role in ensuring reflective, individualized learning.
There’s a distinction between more organic, formative assessment that supports classroom learning and standardized, high stakes summative assessments such as PISA. While both forms of assessment have their value, we have to ask, who should assessment benefit? Surely the answer must always be the learner.
Formative assessment helps teachers to better understand their learners and modify teaching for maximum impact. It can also empower students and help them learn how to learn. This is the case in MUSE School, California, which is shaking up assessment by putting the student in control. Jeff King, Head of School, told us, ‘The primary objective is to give the students an educational platform that is holistic.’ This is achieved through a focus on self-efficacy, communication tools, passion-based learning, and ‘BLUEPRINTS’.
The school uses self assessment to unveil who the learner really is, what they are passionate about, and what they are capable of.
A BLUEPRINT is a record of each student’s unique learning journey. Rather than percentages and letter grades, a BLUEPRINT is an opportunity to document student progress and milestones in narrative form. In addition to this, students are able to take formal, qualitative and quantitative assessments that help monitor progress, something that is of course useful for college applications.
Each morning is an opportunity to set a short term goal and each afternoon a chance to review. Longer term individual goals are set each semester to guide the bigger picture. An advisor and administrator help each young person to craft their learning to match their passions and plans for life after graduation. BLUEPRINTS go out twice a year and are followed by a parent-teacher conference, which is usually student-led.
The BLUEPRINT approach can be greatly beneficial to students, as King explains, ‘They’re engaged and respected and honored for who they are, they are taught to believe in themselves and not to compare themselves to other people but only to themselves. It’s OK to be who they are and they don't have to fit in a box.’
Passion-based learning is key at MUSE School, where student passion projects are woven into core academic classes. This helps to ensure engaging, unique lessons and enthusiastic learners, as their needs and interests are at the centre of all they do. The whole school community, including parents, gather twice a year to hear students presenting their passions and sharing how they used these to accomplish academic achievements.
MUSE school is an inspirational example of what can happen when schools move away from assessments that only give a narrow picture of a learner’s understanding and abilities. The school uses self assessment to unveil who the learner really is, what they are passionate about and what they are capable of.
Surely this is much more valuable than a grade point average. After all, as Einstein put it, ‘Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.’