Tuesday, 15 November 2016

What's in a Word?

In the words of children’s songwriters Paul Hann and Dennis Charney…

                Words are amazing, words are amusing,
                Sometimes words can be confusing.

Confusing? Yes, confusing. This can certainly be true with assessment vocabulary!

We’ve recently updated the AAC Assessment Glossary to help provide clarity on some frequently used key terms. And while it doesn’t always matter which term you use, sometimes it does.

For example, assessment for learning and assessment of learning have different purposes and audiences, and if we believe the research on the power of formative assessment, it’s best not to mix them up!

Performance and achievement are often used interchangeably, but within the Alberta context, they mean different things. Authors who write for an international audience might use the terms differently, but if we understand what the context is in Alberta, we can adjust as needed to ensure we are making an appropriate application.

Learner outcomes and criteria can sometimes be a head-scratcher. Why do we need criteria? Aren’t the outcomes enough? When we were researching to write Creating Credible Criteria, we looked at how members of the international assessment community were using the term and discovered that there were different definitions and applications of the term in common use. So, we decided we would continue to think about criteria as we’ve done since AAC began over 20 years ago.

The prescribed learner outcomes are lengthy and written from an academic perspective. Teachers need to translate those outcomes into more concise statements (that we call criteria) to capture the essence of what the outcome is asking. This also helps students and parents understand what is expected. With provincial curriculum development underway, we’ll wait and see if criteria will continue to have a place within the assessment vocabulary. But for now, criteria are an essential part of planning for assessment and instruction.

And by the way, criteria are not always synonymous with “I Can” statements, but that’s a topic for another whole blog!

In addition to updating the glossary, we’ve developed three different professional learning modules that are short enough to use as a conversation starter at a staff meeting or a grade level team meeting.
Take a look and think about using one for your next professional gathering.

Everyone might not always agree with the AAC definitions, but differences of opinion are always starting points for further professional conversations and learning. Check the AAC Go page www.aac.ab.ca/go for a wealth of materials to support ongoing learning about assessment.

Also, if you’ve linked your jurisdiction assessment and evaluation policy to the AAC Glossary, you’ll want to update the link.

What questions have come up as you and your colleagues have engaged with the updated AAC Assessment Glossary?