“The difference between school and life? In school, you're taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson.”
This quotation conjures up many thoughts about assessment from my days as a public school English teacher. Assessment, in the form of standardized tests, was a high priority for principals and district office personnel. Although I understand that assessment is a necessary evil in public schools, I continually tried to provide assessment that would meet both state standards and be a means whereby students would learn something as they took the test.
Reflection and evaluation was a big part of my exams. Upon ending the semester, students were not asked mark multiple-choice questions but were assigned essays that caused them to think about the literature they read and their performance on various assignments. For example, here was an assignment for English IV (high-school juniors) that counted for their exam grade:
A Literacy Quilt
Your exam for Fall Term 2 of English IV Honors will consist of a reflection on your growth as a reader and writer in this course.
In The End of Education (Knopf, 1995), Neil Postman states, “Our citizens believe in two contradictory reasons for schooling. One is that schools must teach the young to accept the world as it is, with all the culture’s rules, requirements, constraints, and even prejudices. The other is that the young should be taught to be critical thinkers, so that they become men and women of independent mind, distanced from the conventional wisdom of their own time and with strength and skill enough to change what is wrong.”
Reflecting on this concept, select a minimum of three works you have read in this course (you may use Independent Reading for this course, too) that have led you to value, admire, accept, question, criticize, judge, or reject aspects, elements, or qualities of the world as you see it. Think about how these works have developed you as a writer or thinker.
In addition, look through your writing folder and select a minimum of three compositions you have written for this course that demonstrate different aspects of your growth as a writer. As you will want to show a complete picture of yourself as a writer, you may want to choose three different kinds of writing (essay, ballad, story, etc.).
Research quilt patterns to select one that you would like to create. A good web site that offers explanations and visuals is www.emporia.edu/cgps/tales/quilte~1.htm . You may create your quilt in almost any format you choose. You could simply draw or paint the design in 2-D format, or you could cut out the shapes, punch holes, and string it together. Some of you may even choose to use actual fabric. Add the titles of your works in the shapes of the quilt, and add a symbol, word, or phrase in an adjacent shape to describe how this work has influenced your reading or thinking or how the composition demonstrates your growth as a writer. In an inner section, give a symbol, word, or phrase that describes yourself as a literate person: yourself as a reader and writer.
In addition to the quilt, you should write a composition explaining your quilt and your development as a reader and writer in this course. Refer to my example and composition that is displayed in class, as well as the accompanying rubric.
The rubric included grammar, diction (vocabulary), and style, so all facets of an English course were covered. Most importantly, this project engaged students' critical thinking and evaluation of themselves and their work in the course, something that will foster their lifelong learning far more than an objective test could.
This type of assignment is far beyond my four-year-old right now. I am, however, planning on having her go through her 4K folder and choose her favorite things that she did, least favorite thing, and the thing that she felt she did best on and why. In addition to nurturing the habit of self-evaluation, I think this will also help to cull all the paper!
I believe that many homeschoolers cherish the freedom to create assessments that will foster learning and not simply measure learning. I know that I am looking forward to creating experiences that will cause my children to reflect on themselves as learners.