One of my closest professional friends is assessment expert Chris Jakicic. Recently, Chris wrote an interesting bit for the Solution Tree Blog that I think is worth checking out.
In it, Chris argues that common formative assessments only become powerful when learning teams deliberately track the kinds of mistakes that students are making on the assessments that they are giving.
By tracking common mistakes, teams can (1). Identify the misconceptions that are preventing students from mastering important outcomes and (2). Plan targeted interventions for students.
That’s important thinking, y’all: Assessments of any kind — but particularly the common formative assessments given by teachers working on professional learning teams — should be designed to do more than just identify students who are struggling or students who are excelling.
Assessments should also be designed to provide teachers with tons of information about the specific conceptual misunderstandings that students are struggling with — and generating that information depends on teachers thinking deliberately about the mistakes that they expect to see on each and every question that they ask.
By identifying and planning for common mistakes while developing assessments, teams set themselves up to gather the kind of targeted information that they can use to spot gaps in their instruction and to get the right kids into the right intervention groups at the right time.
How can you help learning teams to think more deliberately about mistakes when developing common assessments?
These worksheets — which are inspired by Chris’s thinking — might help:
Worksheet – Defining Common Mistakes on a Common Formative Assessment: A planning tool that teams would use while writing a common formative assessment to articulate the kinds of mistakes that they expect to see.
Worksheet – Common Mistake Tracking Tool – Individual Teacher: This worksheet is designed to be used by an individual teacher while scoring an assessment. It encourages teachers to track the kinds of mistakes that individual students are making and results in a targeted data set that can be used to plan next instructional steps.
Worksheet – Tracking Common Mistakes – Team Tool: This worksheet is designed to help teachers on a learning team to spot patterns in the kinds of mistakes being made by students across several classrooms. The resulting data can help teams to spot individual teachers who have discovered high-leverage instructional strategies or to identify instructional gaps that spread across an entire team.
Can you see what’s going on here?
My goal is to remind teachers that you can sometimes learn more from the mistakes that students are making on a common formative assessment than you can from the questions that they are getting right.
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