Magazine article Momentum

Moving from Reporting Grades to Reporting Learning: Transparency in Process

Magazine article Momentum

Moving from Reporting Grades to Reporting Learning: Transparency in Process

Article excerpt

How to move from a system of using numbers to report learning to a focus on learning as the ultimate goal

Parents have bragging rights when it comes to their children. When report cards come home the parent of the A student calls the relatives to report the good news, places the bumper sticker My child is an honor student" on the family vehicle and seeks out the child's name in the parish bulletin. And yet rarely can a parent describe what knowledge and skill the child now possesses as reported through the A. Not only does the parent not know what is represented by the A, but rarely can the student describe new knowledge and skill since the last report card. Transparency is clouded by societal acceptance that this A says it all.

The "Merriam-Webster On-line Dictionary" (2012) defines transparent as "free from pretense or deceit; easily detected or seen through; readily understood When one speaks with students about assessment and grading, the impression is that these two terms-transparent and assessment-could never appear in the same sentence. For many students, assessment is an act performed by teachers on students. Rarely do students recognize their role in this process. Unfortunately, some teachers do not recognize that students play a role in assessment either. And yet, all assessment needs to be free from pretense...easily...seen through; readily understood."

The daunting task of reporting learning instead of reporting grades challenges today's classroom teacher. How do we move from a system of using numbers to report learning to a focus on learning as the ultimate goal? What role do parents and students play in assessment and learning?


The demand today for standardsbased assessment can be interpreted in several different ways. Perhaps the one way that should be the consistent interpretation is what Popham (2001) describes as the assessment that has a positive impact on instruction and, even more importantly, on student learning. Popham suggests several rules for developing appropriate standards-based assessments. Three of Popham's rules can help the classroom teacher plan appropriate and transparent assessments: 1) prioritize the most important intended outcomes for students; 2) construct the assessment task so students will use key knowledge and skills and evaluate their own responses; and 3) clearly define the knowledge and skills needed to successfully complete the assessment.

Step 1. Prioritize Intended Outcomes

One of the major shifts in mathematics instruction in the Common Core State Standards (2010) is on focus. "Teachers use the power of the eraser and significantly narrow and deepen the scope of how time and energy are spent in the math classroom. They do so in order to focus deeply on only the concepts that are prioritized in the standards so that students reach strong foundational knowledge and deep conceptual understanding...." In planning assessments, the teacher needs clarity on what learning must take place. What do the students need to know and do to achieve conceptual understanding? The Common Core State Standards in both English language arts and mathematics define the knowledge and skills needed by students at all grade levels. The prioritized outcomes are already indicated in these documents.

Step 2. Construct the Assessment Task

Before any teaching takes place, the assessment needs to be constructed. The key knowledge and skills that the teacher listed from the standards become the basis for the assessment. The assessment would include opportunities for the students to demonstrate their understanding of the concept. The teacher needs to determine what those opportunities will look like and where and how they will be included in the assessment. Another part of the assessment needs to include opportunities for the students to demonstrate their ability to use the concept. And finally, the teacher needs to determine if students will be challenged to defend their responses and what format the defense will take. …

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