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Assessing Assessment

I remember being confused when I first encountered the term “pedagogy.” I must have been in middle school, or maybe high school, and the dictionary definition, as usual, was painfully indecipherable to me. It wasn’t until later that I realized teachers needed to be taught how to teach–I thought they just shared what they knew–and that it was the how that was pedagogy. Which begs the silly question: if teaching is taught, how could pedagogy have ever come into existence?

This is all to say that the Formative Assessment Design that I’ve begun is just as mind bending an experience to me. It’s an assessment for designing assessments! And it’s something that I sorely need in my professional practice. I forget if I’ve mentioned this in this blog space before or not, but the very first assessment I ever gave to my students–what I thought at the time to be a very simple and modest two-question assessment–was a complete and absolute failure.

Not one student got any of the questions correct.

Okay, that’s not exactly right. The exact truth is even worse somehow.

The one person who did write down a correct answer ended up erasing it. I know because after catching a glimpse of some ghosted letters, I held her composition book up at an angle under a light, and read the correct answer in the indentations of the erased pencil marks. That one small sign that someone (anyone!) in my class understood, the one small sign that would make me a mere failure of a teacher instead of a complete failure of a teacher? Blown away by the uncertainty of a student who had been given neither decent instruction nor confidence.

I digress.

I’m excited about the assessment I’ve designed thus far: it’s captures how well students use decomposition to comprehend longer-than-they-are-comfortable-with blocks of code. The part that I’m most excited about is that I was able to think of a way to leverage ELA reading comprehension in the assessment to prime students for code comprehension.

In the coming weeks, I’ll get to develop the idea more and figure out how to implement it using online technologies and perhaps enhance the transfer between ELA and CS. I’ve set the bar so improbably low, making significant improvements on my past attempts at assessment will be easy. But, making all the right improvements will be more difficult.

Wish me luck!


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