Formative Assessment Within a Learning Paradigm

We have just completed our winter benchmarking period.  This interim data enables our team to collaborate to review student assessment data and to identify any areas of student deficits according to our Essential Standards (still in progress).

 “The primary purpose of universal screening is to identify, as early in the school year as possible, those students who, without intensive Tier 3 intervention, are at risk for failing” (Buffum, Mattos, & Weber, 2012, p. 78).

These data are critical as we have almost 400 students who trust us to lead them to mastery of grade level standards and beyond.  Furthermore, as the principal, I want to successfully facilitate a common understanding of instructional alignment with student learning deficits.

It is not enough to know that students are performing proficiently or below grade level standard; it is important to diagnose the type of learning difficulty that is standing in the way of mastery so that teachers can plan appropriate next-step instruction (Chappuis, 2014).

This leads me to the question… Are we working within our students’ emerging understandings? We have administered assessments and we have information about our students’ learning. However, on a daily basis, are we working within their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)?

The zone of proximal development is the space between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86).

When a teacher provides instruction within a student’s ZPD, learning is supported through instructional scaffolding, including feedback, and the active involvement with the student in the assessment/learning process. These instructional strategies are the hallmarks of effective formative assessment.

Instead of perceiving formative assessment within the context of a measurement paradigm, educators have the opportunity to focus on the process of formative assessment within a learning paradigm (Heritage, 2010).

It is exciting to have my dissertation research align so well with my daily interactions within my role as an elementary principal. The purpose for my research is to:

Identify school administrators’ and teachers’ perceptions of the validity of the formative reading assessment practices that are commonly used within the formative assessment process to indicate students’ level of proficiency according to ELA reading standards and used to plan students’ next step instruction. Furthermore, the motivation for this study is to develop a clear understanding of the degree of consensus or discrepancy between these perceptions of administrators and teachers and to consider the implications for students’ next step instruction.

I have submitted my Chapter 1 and am looking forward to feedback.  As a school team, I am also looking forward to meeting collaboratively to review our benchmarking data. This will be a starting point within the formative assessment process.

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