Release Notes 07.19.2018

Release Notes: 7-19-2018

Analytics

Query - NWEA Percentile is now selectable as a criteria

Assessments

Visual updates for Otus Student

Simple Assessment - Text editor now allows users to bold, italicize, and/or underline question text

Advanced Assessment - Administrators can now hide selected Inspect Items from teachers within a district.

General

Visual redesign of notification banners that appear in the upper right hand corner.

Lessons

Lessons can now be shared and cloned.

Poll

Updated Visuals in Otus Student


2018-19 Otus Product Releases

Otus has many new updates and enhancements that will be released starting in May and through the first two months of the next school year. We thought that we would share the timeline of these releases with you today!

Spring 2018 Releases

PowerSchool Gradebook Integration
Scores generated in Otus will pass back to the PowerSchool Gradebook.

SBAC Analytics
Districts will be able to upload the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) summative assessment into Otus. This assessment is used in 14 states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia).

Early Summer 2018 Releases

All New Student Profile
Student profiles will be more visual and comprehensive. Improved organization combined with more information displayed more visually will help educators better understand student performance. A screenshot of one view is shown below (if you don't use NWEA, you will see the data that your school system uses).

Respondus LockDown Browser
Respondus is the “go to” lock down browser in edtech. Educators will be able to assign assessments utilizing this lockdown browser to help provide more security during testing.

Important note: lock down browsers often times present new problems for school systems. For example, the lock down browser may block websites or videos from being able to be displayed in a test item.

Control Inspect Item Bank Items
Administrators will be able to control what Inspect Items are visible to their teachers improving how items are managed for district common assessments.

Lesson Redesign
Teachers and administrators will be to quickly design more dynamic and visual lessons utilizing links, images, video, audio, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, computer files, and Otus Pages.

Query Enhancement
Districts will be able to query based upon Simple, Advanced, and Rubric Assessments.

NWEA Percentile Addition
Districts will be able to query based upon NWEA Percentiles.

New Tile for Other Assessments
When districts create an Other Assessment these will display as a distinct tile for users to further tailor to their needs and tools.

Infinite Campus and Skyward Gradebook Integrations
Scores generated in Otus will pass back to the Infinite Campus and Skyward Gradebooks.

Mid-Summer 2018

Report Card (traditional and/or standards-based)
Educators will be able to create and run report cards to communicate student performance. Below is a rendering of our current design:

Early Fall 2018

NWEA API
Users will be able to connect their NWEA data directly to Otus without needing to constantly upload their data via csv files.

One more thing....

Otus Mobile App for Phones
We are finalizing the design of a mobile app that we hope to release in the Fall of 2018. Our initial release will be designed for families and students and will showcase what we believe is the most important use of a mobile app, viewing grades (traditional or standards), and viewing assignments.

Our initial design is below:


Capture Student Response Through Video

Witnessing a student’s eureka moment is one of the most rewarding feelings a teacher can experience. Video can help teachers see these moments happen inside or outside the classroom and allows students of all ages to reflect on their learning and share their thinking with their teachers.

Crafting lessons and projects to achieve this learning requires time, patience, and practice. During this process, teachers will often create rubrics to measure student learning. The Otus custom rubric builder gives educators an effective way to evaluate video responses and communicate to students the assessment’s learning objectives.

Capturing Video & Student Voice

Imagine kindergartners sharing their thoughts on the read-aloud book, a fourth-grader using video to respond to a poem they read, or a high school freshman giving a speech or practicing for a debate.

Because students are able to capture video directly with the Otus assessment submission process, their inclusion for measuring learning becomes more effective.

As the video highlights, teachers are able to see a student read a poem and reflect on their learning while the teacher is able to effectively measure and record the student’s learning on the rubric.

Why Use Rubrics to Measure Student Learning

Rubrics capture a more diverse set of a student-learning outcomes, making them perfect for student video responses. For example, educators can measure a student’s physical skills, such as playing a musical instrument; process completion, such as preparing a lab station; or communication, such as making a speech for class or reading a story aloud. The examples are almost limitless, from building a racecar to crafting a movie, but within Otus, teachers are able to build rubrics more quickly and effectively than before.


