Last week, I posted an article outlining seven habits that educators can be proud of, with the promise that we would spend a little time on each habit (or two) every week. In case you missed it, you can find the article here: Nine Habits You Need to Start (Or continue. And definitely enable.)

This week’s post is going to cover two habits dealing with Assessment.

  • Assess, assess, assess (in other words, frequently)
  • Assess, assess, assess (and in a variety of ways)

As educators, we are always assessing: Jane looks ready to learn but Jack needs a reminder that it’s time to begin. George seems engaged in the review of yesterday’s lesson but Gina looks, well, lost. Game-time decisions seem the only decisions we make during a lesson. And outside of game-time decisions, we are pre-assessing and post-assessing to determine what changes or adjustments, personalization or interventions are needed for the next lesson (which may involve re-teaching the current lesson).

Of course, in order to assess properly, we need to have an objective to assess against. So, assuming (I know, I know) that you have your standards-aligned objectives that are also aligned quite well to your pre- and post- assessments, we are in great shape to make decisions that will help our students achieve mastery.

So, to the tune of the well-loved playground ditty: First comes curriculum then comes assessment...

In addition to the informal scanning and thin-slicing assessments we’ve touched on, The Mega System outlines a few other (more formal) ways we assess frequently and in a variety of ways:

1. Diagnostic/Prescriptive Assessments

These are quick, diagnostic assessments used to “prescribe” appropriate learning activities for a student or group of students to help them meet objectives. This includes pre- and post-tests that a teacher can quickly and conveniently administer to determine each students level of mastery of the unit’s objectives. These assessments may take the form of pencil + paper, oral quizzes, or “show me what you know”.

2.  Embedded Assessments

These are learning activities aligned to objectives with criteria for mastery, which enable a teacher to check mastery within the context of instruction.

3. Periodic Assessments

These assessments are administered two to four times per year informing the teachers and teams on how students are progressing toward mastery of standards. They may be teacher-made or part of a published curriculum.

4. Annual Assessments

State standards assessments (criterion-referenced) and norm-referenced achievement tests provide information about how individual students, groups of students, and entire schools have progressed toward attaining mastery of standards and objectives. They also provide valuable information to leadership teams in making placement and program decisions and instructional teams use them to improve their unit pre- and post-tests and learning activities to address general weakness.

Assessing With Purpose

Because we assess at every turn, it may become easy for us to lose the intentionality of this practice. Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves to make sure we are getting the most out of this important practice.

  • What is it that I am assessing?
  • What am I learning from my assessment?
  • What will I do with what I  am learning?

Want More? Here are a Few More Resources You Can Use:

The Mega System. If you read one thing, read this. It shows and explains in a very straightforward manner how all the components of educational system connect.

Assessing to Mastery. This article published by ASCD offers real specifics HOW to assess for mastery. (It also covers several of the indicators of effective practice used in Indistar!).

Go digital. Here is a list of digital tools you can use to build and deliver your next assessment.

One of our favorites, an entire, self-paced (free course) on Instruction that Leadership Teams and Instructional Teams can interact with: it covers all aspects of instruction—from curriculum development + alignment, to assessment, to instructional delivery and professional development.

And a little extra: A link to the course workbook that accompanies the Instruction course (and includes super helpful templates you can use to keep track of what your assessments tell you. For each child.).


What makes IndistarConnect so valuable is the opportunity to hear from all of you. Please let us know your thoughts on assessment in the Comments section below. 

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