Using Assessments to Inform Instruction

6.3 Designing Student Assessments to Inform Planning. Student learning and growth is highly dependent on a teacher understanding what her students know and what they need to know. In order to create plans for individual student growth, teachers should know where their students are at in order to help them achieve progress. During my internship, I have seen how teachers measure the progress of their students and use assessments to gauge what material their students are understanding and not understanding. Figure 1 shows three student responses to a question from the homework after a lesson on converting fractions to decimals. In the assignment, students should have been able to convert the fraction to a mixed number and then to a decimal greater than one whole. However, about half of my students wrote that the decimal was .36, which was incorrect, and many explained how to physically write the number they came up with rather than a mathematical explanation. I was able to see several patterns while looking over these: some students had misconceptions about tenths and hundredths, some were not reading the problem carefully enough, and some were struggling with the mathematical explanation. I used this knowledge to plan my next math lesson, which helped to clarify some of these misconceptions and challenges for students. Another short assessment (in the form of a quick check) helped me to determine who understood the second lesson, and I was able to see who made progress since the first. Working with continuous informal assessments has helped me to really plan and customize the learning of my internship class, and monitor student progress.

I have learned through this experience that not only is using assessment to plan instruction helpful, but necessary. Had I assumed that all my students did their homework and were correct (or hadn’t assigned it), I would not have found out that most of the class was unclear about how to change an improper fraction to a decimal, and we would have moved on. Many students would have struggled in later topics or on the final unit assessment, but since I was able to assess and plan for the misconceptions, most students will be successful in future units. For those students who did not understand the second lesson, I will work with individually. One way I can improve in this area is by speaking with students one-on-one to see exactly where the misconception is. For some students this may be different than for others, and I only have a general idea of where many students went wrong. In order to truly differentiate, I would need to inquire further into the wrong answer and how students arrived at it.