Wouldn’t it be nice to have a crystal ball when it comes to teaching? Well, you’re in luck because pre-assessments are just that. Giving a pre-assessment is a highly effective method for measuring students’ growth on any topic. Pre-assessments, or pre-tests, show teachers what students need to learn, while post-assessments, or post-tests, demonstrate what students learned after a unit or topic of study. While the terms test and assessment are sometimes frowned upon, this should not be the case when it comes to pre-assessments. The argument tends to be that assessments take so much time that teachers cannot do what they do best…teach. However, pre-assessments can actually save you time throughout the year. Better yet, with the help of technology, many of these assessments can be given online and graded almost immediately, such as these self-graded math quizzes, giving you immediate feedback. Ultimately, the valuable information you can learn from pre-assessments can be a game-changer when they are done well.
Determining Your Learning Objectives
Before you can give a pre-assessment, the first step you must do is identify the standards or learning objectives you want to assess. Determining these learning objectives is a crucial step for a number of reasons. For starters, the learning objectives give a clear and specific description of what your students are expected to learn by the end of a lesson or unit. The pre-assessment will not be valid if it asks questions that are not covered throughout the unit, thus you will have no benchmark to gauge your students’ strengths and weaknesses. Also, learning objectives help you focus the pre-assessment on specific knowledge and skills that are vital for your future instruction. You will use what you learn, so you can tailor your instruction to meet the needs of all students in your classroom. The importance of this first step cannot be overstated.
Administering the Pre-Assessment
After creating or using a pre-made assessment such as these Reading Comprehension Assessments, the next step is to give the pre-assessment to your students. You will do this before you give any instruction over the standard(s) the unit will address. If this is not done at the beginning of a unit, your results will be skewed, and you will not have a clear picture of what your students do and do not know in any given unit. Also, it helps to explain to students the purpose of the assessment and how it will help you understand their prior knowledge of the content. You must do everything you can to ensure students are trying their best on a pre-assessment if you are to get accurate results from it.
Collecting and Analyzing Data
This next step might seem obvious, but just because you have data, you must know what to do with it. Not only will this help you identify students’ prior knowledge, but it will also help you see any misconceptions students have about the topic. For example, if a number of students are missing a question and most of them are giving the same wrong answer, you need to determine why this is happening. The data must drive your instruction.
Understanding students’ prior knowledge is vital in determining what you need to teach throughout the entire unit. Seeing what your students know and do not know can be a major time saver as well. Imagine spending a day or two teaching a skill that the biggest majority of your students already know. A pre-assessment would have indicated that students have already mastered the skill, and, instead of teaching more advanced and challenging content, you are potentially keeping students from receiving a more rigorous curriculum.
Differentiating Your Instruction
While the data from the assessment can tell you what students know and do not know about a standard, the way you differentiate your instruction is what determines how much your students will grow. Differentiation involves setting differentiated objectives based on students’ readiness. It is extremely important to know the individual strengths and weaknesses of your students upfront. You should have a plethora of resources, activities, and support to address all learners. In short, pre-assessments make it much easier for teachers to adapt their instruction based on the needs of their students.
For the students who score well on the pre-assessment, enrichment activities are great for challenging them, whereas the students who need more guidance can receive this help through the use of additional resources.
Track Student Growth
After creating ways to differentiate your lessons so all students can learn to the best of their abilities, the next step is to track students’ growth. Setting goals for students and allowing them to see their progress over time can help boost confidence and motivation. Without data from a pre-assessment, it can be easy to set unrealistic and unachievable goals. Confidence can increase student outcomes, but, if the goals are not realistic, they can actually have a negative impact on students. By using pre-assessments and analyzing the data, you can be more confident the goals are attainable. This, in turn, sets students up for a greater chance of success. Without a doubt, students need to be pushed, but you must know just how far you can push each of them.
Ways to track students’ growth is through the use of formative assessments, observations, portfolios, and feedback. As a teacher, you should be doing this constantly throughout each lesson. If you notice students are still struggling, you will want to adapt your lessons even more. However, if you notice students are succeeding and learning the content, you are ready to move on.
Give the Summative Assessment
Once the previous steps are complete, you are now ready to give the summative assessment and see the growth of your students. It is perfectly fine to give students the same test and compare the results. In fact, this will clearly show you quickly and easily how students have grown from the beginning to the end of the unit. Indeed, this should show that all students have grown based on their individual starting points. Remember, success should not always be measured by perfection. Instead, success is seeing students learn and grow.