A Gradebook Built for Standards

Traditional gradebooks are good at showing student performance on total individual assignments. With this information, teachers and students may try to draw conclusions about strengths and weaknesses by looking at the overall performance or grade for an assessment or grading period. But getting more specific than an assignment score is challenging. There are a number of reasons a student might not perform well on a specific assignment. For these reasons, K-12 schools are implementing standards-based grading.

The traditional gradebook isn’t good at showing a more holistic, cumulative, and easy-to-read description of which standards and skills a student is exceeding at and which they are struggling with. A well-designed standard gradebook can provide this insight. At Otus, we've been working hard to achieve the best standards-based gradebook solution and it is now available within the Otus Student Performance Platform.

Tagging assignments with standards

While assigning work in Otus, teachers can easily attach specific Common Core, state, and custom standards to resources, lessons, and assessments. Every time a student completes an activity tagged with a standard and is graded within Otus, the performance will automatically be tracked in the Standards Gradebook. {Note: Otus has a traditional gradebook option too.}

Viewing student mastery

Once activities have been tagged with standards, completed by students, and graded, teachers can view the information in the digital gradebook built specifically for standards. Measured standards appear as columns on the y-axis. Drilling down into a specific standard and student shows the teacher how many times the standard has been measured and how the student performed each time.

[mkdf_carousel carousel="standards-gradebook" orderby="title" order="ASC" number_of_items="1" image_animation="image-change" show_navigation="yes"]

Identifying and acting on learning gaps

The more assessments, or measurements of learning, linked with standards, the better educators can visualize and understand a student’s growth. Teachers are then able to determine students’ specific skill strengths and skill deficits. Once these are determined, the opportunity for informed and authentic differentiation becomes possible and teachers can act on the identified learning gaps.


Building better learners through classroom culture

At Otus, we recently engaged in a team professional read of “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni.

In this book, Lencioni shares a story, a leadership fable, of a company’s struggles and growth, to reveal the basics tenets of teamwork and five dysfunctions preventing team success.

In addition to quickly becoming hooked by the company’s story, I found myself making parallels to my students and classroom.

Each of Lencioni’s ideas build upon the other, like the pyramid image shared within his book, and they remind me of how building a learning culture with students requires deliberate and systematic steps.

Absence of Trust: Invulnerability

Book insight
The fundamental problem at the pyramid’s base is the inability to be one’s self, vulnerable and open.

Connection to classroom
During the first lesson of the year, as a class, we discuss how learning is an action requiring effort. We discuss the non-academic activities the students enjoy and investigate how they practice and perform these activities.

Singers practice the same song again and again in preparation for a performance. Basketball players shoot hundreds of shots a day in anticipation of the game. Dancers rehearse a routine countless times as they get ready for the recital. Video gamers spend hours improving their craft to defeat their friends or online foes.

We share these stories and learn each other’s passions.

Because these are activities of passion and interest for students, we can more easily talk about the times of failure: the note a singer needs to keep returning to, the shots a player misses off the rim, the footwork a dancer stumbles upon, or the mistimed game strategy requiring several restarts.

Afterward, we transition to discussing how to read, write, and think. These topics require trust because they are more sensitive times of failure.

Students do not want to be wrong or appear dumb in front of their peers. Too often in school and in life, we seek to be right instead of seeking to stumble and learn.

And as teachers, we too often have students work on team building without involving ourselves.

Next steps for teacher
As a leader in the classroom, we need to involve ourselves in this step to build a classroom culture where students are able to thrive as a team. Sharing moments of vulnerability helps them know the classroom will be a testing ground for learning where failure can happen without fear.

Fear of Conflict: Artificial Harmony

Book insight
Without trust, teams are unable to have unfiltered, passionate debate. Instead, teams will avoid conflict.

Connection to classroom
One of the scariest moments as a teacher for me is the instant I turn control over to students.

