Summative Assessment with Cultures of Thinking


Summative Assessment with Cultures of Thinking

8 May ’17 Teaching 0

I am working through Creating Cultures of Thinking and nearing the end of Ron Ritchharts book and I am aware of the minimal conversation surrounding the use of summative assessment.  Afterall making thinking visible is formative by its very nature.  So what of summative assessment? I was left puzzled (Araucaria araucana).

Simon Brooks kindly offered a detailed reponse to my enquires on the role of summative assessment within a cultures of thinking framework.

Below is a hotch-potch of Simon’s reply and my reflections.

I am pleased to know that I have offered a potentially new question, at least one worthy of your time and thought.

Summative assessment is noted though not extrapolated. I didn’t get the sense that it was “very important.” Where, from my “edugeek” perspective, I felt it was.

SIMON: It’s just that the majority of our focus in a culture of thinking is on HOW learning gets done, HOW understanding develops, and what types of disposition children develop in the process, rather than on how learning outcomes might be measured.

We would not know if the HOW – was successful in encouraging the retention – without summative assessment?

SIMON: I think this is partly explained when we think about the cultural force of expectations.  In a COT, we have expectations FOR students rather than OF students.  As Ron puts it, ‘In schools and classrooms we often talk of expectations in terms of the behavioural actions and performance outcomes adults want from students.  Our expectations OF students’ (p.40).  Of course, there is nothing wrong with such standards.  But in a cot, we think predominantly about expectations FOR students.  In other words, what type of people will they become in consequence of the time they spend with us?

The FOR or OF distinction is fully support and commended. I have already positioned that language with staff [and in my classroom]. Interestingly, that is where I see the FOR/OF categories. In language rather than expectation (if that makes sense?). This is a theory I need to develop further.

Simon: So – I know I’ve not answered your question yet 😊, but I guess I’m trying to explore WHY there is this under-emphasis on summative assessment you’ve noticed.

I continued to read Simon’s response attentively and patiently… I get the sense that the broader concern of “who they will become” is more philosophical and operational . The learning emphasis over work is, in my humble opinion, the right one.

Simon: In a nutshell, we’re interested in how they get there, and helping them get there, rather than how we measure whether they’ve got there or not.  (And do we ever really get ‘there’?)  So, yes, the focus is principally on formative assessment, rather than summative.

I will accept the description, however my bias is knowing “what” has been learnt, retained, reinforced. I am an advocate of gap analysis. I am not saying students have to know, but teachers should know what has been learnt/retained. If nothing more, to know where to go next?

Simon: When formative assessment is so comprehensively embedded (in the form of building a culture of thinking), summative assessment is less likely to result in any surprises.  In the case study Simon offered / described, the teacher believed “that when we build a culture of thinking, summative assessment takes care of itself.”

I am still not fully persuaded. Assessment is too often presented as testing – when it is merely a rehearsal, a showcase, a practice. When presented in this language, with CoT expectations, as an opportunity, it is there to reveal the “surprises.” Not withstanding the skills required to build purposeful assessments themselves.

I think we would be agree, it is not always simple. The language of education is a barrier, even here, to our shared understanding [to the fruitful conversations between teachers regarding teaching.] Our comments on performance seem aligned. Yet, summative assessment, still seems under-represented in the discussion of cultural forces. Though maybe just not fully defined/outlined. On the topic of assessment, Simon provided a range of resources.

I will take a look at the book recommendation – thank you. At Loughborough on the PGCE we had a heavy diet of “Games for Understanding” on the PE course as the authors were on staff – edu-cycles.

I read about the four assessment opportunities (linking back to my thoughts on assessment, hence the impetus to emailed in the first place). I found these definitions interesting. Thank you.

Simon’s conclusion

In a culture of thinking, children are continually assessing their own thinking and learning in service of developing deep, meaningful and lasting understanding.

Simon, thank you so much for your time, for the thoughtful, impassioned and comprehensive reply.  Hopefully my commitment to the conversation, valuer of feedback, shows you I appreciate it.




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