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Inside the Black Box
Paul Black and Dylan William argue the importance of classroom assessment in their erudite article, Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment. The authors observe that raising achievement standards is of vital importance to educators at the district, state, national, and even international level. However, the authors wonder if the many reforms currently underway are truly analyzing and improving the issues concerning standards. In other words, are the many resources (inputs) found in classrooms, or as the authors say, the “black box”, being critiqued to determine if they are effective or suitable?
The authors argue that learning is motivated by the interaction between teachers and students. The profession of teaching is laden with complexities: parent issues, disciplinary problems, students with emotional issues, etc. Therefore, if the desired outcome is for standards to improve, then a conscious effort needs to be made for teachers to be equipped with the necessary tools and strategies for proper instruction. Furthermore, citing research data and their own gathered information, William and Black argue that “formative assessment” can assist in the raising of achievement standards. Yet, formative assessment is not a “magic bullet” that will relieve all the problems associated with low performing students. Moreover, integrating appropriate formative assessments in the classroom must been done incrementally, since positive school change occurs slowly.
Students also need to feel that they are a part of the assessment. They need to perform self-assessments on their academic performance and be conscious of their own learning. The authors offer three insightful suggestions for student self-assessment: 1) recognition of the desired goal; 2) evidence about present position; and 3) and some understanding of a way to close the gap between the two.
The authors then analyze the specific teaching strategy of dialogue in the classroom. This can be an effective formative assessment if implemented appropriately.
The authors correctly point out that the teacher needs to promote the free exchange of ideas during discussion and not inhibit the student from articulating his/her own ideas.
Implementing change in the schools is important to the authors. The last section of the article is entitled Policy and Practice. They include the importance of teacher development, along with the daunting tasks of reducing obstacles in the education world. Lastly, researching the teaching practices of teachers can also be a worthy undertaking.
In conclusion, the paper expresses a strong, clear position that achievement standards are crucial and that effective formative assessments can help educators and students reach that important goal.
Article posted August 26, 2010 at 01:45 PM •
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I am the Dean of Academics at a private military school in central Missouri called Missouri Military Academy.
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