Reflection: Part 1 Assessment

Every year teachers in my district are faced with creating a Professional Development Plan as a way to grow and as a piece of our evaluation. 
This year I decided to focus mine on assessment. Specifically
-How could I improve how I monitor my students' learning in a more effective manner?
-Providing my students with high-quality, constructive, and timely feedback on writing assessments.

So to start with I read this book:

There are some major eye-opening statements and facts presented throughout the book. 

-Visions behind assessment:
  OLD: Assessment to grade student learning and hold them accountable 
  NEW: Encourage students to play an active role- actually making important instructional decisions as they learn
I feel that I am currently living in the old vision (and my county) as much as I/we want to live in the new vision. I struggle each year with trying to find ways to make the students active in the learning process. I don't know if it is their age that limits this (seriously, how much can a 7-8 year old put into making important instructional decisions!?) or my old-school ways (or control issues;) )
I would LOVE any tips or suggestions if you have effectively moved into the 'New' vision!!
-There are 4 reasons to assess:
    1. verify student learning 
    2. decide how far an individual has progressed and    what should come next
    3. how to assist an individual 
    4. to motivate students to invest the time and energy needed to learn.
#4 really connected to me because I don't see motivation in my students any more and I need to find a way to connect their assessments to a motivational piece.
- Stiggins makes many mentions to the emotional connection that is made by students when learning and succeeding. I found this to be quite profound:
"The beauty of learning is that it is the pursuit of something that is elusive but attainable- a constant array of occasions for hope. The belief that success is possible is critical."
We can no longer rely on the old-school methods of using the F as a way to motivate. It doesn't. It beats the child down and gives them no hope. Now, this doesn't mean don't give F's, but after a failure we need to find ways to allow the child to feel some success that is a direct result of his/her own efforts. 
- Bringing educational assessment into the twenty-first century with three practical changes:
   1. Teachers must also use assessment in their classroom to help students learn. (not just for judging) 
     2. Abandon the belief that intimidation can work as a universal motivator. Learning success is the only viable universal motivator. (The F doesn't work)
   3. The quality of our assessments must improve at all levels. (teachers, administrators, and district personnel must be trained and qualified at creating assessments at the classroom level)

There is no beating around the bush with the place assessment has in today's educational world. How we create it, use it, and inform students about it IS something we can control in the classroom. 
"Day-to-day classroom assessments can do more to build or to destroy students' confidence than any other schooling intervention. As it turns out, students' level of confidence links directly to how hard students try and, therefore, how much they learn."

Sorry to get all PD on you, but I wanted share some things I've read, learned, and tried this year with you all. This book is compelling and has made me reflect on the assessments and feedback given in my own classroom. 
Stay tuned for Reflection part 2- How I changed my writing instruction to allow the feedback my students need. life.

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