Jay McTighe and 21st Century Assessment

Jay with full group
Jay McTighe and 10 NH Pre-Service Teachers

There are times we need to learn from divergent thinkers – to be challenged in new ways. But sometimes you want to hear from the names and voices you trust with time honored advice and teaching that link to your core. Today NHASCD brought in the co-author of Understanding By Design (UbD), Jay McTighe. In my role on the Board of NHASCD, I’ve been able to work with some of the greatest names in our field…the Dufours, Wiggins, Marzano, Tomlinson…but no one is more humble or kind than Jay.

Jay’s “wheelhouse” is assessment and today he spoke on performance-based assessment with a bent toward the Common Core and Smarter Balanced assessments coming to a school near you in the spring of 2015. As expected, he spoke from his core of UbD and focused on its backward design nature which features three stages in its unit planning model:

Stage 1: Determining desired results

What is it that we want students to learn? What are the Essential Questions, Understandings, knowledge and skills, based on standards?

Stage 2: Assessment Evidence

Based on what it is we want students to understand in Stage 1, what assessments should we utilize to determining our students’ level of understanding?

Stage 3: Learning Plan

What activities should I design to match the results I determined in Stage 1?

Of course, Jay’s focus was on Stage 2 with a bent toward formative assessment. After lunch, he focused on seven major points regarding assessment as we look toward Common Core:

1. Use assessments as learning targets. Our goal is to ensure learning – to be sure that our students are understanding. Our bar can’t be simple presentation.

2. Share rubrics with students. Our kids must know the rules of the game before the game begins. There is no “gotcha”-we are not trying to trip kids up with our assessments. Jay showed an example of an Apgar rubric that doctors use to determine the health of babies right out of the womb. We must do no less in our schools. Analytic rubrics are best.

3. Show models and exemplars. Students have to know what excellent work looks like…perhaps they also need to know what sub-par work looks like.

4. Assess before teaching. If we believe that new learning is grounded in prior knowledge, then I cannot teach new material before I know what students know already. Jay demonstrated a number of KWL charts and variations on the theme.

5. Use on-going assessments for feedback. Elementary teachers are particularly skilled at this. Like a movie that is on-going in the classroom the teacher must assess understanding continually through techniques such as fist or five, exit cards, and simple hand signals.

6. Engage students in self-assessment and goal setting. Ultimately, our students must take charge of their own learning.

7. Use results to guide team planning for improvement. Educators must think in both micro and macro ways. We are both concerned deeply for each individual student’s learning but we must use data to drive improvement planning for our classrooms, schools, and districts.

Perhaps the best part of the day for me was the chance to see Jay interact during lunch with ten pre-service teachers from Southern New Hampshire University, Plymouth State University, and New England College. On the way out of lunch he told me, “it doesn’t get any better than this.”

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