Teachers are well-aware that high-quality assessments are an important part of teaching and learning and that they should be designed to help students know where they are in relation to where they need to go. Students are key decision-makers about their own learning, and it is critical for them to be engaged participants when it comes to assessment. Many students can be intimidated by tests, so being transparent about the learning targets in advance of an assessment can help students feel more incentivized to perform well.
Generally speaking, students must understand what they are expected to learn before they can take responsibility for their own learning. In many instances, students have incorrect assumptions about what they are learning, why they are learning it, and what quality work looks like.
The 4 key points teachers need to communicate with students taking assessments include:
- What the assessment is for and what it is intended to measure. Both quantitative and qualitative research supports the notion that education strategies that help students understand what they are learning and how they will be assessed allow them to support one another effectively and develop a sense of autonomy.
- The importance of all classroom assessments and the need for all students to do their best. Test-taking engagement is most likely to be a problem when students perceive an absence of personal consequences for test performance. This is called low-stakes testing (as seen from the student’s perspective). The general goal is to administer tests in such a way that maximizes student engagement throughout their test events. Although we can’t eliminate disengaged test taking from occurring, we can try to minimize its impact.
- How the assessment results will be used by the teacher and the school. If the student knows what the subsequent data will be used for, they may be more engaged in taking the test. If the test results are not used to make decisions about instruction, tools or learning, it’s easy to see why students would feel disengaged from the process.
- What parents will learn about assessments and outcomes. It’s important for establishing trust and transparency around the assessment process for students to understand what will be communicated to their parents about test data.
Creating dialogue with students begins with being transparent about the desire to see learning for all students and acknowledging how assessments provide the opportunity for teachers to check in to see how successful they are with their teaching. Learning requires teamwork, with both the teacher and student equally committed to progress and success. High-quality assessments are focused on measuring a student’s growth and progress. It is important for educators to help students see that progress matters, regardless of where a student is in their learning.