Students need to be empowered to ask questions and drive learning. But this often leads to uncertainty, and the unknown can be a scary place for anyone.

Recently, Vox published “I taught my 5th-graders how to spot fake news. Now they won’t stop fact-checking me” by Scott Bedley. This post highlights the need to allow students to push back, ask questions, and fact check. While this can be difficult in the moment, this is a great way to build a culture where students are thinking critically and independently.

Next steps for teacher
During lessons, advocate for students to fact check your comments. If there is a relevant tangent sparked by a student question, do not fear exploring the answer as a group.

Lack of Commitment: Ambiguity

Book insight
Productive teams make decisions transparently and, while you do not seek consensus, everyone needs to be heard to achieve buy in.

Connection to classroom
During a teacher evaluation meeting I was asked: “Do you know what the learning objective is? Do your students?” This lead to a discussion of what was implicitly known and what was explicitly stated. I then examined my classroom seeking ways to better communicate the standards explicitly with my students. Now I post the learning objective within each activity.

Another key component is to take time to check in with students on their understanding. When there is ambiguity and uncertainty, students may become lost or, worse, unmotivated. When you are able to create transparent goals and learning objectives with benchmark check-ins, students are able to commit to striving for their best.

Next steps for teacher
During projects and units, you need to monitor student learning but you also need to trust students. They need to be asking themselves: “What am I understanding?” and “What am I confused about?” This begins with mini conferences and small peer group checks. But the goal is for students to learn how to identify for themselves how they are learning.

Avoidance of Accountability: Low Standards

Book insight
Team members must hold each other accountable. Measuring progress occurs best when everyone knows the goals and standards.

Connection to classroom
There is a fine line between providing instructional feedback and encouragement. If you have a student becoming engaged, you want to provide them the feedback in a way to encourage further and continual improvement.

One of the most difficult places for me to implement and uphold rigorous expectations in the past was on writing assignments. A recent Cult of Pedagogy post by Kristy Louden, “Delaying the Grade: How to Get Students to Read Feedback,” highlights many of the struggles educators face when providing feedback to students. Primarily, the issue is students prioritize their grade more than they do feedback in the form of comments.

Next steps for teacher
One of the solutions I have found most successful is allowing revisions for the entire quarter. Combining this with the idea of mini conferences to review and discuss feedback, I have been able to hold students more accountable. These are built upon trust and students knowing you are trying to help them in the long term and the short. Students realize if this much time is taken for these assessments, they are not busy work but instead will help their learning. Because of the revisions process, I also believe my evaluation of their work is more authentic, valid, and reliable. I am not tempted to give a student a 70 vs. a 68 because this is a team effort pushing and raising expectations and standards are key. This also helps tailor the needs to maximize the learning for each student.

Inattention to Results: Status and Ego

Book insight
A team can only become results oriented when all team members place the team’s results first.

Connection to classroom
Shared goals are a tough expectation for struggling students but after building and working through the previous steps—when students can realize their role in the class goes beyond their own learning to the entire group’s learning—the class has reached an amazing achievement.

These steps include being aware that when they are peer editing, their work helps them and, more importantly, helps their partner. Knowing during a project their role builds a stronger community of learners is amazing.

Next steps for teacher
This is the dream stage, a stage I strive for all year with my students. Building a classroom community begins with a strong base but now your goal is to make the community supportive of everyone. And this begins again with you. A recent tweet from @MarkMcCord10 has resonated with me: “I have found that what is best for kids is seldom easiest for adults.” This quote is the essence of the final stage: You must continue to put your students first to achieve the best learning results for all.


Release Notes 4.13.2017

The team at Otus has been hard at work redesigning the Otus Assessment Module to be better than ever before! Enjoy the following new features today:

  • Standards Integration: More ways to attach and more standards options to attach

  • Assessment Organization: Better organize assessments

  • Assessment Conversion: We automatically convert your Classic Assessments for you into our new format

  • New Bookshelf Option: Add or embed online resources

  • Updated Data Tables in Analytics: New sortable, modifiable, downloadable tables

  • Ease of Use: Many enhancements to help make Otus easier to use for all

Standards Integration

You will now be able to link Common Core or State Standards to over 60 types of items, rubrics, polls, student blog posts and bookshelf resources you share with students. This will provide many more options to teachers and schools using a standards-based approach!

