Ch. 9 Record Keeping: Tracking Student Learning

This chapter discusses the record keeping side of assessment.  I have been teaching for 13 years and I don’t think I’ve had much discussion about the best way to keep a record of student learning.  However, it is a vital role in the accuracy of keeping track of students’ progress.  Some of the topics discussed in the chapter were quite obvious but they were necessary reminders for effective record keeping.

One of the first decisions that need to be made in record keeping is to differentiate formative and summative assessments and which specific assessments should be used for assessment to record.  This decision should be made in the planning stage of a unit.

Another decision to be made is which information students will keep track of that would benefit their learning.  This was an interesting angle that I hadn’t thought of in my classroom.  But, since the students are invited to participate in their learning, it is a natural step for the students to keep track of their learning.  In my math class, I believe this happens informally when they’re doing homework and class work.  I purposely have the students mark their own work so that they are able to know if they’re not understanding a concept if they’re getting answers wrong.  Also, I ensure that we look at the solutions together so that the students are able to see where they went wrong.

Everyone has their own system of scoring and recording the assessment results.  The book provides three guidelines for record-keeping.  First one is to organize entries by learning targets.  This is when you record a specific score or result for each of the learning objectives or targets.  Second, is to track information about work habits and social skills separately from the scores for learning targets.  Lastly, to ensure that raw scores are recorded as this will give a more accurate portrayal of performance than percentage or a symbol.

Other things to think about regarding assessment is knowing where to keep the scores.  Will it be digital?  Will it be in a gradebook?  How will it be organized by units?  Semesters?


Ch. 8 Personal Communication as Classroom Assessment

This chapter discusses personal communication as classroom assessment.  I have to be honest and say that I am a little skeptical about using personal communication as assessment.  I think I’m more inclined to use this as an assessment tool for formative assessments and for very specific circumstances.

This method of assessment is great for collecting information about knowledge, reasoning, skills and mastery of foreign language.  Some ways of assessment for personal communication:  instructional question and answer, conferences and interviews, classroom discussions, oral examinations, journals, logs.

Brief summary of each methods:

  1. Instructional question and answer is what we would do as teachers when we are teaching a lesson.  This will be in the form of the teacher asking the whole class or an individual a question.  This could also happen between students.
  2. Class discussions is when students are engaged in a discussion with the teacher as their guide.  With much practice a student can also be the guide or the lead of the discussion.
  3. Conference and interviews are when the teacher is one-on-one with a student to have a conversation about their learning.
  4. Oral examination is a question and answer between a teacher and a student.
  5. Journals and logs are written forms of communication.

Some helpful notes from the chapter:

  • When using question and answer for assessment, preparing the questions in advance is helpful.  I personally use a lot of questioning to elicit thinking in the students and to gauge student understanding during my day-to-day lesson.  When I have sufficient time, I have all the students participate in answering my question by writing on their whiteboard.  This is a fantastic formative assessment tool and I use it to pace my lesson.
  • Model good questioning and answering to the students.  Teach students good thinking phrases to engage with the questions.  E.g. This is not logical because…., This method is easier because….
  • On page 273, there’s an awesome questioning guide by Johnston
    • To help students notice and learn:
    • Did anyone notice that…?
    • Remember how you used…what’s different?
    • What kind of…is this?
    • What….surprised you?
    • To establish student control:
    • How did you figure that out?
    • What problems did you come across today?
    • How are you planning to go about this?
    • What parts are you sure (not sure) about?
    • To help students transfer:
    • How else…?
    • What’s that like?
    • What if things changed…?
    • To help students confirm knowing:
    • How do you know we got this right?
    • I hadn’t thought about it that way.  How did you know?
    • How could we check?
    • Would you agree with that?
  • For interview/conference assessment, ensure that the students know the purpose of the conference/interview and allow them to prepare in advance.  Also, giving students ample response time is crucial with this type of assessment.
  • When using journaling or logging, it is important to have some tools to trigger deeper thinking and response.  E.g. An agreed upon symbol for a certain type of thinking/response.

