"Education is learning what you didn't even know you didn't know." Daniel Boorstin

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As part of my coursework at William & Mary, I was tasked with designing a comprehensive and systematic assessment for a third grade classroom. The resulting Empire of Mali Assessment Creation Assignment represents a six-month effort in two discrete university classes focusing on a unit about the medieval West African empire of Mali. At the beginning of this process, I developed my lesson plans and the unit's summative assessment with an aim of constructing items that addressed intended learning outcomes, were free of cultural bias, were at an appropriate reading level for third graders, and were well crafted in psychometric terms. More recently, I revisited my original assessment with new knowledge and a more critical eye. I learned to break down the third grade social studies standards of learning into distinct knowledge strands and then to analyze the cognitive levels demanded in the standards. To create a table of specifications on which to build my assessment, I plotted the intended learning outcomes of the Mali unit across Bloom’s taxonomy’s cognitive levels. I then matched my original questions with the appropriate cell on the table of specifications and developed additional questions to address content areas where the students had not yet been required to demonstrate their knowledge.


In final practice, I administered this summative assessment on Mali as a formative assessment and review. In analyzing the results, I mapped student performance back to the table of specifications. This assessment represents my ability to create and select appropriate assessments for learning. I critiqued and analyzed each item in the assessment and maximized validity by aligning questions to the Standards of Learning as well as to my actual classroom instruction and by sampling content across an appropriate range of knowledge. In addition, I controlled reliability by creating an unbiased and detailed scoring rubric for all supply-response items and an answer key for all select-response items. This Mali assessment provides a valid representation of student learning.

In my autumn practica for my William and Mary methods classes, I applied multiple methods of formative assessment. For my earliest taught lesson in the first weeks of third grade, I used pre- and post- tests to assess learning after a class about Eleanor Roosevelt. In a science lesson developed with two fellow graduate students, we used both a water cycle activity sheet and an exit card
to determine the effectiveness of our instruction and the level of student learning. I was able to learn a more comprehensive formative assessment method for reading when I administered the Observation Survey to a second grader.

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Exit card, Tide Natural Cycle Lesson


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Comprehension Check: Rome




During my student teaching, I used exit cards and comprehension checks as routine formative assessment. Quick comprehension checks were an effective means to review content from prior classes to determine where knowledge gaps existed and where learning had been mastered. I used exit cards both as a means to assess information acquired in that immediate lesson and to gain rapid feedback on content retained from previous units, In third grade, students will be assessed on end-of-year standardized state exams across a wide expanse of science and social studies knowledge. As a rapid review technique, I displayed two SOL-format questions on the document camera and used sticky notes as exit cards to assess student knowledge. These quick formative assessments were an effective and swift means to communicate what topics required more systematic review in preparation for the upcoming SOLs.


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Exit card responses to SOL review questions displayed on document camera



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Growth of Student Learning
KWL charts are an effective means of demonstrating students' existing knowledge. When beginning a unit on ancient Rome, I distributed individual KWL charts to the students to record what they already knew about this ancient civilization. I then led a whole group brainstorming session to compile student background knowledge on one single chart for classroom display. In this same discussion, students listed questions that they wished to discover over the week of instruction about Rome. As we worked through subsequent lessons, my students monitored what information they had learned about Rome and would direct me to list these facts and to note which questions had been answered on this classroom display.

I routinely used non-graded pre-assessments in math instruction. To lessen potential anxiety, I followed my cooperating teacher's model of explicitly explaining to students that the assessment was for teacher use and would show where we would focus class instructional time. To launch a unit on fractions, I collected student performance data using such a pre-assessment. Student performance indicated that I needed to adjust my original pacing guide to allow more instructional time to the beginning of the unit to address basic skills such as the naming and comparing of fractions. As we approached the conclusion of the unit, students again completed this original pre-assessment as a graded review. Using the same assessment at two different points in a unit, I was able to track student learning.

During the practicum for my William and Mary Reading methods course, I tutored a student in one-on-one for eight sessions. With this individual focus on one student, I based each lesson entirely on assessment of that student's strengths and needs in order to optimize his learning. My final reflection on these tutorial sessions shows the pre- and post-assessment data gathered about the student's performances. The lesson plans I developed for these tutorial sessions were based on this formative assessment information.

Activity based on Assessment Results
After my pre-assessment for the time and calendar unit in math, I learned that most of my third graders were challenged by reading an analog clock particularly in terms of expressing the time in terms of minutes before an hour. As a result, I integrated a new "Time Check" activity into our daily routine. As we approach transitions in the course of our day, I quietly announce "time check" and the students turn to the classroom clock, calculate the time, and then raise their hands. When called upon, a student tells the class what time it is in terms of minutes after the hour, minutes before the hour, and whether this time is expressed as "a.m." or "p.m." As students' skills have grown, I have expanded this activity by asking questions about elapsed time and making connections to authentic schedule milestones such as centers, lunch, and recess. Now that I have identified students who continue to have difficulty with telling time on an analog clock and calculating elapsed time, I am providing support to them during these "time checks" and am developing their skills. In addition to this math instructional goal, I have also found our "time check" routine to have a strong benefit in classroom management. Students are well engaged in this activity and freeze immediately when I ask for a "time check." I then use this moment to underscore the time and link it to shifts in activities and expectations. For example, a "time check" at 9:20 signals that students must now be at their desks to finish writing down their homework and to await morning announcements.