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Assessment Organization

Assessments automatically organized by type - item-based or rubric-based. You can see your entire list of assessments in My Assessments or those that have been shared with you by colleagues in Shared Assessments or those that you have assigned to classes in Assigned Assessments. If you just want to develop items, you can go straight to the Item Bank.
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Also, whether you use a points gradebook or a standards-based gradebook, they are side by side for you to access.

 

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Assessment Conversion

We automatically convert your multiple choice, true/false and short answer assessments from Classic Assessments to the new module. If you have any questions about your converted assessments, either email us at support@otus.com or chat with us via the in-app chat.

 

M U L T I P L E  C H O I C E

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S H O R T  A N S W E R

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Bookshelf I-Frame

Add or embed many types of web-based resources on a bookshelf page to share with students. You can even embed other content-based systems to share with students.

Easily embed content from your favorite websites and instructional tools, including live G Suite for Education tools to promote collaboration in your classroom! Other great tools to embed in Otus include Nearpod, Kahoot, Desmos, Eduzzle, Duolingo, and more!

Now your students can access content from most anywhere all within a single platform, Otus!

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Updated Data Tables

The data tables throughout Otus are now sortable, modifiable and downloadable. You can decide which columns you want to see and sort the table any way you want. Once you define the table, you can download your configuration. If you want to start over, just click on the refresh button at the bottom of the table.

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Ease of Use

We have incorporated many changes to make things easier for users. Some of these include changes to the upload templates to include Student Information System ID in all uploads and changing the NWEA upload template to more closely match the file that comes directly from NWEA.

    Full release below.

  • Academic Benchmarks integration – We now have CC standards & State Standards
  • Link standards to Learnosity items
  • Link standards to rubric descriptors
  • Link standards to Polls
  • Link standards to Bookshelf resources
  • Link standards to Blog posts
  • Analytics – Recognitions - New “View Recognitions by Class” data table
  • Analytics – NWEA – New CSV template for ease of use upload (reordered columns to better match NWEA standard)
  • Analytics – NWEA – Now allow linking to 68 different studies across the U.S.
  • Analytics – Updated data table visuals globally (easily sortable, movable, etc.)
  • Assessments – Teacher/Admin - Brand new “Assessments” module
  • Distinguishes between item-based and rubric-based assessments
  • Distinguishes between your own assessments, assessments shared with you, and assigned assessments
  • Add/Edit questions outside of item-based assessment creation in the “Item Bank”
  • Gradebooks combined into single page (Points, Standards)
  • Updated assessment creation process for both assessment types (Item, Rubric)
  • Assessments - Automatic conversion of old assessments into the new module
  • Assessments – Student – Visual and ease-of-use enhancements in the newly combined “Assessments” module
  • Assessments - Teacher - Updated Gradebook visuals
  • Blog – Student – My Blog – Ability to publish a private blog post
  • Bookshelf – Updated “Add Resource” popup for new types (Link, Upload, Page, LTI) & instant sharing via the new “Share with” field
  • Bookshelf – “Page” - New resource type
  • Classes – Teacher - Student Profile is now universal for the student – Student dropdown at the top for easy student search, Class dropdown for each student for easy class selection
  • General – Attachments – “Add from OneDrive” now available
  • General – Added iFrame button to the text editor
  • Global – Teacher – Class dropdown lists are now searchable in each module
  • Global – New YouTube/Video embed button in the text editor
  • Toolbox – NWEA – Updated upload process that allows for SIS ID upload
  • Toolbox – aimsweb – Updated upload process that allows for SIS ID upload
  • Toolbox – PARCC – Updated upload process that allows for SIS ID upload
  • Toolbox – Custom Assessment – Updated upload process that allows for SIS ID upload

As always, please share any and all feedback with our team via the in-app chat.

