Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Teaching to a Vision of Student Learning -- Not a Standardized Test!

Dear Colleagues:

It may seem counterintuitive, but the most scaled-up evidence of constructivist, projected-based teaching and learning I have observed was supported by standardized performance task assessments and scores. It happened with the MD School Performance Program. 

  • First, a state vision of rigorous problem solving for all students was developed and adopted as the driving force for statewide school reform. 
  • This led to the development of high-level state learning standards in reading, language usage, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies for all students. 
  • Next, state standardized and authentic performance task assessments -- in which students had to produce, construct, or perform something expected in the standards -- were developed to reflect the vision and standards. 
  • Then, local districts developed performance instruction tasks that were aligned with the vision and standards and included formative assessments similar to the state assessments. 
This approach meant teachers taught to a vision of student learning and standards in a constructivist context -- not to a test. Moreover, writing was integrated into each performance task to bolster critical thinking, analysis, and reflection. Many of the state assessment performance tasks were multi-content so more than one subject was assessed and scored in one performance task. 

These factors really made local instruction engaging and worthwhile for all students -- in urban, suburban, and rural parts of the state. Recently, I adapted one of the performance instruction tasks for use in a Twitter timeline as an exploratory project. You can check it out at this link under “Learning with Social Media.” 


Charge on with authentic constructivist learning, assessment, and improvement -- they work for all students.

Nick Hobar