Layers Of Differentiated Assessment In Math Class

The York Region District School Board recently posted a YouTube video describing the “Comprehensive Math Program”.  Watch all 4.5 minutes of it. It is worth it.

There are a number of important ideas, concepts, and vision pieces that I can take away from this video.  I am also certain that there are some important ideas, concepts, and vision pieces that still need to reveal themselves to me as I continue to develop as an educator.

One idea I gleaned from the YRDSB video is the importance of building assessment (for, as, and of) into the very planning of the learning process. The entire comprehensive math program is built from the foundation of knowing our students first and providing students with opportunities for regular ‘check-ins’ so that students can monitor what they deeply ‘know’ and can successfully ‘do’, over a learning arc.  As students monitor their own learning, so too can teachers monitor the learning of their students.   Assessment then becomes interdependent between student, student, and teacher; not simply dependent on the teacher.

Layers of Assessment (Conversations, Observations, and Products)

Actively engaging in conversations, as a member of a math learning community, is an important setting for students to develop as a mathematician.  By engaging in conversation with peers and the teacher, the student is encouraged to make their thinking visible.  In doing so, the student is placed in a safe zone where their thinking is open to being questioned.  The benefit being that the student then has the opportunity to justify or perhaps adjust their thinking.  Digital platforms like Learning Management System discussion forums, social medial like Twitter, or student blogs can add an important level of differentiation for our learners, especially when the assessment need is to have students engage in conversation.

A student or teacher walking around the class watching and listening to responses to meaningful math questions, puzzles or games, are both engaged in another important layer of assessment:  Observation.  These observations can, but don’t necessarily have to, lead to conversations.  The benefit here is that through observation, student thinking can be seen in its raw form; in the moment.  These important glimpses into student thinking, as they work to make sense of how new math ideas match with what they already know, are essential to the assessment process.  Digital platforms like EduCreations or VoiceThread can help the teacher capture those important but at times elusive opportunities to observe a student in a class of thirty.   This was discussed in more detail by Dan Meyer, here.

Products provide another important glimpse into what students can do. Tickets out the door, tests, projects, or assignments are familiar assessment tools and in general are completed independently by students.  Providing students access to multiple modes of responding such as paper-pencil, web 2.0 tools, or manipulatives can provide an important level of differentiation. These artifacts of student thinking provide yet another important component of how we as educators can develop a broader understanding of our learners.

Engaging in only one of these forms of assessment provides a narrow view of our learners, a view which needs to be more panoramic.  By engaging in the different layers of assessment ranging from observations, conversations, and products, and differentiating with technology, we as educators can get to know our learners a little bit better.

How else have you differentiated for assessment in your classroom?



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