“Personalization” is one of those things that educators all agree is important, but have found it hard to do in practice. The structure of schools is designed to work with students in large groups, and to essentially treat all students the same.
There are a few strategies that can help with personalizing assessments. Some have to do with the structures of the assessments themselves; others have to do with how we use assessments.
Jay McTighe, who is one of the foremost thinkers on assessment, has pointed out a few ways that tasks can be designed to better incorporate student voice and choice. One is the notion of a “task frame” – a type of assessment that can be used in a variety of situations. For example, a task frame could be “Interpret the data on ____ for the past ____ and use that data to make a prediction.” This frame can be used in elementary math classes (“interpret the data on student height for the past six months”) or high school social studies class (“Interpret the data on voting patterns in our town for the past 10 years”). There are similar skills happening here, across multiple disciplines. This can lead to personalization in a couple of ways: if the task frame is used multiple times, students could select the assignment where they felt they did the best; in another way, students could devise their own task using this frame, and show how they can apply the skill of “interpreting data” to a question of their own choosing.
Another strategy is to allow students to use the assessments to tell their own story of growth. Students can create a tour of their best work over time (which we discussed in an earlier blog post). By selecting the tasks that show their best work or their growth through the year, students are displaying their thoughts on what the assessments mean to them.
To go further on the scale of personalization, students can create their own tasks. Some classroom projects and tasks have student voice and choice embedded in the assignment; a student’s creative writing project or history fair display can start with their initial idea. In some cases, students may create their own personal badge, allowing them to do a “deep dive” into some area of interest. The assessment, in this case, will be as much about the process – what did the student explore? how did they decide what tasks to pursue – as the final deliverables.
Our recent webinar on Personalizing Assessment is available online; we’d like to continue the conversation!