How to Create Formative Classroom Assessments

Teacher-Made Assessments: How to Connect Curriculum, Instruction, and Student Learning 
By Christopher R. Gareis and Leslie W. Grant
(Routledge, 2015 – Learn more)

anne-anderson-2014Reviewed by Anne Anderson

A book on assessment may not sound very exciting; however, Teacher-Made Assessments How to Connect Curriculum, Instruction, and Student Learning by Christopher R. Gareis and Leslie W. Grant gets my gold star for usefulness and practicality.

Read the book in its entirety. Then take time to analyze one of your teacher-made assessments based on the ideas and suggestions in this book. Better still, gather the members of your team/department together for a work session using this book.

This 2nd edition is an excellent reminder of the importance of assessment in the teaching and learning process. Gareis and Grant are strong believers in assessment literacy for teachers, which they describe as “a core set of knowledge and skills that all teachers should possess relative to assessment.” (page 14)

Their focus is on helping teachers to “become more competent creators, consumers, and communicators about classroom assessments in order to contribute to student learning.” (page 18) And that’s exactly what the authors do in this matter-of-fact, easy-to-read book.

Classroom examples, visual metaphors and teacher input

To make the job of creating valid assessments easier, Gareis and Grant include examples and stories from the classroom. The authors use visual metaphors as well as illustrations to help readers think about the concepts of student learning (Figure 1.1, page 4) and validity and reliability (Figure 2.1, page 27). When discussing guidelines and principles of creating test items, they provide readers with summary lists (e.g., Figure 4.3, page 89, Figure 4.17, page 100, Figure 5.10, page 130). Teachers will find this a useful resource.

The first chapter is an overview of the assessment process in this age of accountability.

Chapter 2 focuses on what it means for a teacher-made assessment to be valid and reliable. Readers discover, or perhaps rediscover, practical steps for improving the validity (Figure 2.4, page 36) and reliability (Figure 2.7, page 41) of a teacher-made test. Also included are the reflections of a group of educators on their experiences with assessment. It does always help to hear from teachers.

Gareis and Grant offer seven steps (Figure 3.2, page 51) for creating a good assessment:

  1. Unpack the Intended Learning Outcomes
  2. Create a Table of Specifications
  3. Clarify Your Purposes for and Circumstances of Assessing Student Learning
  4. Determine the Appropriate Types of Assessment Items / Activities to Use
  5. Determine the Appropriate Number and Weight of Assessment Items
  6. Create and Select Assessment Items That Are Valid and Reliable
  7. Assemble the Assessment

Relax! It should be noted that many of these steps are completed quickly, if not simultaneously. The authors supply plenty of practical suggestions and classroom examples for each step. I particularly like their suggestions for unpacking an intended learning outcome for both content and cognitive level (Figure 3.6, page 58).

Lots of samples to examine

Chapter 4 “How Do I Create Good Select-Response Items?” and Chapter 5 “How Do I Create Good Constructed-Response Items?” are reminiscent of that course we took called Testing and Measurement. These two chapters are filled with realistic information that will benefit any teacher, no matter the grade or content.

In an easy to follow format, the authors offer suggestions and/or guidelines for creating strong test items. Included in these chapters are example test items from a variety of assessments. The items, labeled poor and better, come with explanations. Gareis and Grant repeatedly remind us that an item must assess what we intend it to assess. (I wish I had a dollar every time they made that point in the book!) In order to assess higher cognitive levels of learning in constructed-response items, the authors suggest introducing novelty; novelty means students must apply what they have learned to a new situation.

On page 6, the authors write: “All classroom assessment of student learning is ultimately intended to contribute to student learning.” Throughout the pages of Teacher-Made Assessments How to Connect Curriculum, Instruction, and Student Learning Gareis and Grant share practical ideas, techniques, and examples that will help to improve classroom assessment practices.

Anne Anderson finally got out of the 8th grade after 24 years and 9 weeks. She spent the next 9 years sharing her expertise in literacy and writing with K-12 teachers and administrators throughout the district. She credits National Writing Project and Poetry Alive! as turning points in her growth as a teacher. She now shares her expertise nationwide as an educational consultant and through her website and her bi-monthly newsletter, Spotlight on Success.

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