Thinking Big and Thinking Small

Some of us are big picture thinkers and some of us are detail focused. I don’t think that one approach has any advantage over the other, they both are necessary. What is really an asset is the ability to shift between seeing the whole and working with the component parts.

When we look at planning with assessment in mind we should always be asking ourselves, “Why am I doing this?” Am I teaching this because it came from a unit program, or was passed down from a colleague? Am I teaching this because that’s the way I’ve done it in the past? Perhaps I’m teaching this to get at a specific curriculum expectation, or I’m teaching this because this is where my students are at. All of these can be an appropriate answer, if you can bring it back to “why”.

Being able to answer “why” helps us understand our assessment plan. It helps us define our success criteria by task or by learning goal. Are we writing a narrative to learn how to write a narrative, or are we using this as a task to get at a larger curriculum expectation? It doesn’t matter, as long as you can answer the “why”.

Personally I find it much easier to invite a critical friend into this conversation than try to tackle it myself. Occasionally I am able to engage in a self-reflective process that will allow me to both ask and answer questions around my own assessment practice. More often than not I seek the support of a critical friend. Either way, whatever helps to clarify my assessment plan at the end of the day will move my learning and my students’ learning forward.


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