Marking Exams vs. Assessment of Learning

Happy term two everyone.

I have been spending a great deal of time reading and re-reading Growing Success lately. It truly gives us as educators a lot of freedoms on how and what we assess but I am not sure many of us truly take advantage of it. Let’s dissect it a little.

Evidence of student achievement for evaluation is collected over time from three different sources – observations, conversations, and student products. Using multiple sources of evidence increases the reliability and validity of the evaluation of student learning.

What this says to me is that student grades are determined based on three criteria – each worth 33% if you weight them equally. If this is the case, then 66% of a student grade should be based on observations and conversations. If a secondary exam is worth 30%, Then the entire terms’ assignments should be worth 3%, while the remainder is determined anecdotal-ly. Again, this is if you weight them equally.

“Student products” may be in the form of tests or exams and/or assignments for evaluation. Assignments for evaluation may include rich performance tasks, demonstrations, projects, and/or essays. To ensure equity for all students, assignments for evaluation and tests or exams are to be completed, whenever possible, under the supervision of a teacher.

I like this – a lot. It clearly says tests or exams are an option and if used, only comprise a little bit of that 33% mentioned earlier. Other “products” should make up that percentage too. But you can adjust these weights as an educator.

Assignments for evaluation must not include ongoing homework that students do in order to consolidate their knowledge and skills or to prepare for the next class.

Fair enough. We shouldn’t mark homework or anything done outside of the classroom.

Lastly, when determining a grade:

Teachers will take various considerations into account before making a decision about the grade to be entered on the report card. The teacher will consider all evidence collected through observations, conversations, and student products (tests/exams, assignments for evaluation).

However, the results of a test may not necessarily be a determining factor of a grade:

Teachers will weigh all evidence of student achievement in light of these considerations and will use their professional judgement to determine the student’s report card grade.

I am really happy with this document. I want others to understand the expectations for evaluation because marks don’t have to always be based on the outcome of tests and exams. In fact the document says they shouldn’t.

We have had some conversations lately about giving tests in intermediate to “get kids ready for high school” and a few questions have risen.

  • If we are giving a test in grades 7 & 8 – is it to learn how to take a test for high school?
  • If it is, have we taught the test taking skill?
  • If it is, should we really use the result for a mark or are we just modeling how to write a test?

So if you are a test giver in elementary, great. it is good practice for high school. Consider why you are giving that test though. Is it practice or for a “Science” mark?

If you teach secondary and give exams, great – but consider the other 66% when evaluating. Consider what weights are appropriate for that final test – and remember that the results of the test make not be an indicator of student learning. Use your professional judgement.

A friend of mine failed his drivers test when he was younger. His birthday in January 2. There were a few factors from the day before that lead to him failing that day – you can infer. Point is, he knew the material, but was having a really bad day – REALLY bad day.

As a teacher you know your students best. Have some conversations, you’d be impressed with what your students have to say.



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5 Responses for this post

  1. Louise
    | |

    Hey Brian,

    Thanks for sharing your insights! I wonder though about putting absolute % values on the weighting of assessment evidence?! I really think we need to consider a balance and empower teachers to use their professional judgement. Did you know “professional judgement” is mentioned 14 times in Growing Success? A great quote from pg 8 “Teachers’ professional judgements are at the heart of effective assessment, evaluation, and reporting of student achievement.”

    Also consider, “It is worth noting, right from the start, that assessment is a human process, conducted by and with human beings, and subject inevitably to the frailties of human judgement. However crisp and objective we might try to make it, and however neatly quantifiable may be our “results”, assessment is closer to an art than a science. It is, after all, an exercise in human communication. (Sutton p.2)” pg.29 I’ve used this quote to generate some great discussions about quality assessment practices!


  2. Jonathan So
    Jonathan So
    | |

    Love this post Brian. I really think that test taking is an important skill to learn but only because I don’t want my students to be left in the dark when they see it. In a way, it is a separate genre of reading; however, I don’t think that test or exams give an accurate representation of students learning. I personally believe that our conversations and exploration of concepts give you a better understanding of students learning. I too love the fact that our growing success document allows us to have the license to use observations and conversations as 66.66% of a students grade. It also is a great document to show parents why there may not be as much tests or exams in the classroom.

    That being said I think that using conversations and observations is a lot harder to do. It takes a lot more work in planning and a lot more work in understanding curriculum and content. Giving a test or exam is easier because you have a particular mark sheet that you can look for. So if we are to go more towards observations and conversations, how do we train teachers? How do we showcase that this type of assessment is a better assessment? Just some questions that I have been pondering lately.

    Thanks for your thoughts

  3. BlackBerryDad71
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    Great post Brian. I think this is consistent with your school’s big picture approach to enabling the student. Back to the question about the hats, feeling a “Good Morning” was better than “hats please”. Student’s want to work through a lunch break? No problem! Want to change the work environment? Sure, let’s move the class. Want to complete your coding before you go to bed? Not an issue! Here are the tools to do just that!

    The truth of the matter is you are being consistent with today’s workplace. We are tested daily, but not necessarily formally. My management looks at my performance as a whole, made up of many parts. Kudos to you all for having such a proactive school. My only regret is that we found you so late in the game.


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