Blog 9 Reflection Assessment From Past to Present

Blog 9 Reflection

for EDED637 Differentiating Instruction through Technology

with Dr. Lee Graham

Assessment From Past to Present

by Aleta May

Here is the link to what I wrote:

This week’s essential question was How can I use both formative and summative assessment to enhance (or at least not interfere with) intrinsic motivation?

I read extensively about this topic and found video clips to view regarding authentic assessment and sharing assessment data with students. Since I teach students individually or in pairs most of the time, with small groups some of the time, my experience in this area is different that of a regular classroom teacher. Further, my training started out as a special education teacher.

We were extensively trained in how to use individualized academic achievement standardized assessments; such as the Woodcock Johnson for reading, writing and math, the Key Math test, adaptive observation tests; The Brigance Comprehensive Inventory of Basic Skills; for students with significant cognitive impairment, and so on. I learned to administer the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-III (WISC-III or IV), and another more visually oriented IQ test.

Then we learned about taking the information from the academic achievement tests to write global annual goals and how to look at the details such as taking notes while giving the reading test, and watching the process students use to complete a math calculation problem. This information extended to making a determination as to what skills to focus on, writing goals, and making a criteria for deciding whether that student had reached mastery before moving on to another goal. We learned strategies for teaching, and always felt that we needed more of these. Our cohort had excellent instructors for every area.

Now I am a Site Test Coordinator where I am responsible for overseeing and giving tests at our school. This year I have given WorkKeys career test to 11th grade students; prepared AIMSWeb benchmark tests for teachers to help them be ready to test then completed make-up tests for AIMSWeb and Measures of Academic Progress (MAP). A lot of time is spent just scheduling teachers to give the test or encouraging them to create a schedule in a timely manner.

Then there is the WiDA test for English Language Learners who are tested if they are Limited Proficient (LP) in English. This test is extensive (listening, reading, writing) in that it is in Tiers, has a Kindergarten piece that is individualized (and very time consuming), an individualized speaking test. If a student passes, they are considered to no longer be LP. This was set to be more manageable by using a computer version this year—but it did not work in most remote areas of Alaska—so back to the paper and pencil version after many weeks of waiting to receive all the pieces required to give it (tests without scripts are not okay; the listening test without the CDs, not okay). Next on our testing plate is the Alaska Measures of Progress (AMP). Since it uses less bandwidth than say the MAP test, we are hopeful that the AMP will run as smoothly as last year—although this test will not exist next year after only two years of giving it. The MAP test, by the way, takes a lot of bandwidth and our school had serious problems giving this in the fall—testing was very disruptive when I could not give it to groups of 10 to 20 without it failing (kicking students out). A question here is whether it actually measures what it is designed to measure with so many disruptions. Another question is why can’t we stop giving such a test rather than take groups of no more than 4 at a time to give each section (reading, Language Arts, math), thereby disrupting instruction significantly?

As I read about how we as teachers could be teaching and assessing using a cognitive phase strategy, for example, for math called Solve It! I wonder why we are not using portfolios for students and backing away from so many standardized / norm-referenced tests. Presently, my special education teaching portion of my job has been usurped by the testing duties. When I am not giving or guiding people to give tests, I intensively teach students. My area of focus is reading. I am using a lot of books that have to do with what students are interested in as I build their skills, and a reading program, Lexia, that will track and monitor progress for me. Regarding ongoing assessment as I teach, I take notes, keep records such as the Quick Phonic Screener (QPS), and look at data from MAPs or AIMSWeb. We take a lot of short breaks to stretch and get a drink of water, because learning to read is intense. We talk about what we are reading and enjoy pictures, or for older students at higher reading levels, we look up pictures for better comprehension of a concept. I especially enjoyed using to allow students to visually represent their understanding of the book as they read. These types of assessments are much more natural.

Regarding accountability to the public, I think it would be easier to demonstrate learning if our students break free from the walls of the school and get out there to take notes, ask questions, observe, and volunteer. For parents and guardians, student-led conferences with portfolios would make it much more meaningful and actually draw more parents in to come to the parent/teacher conferences.

As I read through blogs in class this week I responded and grew just from listening to teachers talk about how they apply authentic assessment and what they want to do next. Here are my responses to them that were inspired by reading:

Week 9 Responses


Using formative assessments to focus on both strengths and weaknesses is so important. I have used bar graphs on paper to help students watch their overall reading fluency progress. This visual is very motivational. If it takes a dip downward, we discuss together what may be the reason, how much we want to focus on that story or if we want to just move on; and we keep our eyes on the overall gains. I think the upcoming Alaska Measures of Progress (AMP) is an example of a summative assessment with high stakes; it does adapt to the students’ ability somewhat, but still only within that student’s particular grade level range.

