Why add pre-assessment to the classroom learning experience?

Before you dust off last year’s book of lesson plans (giving many the benefit of the doubt…), consider this:

Should I make pre-assessment a part of the learning experience in my classroom?

It’s a big question, really. So by all means ask it, but make sure you understand what it entails…

Pre-assessment is not an activity, it’s part of your students’ “assessment strategy”

Pre-assessment (the act of demonstrating your current knowledge or skill prior to instruction) must figure into the overall plan for assessment.  A pre-assessment must assess the same knowledge or skills that are on the end-of-unit assessment and most, if not all the formative assessments in-between.  Which means that the teacher needs to have the framework in place before students begin the pre-assessment process.

Pre-assessment will expose kids to failure…and that’s a good thing!

Students should NOT perform well on a pre-assessment.  If they do, they should move on to something else, or at the very least, learn what they’re about to learn so that they can demonstrate an even higher degree of mastery.  Pre-assessment forces students to confront the notion that they don’t know something.  And much to our own chagrin, school isn’t set up for that reality.

What if pre-assessment were a small, easy step to change the reality of school?  If students establish a “I don’t know A, so I’m going to learning by doing B” schema at the beginning of a unit, might that change their mindset going into the first graded assignment?  (My answer: Only if the teacher crafts the language he/she uses around that schema)

Pre-assessment just might change your curriculum…permanently and perpetually

If a pre-assessment identifies what a student knows/doesn’t know and can do/cannot do, the results of that pre-assessment must affect the students’ next steps.  And odds are that those next steps do not match the scribbles from last year’s lesson plan book.

What if a pre-assessment were followed up with the question, What should we do next (first) to increase your performance on the next assessment?

A skilled teacher may be apt to answer this question, perhaps even for every student in the classroom.  But students can often answer this question for themselves.  Who then owns the curriculum?

Pre-assessment has the potential to significantly impact:

  1. The framework and progression of a unit of instruction
  2. The students’ mindset of learning, doing, and learning about how they’re doing
  3. The ownership of the curriculum itself

At the very least it helps improve your design potential and student mindset.  At the most, it redefines the learning experience in your classroom.