Go Together Like… Assessment and Instruction

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Harvey Silver on assessmentBy Harvey F. Silver

They say that the classics never go out of style. And lately, whenever I talk about the interconnection between assessment and instruction in one of my workshops, I find myself coming back to the same tune time and again: Frank Sinatra’s “Love and Marriage.” Everyone seems to know it, even educators too young to have grown up with the Rat Pack. (You’ve probably started humming it to yourself as you’re reading this.)

Why does this song resonate so strongly with educators in in this context? For one thing,  it’s a very catchy tune. And I always encourage people to sing along with me to get the workshop going. But I think there’s a more important reason. Educators recognize that, like love and marriage, assessment and instruction go hand in hand so naturally. Each makes the other stronger and more meaningful.

Unfortunately, the demands of the classroom and school day don’t always encourage this type of symbiotic relationship between assessment and instruction. Too often, they are discussed as isolated components of classroom practice to be addressed and observed individually, instead of as two complementary elements within the same continuous cycle. In order for a teacher to be truly effective, assessment must inform instruction while instruction responds to assessment.

This is one reason why we decided to develop tools. We listened to teachers to better understand the challenges of the classroom and what has a positive effect on daily instruction. From here, we established a few key criteria to guide our development of tools for Tools for Thoughtful Assessment:

  • What is it? Describe the tool using one sentence.
  • What are the benefits? Explain what specific classroom challenge(s) the tool addresses in one paragraph.
  • What are the basic steps? Provide no more than seven clear, easy-to-follow steps for implementing the tool in the classroom.
  • How is the tool used in the classroom? Discuss how the tool can be used in the classroom and show how teachers at different grade levels and content areas use it.

With new challenges and limited time, teachers need practical, research-based, and classroom-proven tools more than ever. To help you understand how a tool works, and how a tool can help teachers make the deep connection between assessment and instruction, please visit www.toolsforthoughtfulassessment.com/MemoryBox to view Memory Box, which is one of over 75 tools you’ll find in Tools for Thoughtful Assessment. I hope you give it a try in your classroom and welcome your thoughts and feedback. We are always eager to hear and learn from practitioners.

Harvey F. Silver is president of Silver Strong & Associates and Thoughtful Education Press. He has conducted thousands of workshops for schools, districts, and state education organizations throughout the United States. Harvey is the author of a number of recent bestsellers in education, including ASCD’s The Core Six and the aforementioned Tools for Thoughtful Assessment.

Editor’s Note: Harvey Silver will be presenting two sessions on “Practical Tools for Enhancing Instruction and Assessment” on Saturday, June 28, at the 2014 ASCD Conference on Teaching Excellence in Dallas, Tex.

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