Assessments: Invalid Validating

If someone says that a particular teaching practice doesn’t work (sharing observations, or research), and your assessments indicate otherwise, there are 2 possibilities:

  1. The other person didn’t have your data set, making a premature claim.
  2. Your assessments are invalid.

While the former certainly occurs, the latter is more prevalent. For example, teachers typically announce tests on X ahead of time, teach X, then test X. Then, the tendency is to draw the conclusion that students know X, or do X well. This is almost never true. An assessment such as this can only show one thing for certain; who studied X for the test…

The first step in getting some valid assessment data is not announcing the assessment beforehand. This eliminates the variable of preparing (i.e. performance), and gets you closer to something authentic (i.e. proficiency). I prefer to assess authentically, and then make language more comprehensible. This post concerns things like traditional quizzes and tests used as evidence for making some kind of claim.

The next step in getting more valid data is delaying that assessment. Meaning, if you want to claim that teaching X results in students knowing X, or doing X well, you should assess X at the end of the year, or after the summer for some telling evidence of what actually stuck (i.e. was acquired). This is what most teachers definitely don’t do. The typical syllabus includes teaching a unit on X, testing X (maybe offering a retake on X), then moving on to Y. If students are lucky, X comes up again. If not, X usually doesn’t stick. Delayed-testing data would be more valid than any typical end of unit assessment that produced much higher results—the kind of results most teachers use against anyone saying that their practices don’t work.

So, how valid are your assessments? Could you be using invalid ones to validate your own practices?

**Check out this intense analysis I did of a Latin I midterm along with data from Latin IV students for comparison, showing the lack of retention using certain teaching practices!**


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