“Assessment is today’s means of modifying tomorrow’s instruction.”

Carole Tomlinson

In a couple of conversations this past week, the topic of pre-assessment has come up.  In both, it either wasn’t used at all or not on a regular basis.  Pre-Assessment can be formal or informal, individually or whole-class, there are many PreAssessment_Strategies we can implement that will have great impact on student learning, if used purposefully.

I am no expert by any means – but I do realize the importance of pre-assessment.  For example, this past unit – solving single variable equations/inequalities, I had several students who missed only a couple of problems on their pre-assessment.  I allowed them to venture on to more challenging problems, one being they were given the solution(s) and they had to create the equation/inequality that resulted in that answer.  A bit perplexed when they were given 2 solutions to a single problem – but realized (without my help) it could use an absolute value or quadratic. 

Giving them the opportunity to work on at their own pace – within a small group setting, with a set of resources, allowed me time to focus on students who were still at the devloping stage of solving equations.  If I had not given the pre-assessment, that group of students would have sat in my classroom, unchallenged for a few days, simply going through the motions of completing the assignments with little or not thought, at least no new knowledge/skill gained/developed.

So why pre-assess?

It gives me an idea of what students already know.  Yes, I know what they “should” know / be able to do – but just because it was taught previously by me or in another course, does not guarantee they’ve mastered/maintained it.

It allows me to plan and present appropriate, varied activities / assignments for different levels of learners.

It gives me a baseline to show growth of learning by the end of the unit.  I am able to show parents whether any learning/growth resulted. 

It shows students what they already know; what they are able to do; gives them a roadmap of sorts of what is to come.

Pre-Assessment may not only focus on upcoming learning targets, but if I plan carefully, it can show me any gaps in foundational concepts that may need to be addressed prior to the lesson/unit of study. For example, if students are unable to graph a line, I may need to review this skill prior to teaching solving systems of equations/linear programming. 

How I change my lesson presentations / classroom to allow for differentiated learning is an area I continue to grow.  I am currently reading More Good Questions by Marian Small and Amy Lin and part of a book study.  I am excited to start looking at how I can change something as simple as my questioning or how I can modify current resources into Open Questions or Parallel Tasks to provide more differentiation in my classroom.  I plan to write more about it as I move along..

Until then, I will continue to use pre-assessments to drive my planning and decisions for my students.    Pre-Assessment is essential to providing the best possible learning situations for all learners in my classroom.


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