Using personal communication as an assessment tool is something that happens daily in my classroom and a crucial part of my formative assessment.  It allows me to get a snapshot of student learning in my daily lesson and it helps me to plan the course of my lesson as it gives me information that guides me to make adjustments.

I’m not so convinced about using this form of assessment for a summative assessment.  It is very time-consuming and inefficient.  However, I have seen cases where a student has to have an oral examination because of many learning difficulties.  In cases like this I know that personal communication is the most effective method for summative assessment.

Ch. 7 Performance Assessment

This chapter covers assessment by performance.  This is an interesting type of assessment for me.  As a middle years math teacher, I assume that my students have already mastered any skill that they would need to demonstrate by performance – e.g. how to use a ruler to measure.

Here’s an excerpt from the chapter explaining when to use performance assessment for learning:

(Page 205)

…we advocated reserving performance assessment for those learning targets that really require it:  skills, products, and some forms of reasoning.  The most important determiner for using performance assessment is the nature of the learning target.


As it is with any assessment task, it is important to have the best match of the learning target and the assessment method.  Some examples of skills that would be a good match for performance assessment would be – fitness improvement, or elementary skills such as using a protractor.

There’s a brief section that covers potential problems with a performance assessment which I found very helpful:

  • The student’s performance may not always provide evidence of learning objective.
  • Students who are not certain of what they’re supposed to do may produce poor quality work because of lack of understanding and not necessarily because they do not have a grasp of the learning objective.
  • The assessment task takes longer than planned.
  • The necessary resources needed for the assessment task is not available.

A significant part of the chapter covers guidelines to developing a rubric.  Here are a few that I found helpful:

  • Number of criteria on a rubric should consider the learning target and its complexity.
  • Use samples to consider each level – extreme, middle levels, top and bottom levels.
  • The wording should be descriptive and create a clear picture of what each level should show.
  • Students’ work should be grouped according to level – this should help in gauging the level of criteria.

Other notes from the chapter:

  • Be vigilant about assuming how much time the task will take.  We often underestimate the time for a task so it is helpful to think the assessment through before assigning the task.
  • It is helpful to give the students sufficient ‘knowledge’ reminder before the task to prevent spending too much time answering ‘knowledge’ questions during the task.
  • Although obvious, it is helpful to remind yourself to make the criteria clear to the students.

Ch. 6 Written Response Assessment

When it comes to written response, I am glad I teach math.  😛  Assessing a student’s content knowledge through a written response is only possible when it is well done.  This is when their answer gives enough information to assess their understanding.  Although math leaves little room for ambiguity, I still remind the students to always ‘show’ their work and their thinking so that I can see what they did to arrive at an answer.  This helps me to assess their thought process and pinpoint where they went awry, if their answer is incorrect.

There are three main types of written response:

Short answer items:

  • Require a brief response
  • Have one or limited range of possible right answers
  • Can be used for knowledge and some reasoning targets

Extended Written Response Items:

  • Require a response that is at least several sentences in length
  • Have a greater number of possible correct or acceptable answers
  • Can be used for knowledge and reasoning targets

Interpretive Items:

  • Can be either short answer or extended response in format
  • Knowledge provided; students demonstrate reasoning
  • Used for reasoning targets

Another great resource given in the chapter is how to score the answers for a written response.  There are three ways to score the response:  lists, general rubric, and specific rubric.

With lists, you can list out the specifics of what you’re looking for in an answer and even assign certain points for scoring.

General rubric gives an overview of what the assessor is looking for in an answer.  An example of this would be the ones used for 6+1 writing traits.  It presents the traits the assessor is looking for and allows the assessor to be transparent about the scores given.  Also, with a generic rubric, since it is not specific, it can be given out to the students before the actual assessment.

Specific rubric is only specific to a certain task or even just one assessment question.  It gives a clear map of what the student should have in their answer.

Each chapter recommends this but I will mention it in this post.  For each write-up of assessment, it is recommended that the teacher trial it before using the assessment material.  Also, it is helpful to make notes of student questions during the test or if a question was not effective in assessing student learning.  Each assessment should be revised and improved so that we can arrive at the most effective assessment material.