A great way to begin a discussion on differentiated assessments is to answer, “What does the word assessment mean to you?” This question holds a lot of meaning for a lot of different people. For some teachers, assessment means giving students quizzes and tests. For others, it means much more. In order to determine how to differentiate assessments for all students, it’s important to understand that an assessment should not just happen at the end of the unit. Good assessments include pre-assessments, formative assessments, and summative assessments and these assessments all inform instruction.
Begin With the End in Mind
According to Wormeli (2006), author of Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessing and Grading for the Differentiated Classroom, the teacher should begin with the end in mind. Namely, summative assessments and what we deem essential standards for student learning should drive instruction. Before even creating the first unit lesson, the culminating project or test should be created so that teachers can adequately prepare students for the assessments (Wormeli). Once we get that summative assessment created, students should receive pre-assessments and multiple formative assessments in order to adequately prepare lessons that meet the individual needs of the students.
It’s NOT a “Gotcha” Game
The most important thing to remember about assessments, in my mind, is that they should not be a “gotcha” game. I know many teachers who give pop quizzes and throw things on summative assessments that students “should” know if they paid attention in class. They pride themselves on “catching” the students who don’t pay attention, but this is basically punishing students with a major grade, and it’s not fair to anyone. It certainly doesn’t help drive differentiated instruction that enables all students to learn. So, what are the assessments essential to driving differentiated instruction?
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