Thank you!


3 Ways Day-to-Day Assessment Analytics Improve Student Learning

With changing legislation and new district initiatives, the pressures of accountability and transparency continue to grow for teachers. Despite these changes, the core goal of education remains the same —to help each and every student grow and learn. Accurately evaluating and maintaining how each child is performing is an essential skill for teachers to achieve these learning performance goals.

This is not a new challenge. Being aware of the individual needs of students and how they are progressing has always been a struggle for teachers. We want to assess the entire child’s performance and never want to rely on just a single measure of performance. Plus, we want to know how a student is doing in real-time to best address their needs.

Day-to-day assessment can provide that information.

New technology in the classroom allows teachers to track how each student is doing throughout the school year. We can treat each test, quiz, project, and assignment as an opportunity for assessment by mapping them to the categories, standards or concepts we want students to master. We can then regularly review the analytics produced by those assessments to better understand how students fare. When their engagement and behavior data is combined with daily analytics, a more complete learning profile is created to connect data to instruction.

How day-to-day formative assessment helps

Day-to-day formative assessment enables teachers to more effectively see student performance and can help solve some key problems many educators face. Here are three of the main ways teachers can start putting better assessment to work.

1. Identify which students need help—even if they do not know themselves—before moving on to new skills or information.

Some students are great about coming to teachers for help when they are struggling. Others may not realize they need additional help or may be embarrassed to admit there is a problem. The day-to-day assessment helps us recognize when a student is struggling and readily identify what skills need to be supported. We can step in right when needed, without being dependent on the student to say they need help.

2. Adjust pacing and content based on the needs and skills of the class.

While recognizing when individual students are struggling—or thriving—is important, teachers are also cognizant of those times the whole class (or a group of students in the class) struggles to grasp a certain point or concept. Similarly, there are times when a group of students has already mastered the concept. A day-to-day assessment provides the ability to adapt the lesson to meet the needs and skills of the class at that moment. By connecting data to instruction, the class is tailored to the students.

3. Provide students more useful feedback and make learning a more reflective process.

Reflection is a skill that needs to be practiced. Using formative assessments with students and demonstrating how learning is a reflective process can teach them the life-long skill of effectively using feedback to improve on any skill they want. By providing more detailed and useful feedback, we can help students improve their learning habits. For example, we can aid our students with their paper revisions, discuss how to brainstorm ideas for projects or help them create checklists to become more productive.


How Technology Can Help Teaching on a Practical Level

Technology and the buzz terms surrounding this topic are flooding education. The teachers and students who are supposed to be helped with each advancement are instead often left overwhelmed. Technology should help teaching at a practical level. Otherwise, technology is being implemented only for technology’s sake.

When I was a new teacher, I often sought to find the best and the coolest new apps or websites for my students to use in class. These were not done with the purpose of improving learning, but instead trying to keep them ‘engaged.’ At one point, my students were jumping between dozens of these sites and tools during a single unit. During conferences with students, they expressed confusion and frustration over staying organized and on task due to the multiple different apps we were using in class.

I realized I had forgotten the purpose of technology – to help assess and drive learning. Revisiting how I structured my class, I discovered that students become more engaged when they are invested in learning and have a clear purpose – not necessarily when they have the latest app. I continue to provide numerous technology options for students. Some students enjoy the freedom of deciding how to accomplish each learning opportunity, but other students want more guidance and structure.

Now I use technology to provide a seamless system for my students to engage in learning content and our classroom assessments. The technology does not drive my classroom, but instead helps facilitate the learning. Students are able to access the content, engage in curriculum, write posts, access their notes and email, complete assessments, and view their progress without confusion or wasted effort. This technology framework is often unseen to students because their focus is on the learning and not the technology.

When an administrator visited my classroom and asked my students how technology is used in class, a student responded, “I do not know… to do school.” The student continued not to name the technology, but instead to describe what he did: keep a calendar of upcoming assignments, write reflections and share learning, submit assessments, and much more.