When I think about “knowing each student’s interests, learning styles, strengths and weaknesses”—this at first just overwhelms me. Then I refocus on how there is a lot of overlap between students in these areas. It is like a set of letters in a coding system (DNA is an example) that shares letter with other sets of letters; but the combination possibilities are endless. That’s what it is: We are teaching people! J

I remember reading about cheating from Kohn this week. He also wrote a book called Punished by Rewards. With a cooperative learning environment (as opposed to a competitive environment), learning amazing new things with and from each other is a reward. Why take away from that by using artificial rewards?

I agree that there is a clash between current statewide testing and classroom reform.   This is where we must trust our own professional discernment about teaching students where they are, and in motivational ways; and apply this whenever possible.


Best-practice assessment to me includes measuring what students Can do as much or more than what they still need to learn. If our curriculum and instruction model is different from that of other schools, as it is in our Dual Language model, I think measuring competency in English needs to focus more on formative assessment and smaller increments of learning.

Not overgrading work may mean that in a conference with a student who is explaining to me about how they came to use the process they used, such as in solving word problems, I will be taking notes as to what part of the process they are having difficulty with. One article I read broke these processes down into four parts for a word problem. Right now I am visualizing a grid where teachers can interview students about their product and then write short notes under each category. This grid would help the teacher assess how to group students for mini-lessons to fix-up and clarify faulty thinking (not in a negative way).

I like the comic life software in the video clip you placed here. It is a drag and drop app that allow students to use pictures and write their own thought bubbles for each picture. Thank you for sharing this video as well as the 9 grading rules to follow. Here is a Comic Life site I found:

Teresa’s reference for the video clip: Edutopia. (2014). Use Formative Assessment to Differentiate Instruction. Retrieved from

Hi Sarah,

Sometimes students start out extrinsically motivated and then move toward being intrinsically motivated. Maybe external rewards is the way some students feel affirmed at home or in other classrooms. I do enjoy external rewards as well, such as a paycheck for my hard work at school. But to enjoy what I do is what keeps me wanting to improve beyond what is required of me. I think some children may associate outside rewards with acceptance. I remember well, the one year my mom asked me what two things I wanted for Christmas and which one I wanted the most so she could get that for me rather than my father having the “advantage.” But rewards and sticker charts definitely have limits. Another thought I have is that grading can be very emotional for children.

It is so true that if we grade everything, we may lead students to fear risk-taking as they learn. Feedback for the teacher helps us prepare what they need next; so going over their work and collecting it to note progress over time, such as gradually building a portfolio, can serve to help me focus on what students need and note progress.

Watching this video clip was worth the extra time—as it explains why students are motivated intrinsically (mainly because they are people and not horses J ):

In the video clip, this caught my attention: “When a task gets more complicated, it requires some conceptual, creative thinking, these kind of motivators don’t work!” It is referring here to monetary rewards, and that even the higher the reward makes it less likely to work. Further, the presentation talked about: Autonomy; Self-direction (engagement); mastery (it’s fun, it is satisfying when you get better at it); purpose motive. The profit motive needs to be connected to purpose motive.


One way I think we can work toward intrinsic motivation is to build mini-communities of students that touch base with each other both for learning and for expanding their social group. Usually I think of the smaller school I am at right now; but the high school I went to seemed enormous to me. I ended up being with the same students most of my free time. During class there was not much opportunity for learning in cooperative groups. Intrinsic motivation to learn comes from working together for a common goal.   Assessment can come out of projects completed together.

Feedback is major. I think we need to give students regular feedback to guide them such as when predicting, making connections to a character in a book, and questioning the author. More straightforward feedback might come with math so that we are not allowing students to practice the same error that will be difficult to unlearn later on. Plus, feedback just feels like care. There is enough care on the part of teachers and authentic audiences to help a student grow.


I really appreciate what you said about eliminating hunger, having paper and pencils ready for students, noticing if they are acting uninterested and not just assuming that is their way to escape the task, but may actually be getting sick. If we frame assessment as a way for students to see their growth over time, this is so much better than having them compete with some elusive group of students across the nation, state, district or even school. Those types of scores are more for educators to use as a frame of reference, a starting point, or a platform for asking pertinent questions about why the scores are the way they are, what needs to change, and how.

Government class for me in high school would have had so much more meaning if I had been steered in an interesting direction; such as a case or event and how our government addresses these—and in a small group where a teacher facilitates to make sure every voice is heard.


Here is a quote that seems to fit what you stated about how students are not motivated intrinsically by such things that range from grades to annual state assessments.

“The more we try to measure, control, and pressure learning from without, the more we obstruct the tendencies of students to be actively involved and to participate in their own education. . . . Externally imposed evaluations, goals, rewards, and pressures seem to create a style of teaching and learning that is antithetical to quality learning outcomes in school, that is, learning characterized by durability, depth, and integration.”

Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise and Other Bribes (1993, 1999). Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

I agree that motivation for learning comes from learning that is meaningful.

“The more we try to measure, control, and pressure learning from without, the more we obstruct the tendencies of students to be actively involved and to participate in their own education. . . . Externally imposed evaluations, goals, rewards, and pressures seem to create a style of teaching and learning that is antithetical to quality learning outcomes in school, that is, learning characterized by durability, depth, and integration.”

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