Learning and assessment

One of my favorite parts about being connected in the edtech blogosphere is that bloggers freely share their professional development ideas and course goals. I was intrigued when Dean Shareski discussed his practices and his goal for his online students was to experience:

  • Learning is social and connected
  • Learning is personal and self-directed
  • Learning is shared and transparent
  • Learning is rich in content and diversity

He went on to explain how difficult it is to assess and grade these ideas. They don’t fit nicely into an A-F format. Evidence of his student’s learning was demonstrated in their blog posts, weekly assignments and synchronous sessions.

Even though I don’t teach a completely online class, I want to see if I can embrace these type of goals in my high school computer classes this year. I pulled out my Understanding by Design book to review how I could incorporate this type of goal for my classes. Some questions stood out for me:

  1. What would count as evidence of such achievement?
  2. What does it look like to meet these goals?
  3. What are the implied performances that should make up the assessment, toward which all teaching and learning should point?

Another way to say it is “What should the students walk out the door able to understand, regardless of what activites or text we use?” and “What is evendence of such ability” and, therefore, “What texts, activities and methods will best enable such a result?”

I love struggling with these big picture ideas. It helps me to take some time and mull them around for a bit because my tendancy is to jump right in and say … “oh, we’ll use wikispaces for a collaborative document, and we’ll create blogs with 21 Classes, and then we’ll set up a shared bookmark on Del.icio.us …” all before I really know WHY I want to do all those things. My instincts are on the right track but I want to be deliberate with my goals and objectives and make sure the students know WHY they are doing it too!

A great design tip from UbD is to ask a student: What are you doing? Why are you being asked to do it? What will it help you do? How does it fit with what you have previously done? How will you show that you have learned it?

The whole idea behind UbD is to plan using backwards design. First identify your desired results. Then determine acceptable evidence. Then finally plan learning experiences and instruction.

Dean also shares that they have seven principles to guide assessment practices in his school division:

1. Students are the key assessment users.

2. A balance of assessment for and of learning should be used.

3. Assessment should be constructive; it should focus on achievement and progress.

4. Assessment and instruction are interdependent.

5. Good quality assessments must be followed by effective communication.

6. Assessment expectations and curricular outcomes should be communicated clearly to students from the beginning.

7. Meaningful and appropriate assessments should include evidence about student achievement in the areas of content, process and product.

This is good stuff!

I started poking around his division website and found another nugget. I C E – ICE is a framework for assessing learning growth. The framework helps to clarify the characterisitics and markers that indicate where learners are along the learning continuum and, in so doing, enables teachers to make instructional decisions that maximize learning. It’s a simple assessment tool that I can use to evaluate my student’s blogs and other understandings.  Thanks Dean!


  • basic facts
  • vocabulary
  • details
  • concepts
  • the “foundational” stuff


  • Demonstrate connection amoung the basic concepts
  • Demonstrate connection between what was learned and what they already know


  • Students use their learning in new ways
  • Students are able to answer the question: So, what does this mean? How does this shape my view of the world?

Exerpt from Assessment & Learning: the ICE Approach (2000) Sue Fostaty Young and Robert J. Wilson

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