My students are currently working on a project to create a children’s book which will tell the story of the Declaration of Independence as if they were teaching the concept to a third grader. My students are able to choose which characters and in which environment this story will take place. Students work to translate the Declaration of Independence practicing close reading and annotations. Students then collaborate to cross check their understanding, and then finally translate the document into words a third grader will understand. Once prepared with the language and the outlined ‘story,’ students can explore and create their ‘book’ utilizing any technology they would like.

I use the term ‘book’ loosely, as students can create stop-motion videos, trailers for a movie adaptation, e-books, or even slide presentations – plus much more. Any idea students brainstorm can be presented and pursued. An interesting request every year is that some students would love to create a book using colored pencils and paper. Even the colored-pencils-and-paper students have an opportunity to use technology. Students take a photograph of their final work and post a reflection and project summary to their classroom blog.

Maintaining the best practices of teaching, such as differentiated and personalized learning, requires one-on-one and face-to-face relationships. When technology is used to further enrich this approach by providing the structure and ability to capture student performance, assessments can be more varied, constant, and authentic. Integrating technology into your classroom instruction in a seamless and almost invisible way helps to keep the focus on learning, not on the technology itself. The student-teacher relationship is a powerful driving force that technology can help enhance and improve.

This post originally appeared on AssessmentLiteracy.org, which provides resources to foster a comprehensive understanding of assessment and its role in learning. Chris Hull is a featured Teacher Voice on the Assessment Literacy blog. You can also find Assessment Literacy on Facebook or Twitter (@Assess2Learn).


Creating the Right Assessment Mindset with Students

Developing and understanding one’s driving philosophies, or one’s mindset, is the most important element toward achieving great results. My driving philosophy as an educator is to constantly work toward maximizing learning for all my students.

One of the key concepts that impacts successful learning is how I frame assessments in my classroom. Assessments are sometimes seen as a summative measure of learning. However, as teachers, we need to see assessments as formative measures of learning, and we need to establish this mindset with our students.

When framed properly, assessments can and should help keep the focus on learning. Assessments should serve as points of insight in helping teachers and students better understand their current progress.

I work to build this assessment outlook, and remind students that learning is a process, in three ways:

Four expectations

I set four expectations for my students on the first day of class:

1. Follow directions
2. Be respectful
3. Be honest (especially with yourself)
4. Strive to be your best while risking failure

We work on these expectations together as a class. The most important expectation is not listed first, but is worked on first: honesty. I model and show the importance of honesty with them, which helps create one learning community. As the year continues, I am transparent and direct in the purpose of activities, and students are given general directions to pursue or research a concept, but are provided the freedom to work in the best means for them. With this understanding, they are more likely to buy into each assessment serving as a way to monitor their learning.

The second most important expectation is tied closely to honesty and that is striving to be your best. As John Wooden stated, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” In the classroom, students know when they are striving for their best. If they are honest with what they know and what they are working to achieve, we can connect and help them learn.

Assessments for learning

In my classroom, most assessments can be revised for a new grade until the end of the quarter. This provides students a chance to work on mistakes and improve their current work, which allows them to learn from their drafts. While some assessments cannot be revised, I will provide different opportunities for the same concept to be assessed. I work to provide a wide variety of options for students to demonstrate their learning, ranging from projects, papers and quizzes to tests, reflections, and much more. Being challenged by different types of assessments enables students to cross check their understanding, helping them push their knowledge to new levels and highlight the ways they learn best.

Individual feedback

In combination with the first two elements of my classroom, my students write reflection posts and have chances for individual conversations and conferencing with me about their learning and their work. During these opportunities, students seek to understand more about themselves as learners, and I share with them how their classrooms assessments were graded. In addition, we review interim and benchmark assessment results. I answer questions students have about their test results, and we work together to identify how they can improve. These are opportunities for me to learn how to best help my students, and are important conversations to have in order for my students to reach for the next step in their own learning.

Together these steps help build this community of continual learning with my students and reinforce the idea that learning is a process. We must convey that their learning is not completed with an assessment, but instead that assessment can provide a formative checkpoint to learn how to modify or adapt. With the right approach, students understand how assessments can help keep the focus on learning. When they are in class, they may struggle with a concept or a topic, but we need to continue to build their confidence and belief that they are learners. With practice, students can continue to grow as life-long learners.

This post originally appeared on AssessmentLiteracy.org, which provides resources to foster a comprehensive understanding of assessment and its role in learning. Chris Hull is a featured Teacher Voice on the Assessment Literacy blog. You can also find Assessment Literacy on Facebook or Twitter (@Assess2Learn).


How to Focus on the Process, Not the Outcome

Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon when addressing his team explained, “The thing I want our guys to understand is the process is fearless. When you want to become outcome-oriented, that’s where you can really run into some trouble. If we can just keep our guys focused on the process of the day, there’s no fear in that.”

This quote strikes me as a philosophy to drive any aspect of life — not only baseball, but also education. As teachers, if we focus on the outcome of standardized tests, we may fear the results. However, if we focus on the day-to-day instruction, and how to help each student learn to the best of their ability every day, then the process will lead to strong results. We need all educators to trust more in the process. This touches upon my last post on formative assessment and setting the proper mindset for students. With this mindset, we can use assessment daily in class to promote learning by focusing on assessment clarity, transparency, and variety.

Clarity

Assessments are present daily in classrooms throughout the country, and we want our students to understand that their focus should be on trying their best at each learning opportunity. Providing clear directions and expectations allows the student to put their effort into learning. Their focus can be on the day to day learning, instead of final outcomes, so that they are not prevented from achieving great results due to fear.

Transparency

When students know where they are in the learning process, they can work on areas they need to improve upon without fear of this being the final outcome. This requires transparent discussions and updates on their progress, strengths, and weaknesses. When they are able to see their growth over time, this can empower them to push themselves further and further.

Variety

Various types of assessment are key to providing opportunities for students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. In my class, I work to build a series of assessments that overlap the same standards and topics. I try to build a better understanding of what students know through cross checking their understanding using a variety of methods.

For example, during my 7th grade social studies class, we study the Constitution. One of our projects is a mock Constitutional Convention. Each student is provided a written profile of one of the original members of the Convention. Each student then must research and write 3 statements surrounding the main topics to be discussed. During the Convention, students begin each debate topic by reading their written statement, and then free form debate begins.

At the end of each of the main discussions, we hold a vote to decide the outcome and future policy of the nation. Each vote is displayed, and the Convention must achieve a majority, not a plurality. This visualization on the board helps student see the difference between the two terms. If we do not have a majority, students must work to convince others to join their side.

During this unit we also have an epic rap battle between the three branches of government. Additionally, we have a marketing competition surrounding the Bill of Rights in which students create a marketing campaign supporting or attacking one of the rights. Each of these projects exemplifies different forms of assessment, and during each project, I am also observing learning through conferencing and conversations with my students.

Utilizing all of this information can help form a more complete understanding of my students’ comprehension. The various assessments enable me to design and tailor my lessons to meet the needs of my students on a daily basis, instead of focusing only on the final outcome. We can leverage assessments with clarity, transparency, and variety to help us inform how to help our students in our classroom each day.

Since I am a middle school teacher in Chicago, I have to bring this back to the Chicago Cubs, who have not won a World Series in 107 years. Make that 108. The Cubs have the pressure of accountability to produce this singular outcome. I see this parallel to students and assessment. With assessment, it is less about determining a final outcome and more about using it as a tool to help students learn in an individual and personalized way. While the Cubs’ moment has passed for this year, like Joe Maddon says, we need to remember to focus on the process, not the outcome.

This post originally appeared on AssessmentLiteracy.org, which provides resources to foster a comprehensive understanding of assessment and its role in learning. Chris Hull is a featured Teacher Voice on the Assessment Literacy blog. You can also find Assessment Literacy on Facebook or Twitter (@Assess2Learn).