CATESOL Book Review: Sticky Assessment: Classroom Strategies to Amplify Student Learning by Laura Greenstein
Sticky Assessment: Classroom Strategies to Amplify Student Learning by Laura Greenstein
By Unsoon Won and Kara Mac Donald
The book is not fresh off the presses, and in fact is from 2019. However, the review authors have found it a useful text within their context as teacher trainers. It is a very short and accessible text that provides a foundational understanding of assessment from which both novice and veteran language teachers can benefit. So, they decided to offer a review to benefit others as well.
Introduction: Foundation to Build Upon
The chapter begins with a definition and the broad knowledge set that assessment literacy consists of, followed by an examination of the terms test, measure, evaluate and assess. The word Assessment itself means to explore with regard to its Latin root, meaning to sit beside, highlighting that assessment’s function in education is not aligned with the root of its meaning. Students have long been taking exams to evaluate their learning, the school system’s performance, and many other aspects of instruction. However, teachers and school systems have not been sitting beside their students, and the author argues it is time for teachers to use assessment in its true meaning: where the teacher works together with students to collaboratively fulfill their needs.
Chapter 1: Purposeful Assessment
Effective assessment is cyclical and ongoing and requires deliberate planning whether it be large scale standardized testing or small scale lesson-by-lesson assessment. The author provided seven guiding questions for such purposeful assessment, as well as a blueprint from assessment that is informed by broad contextual standards (i.e., national, state, etc.), cognitive skill development (i.e. Bloom’s taxonomy) and local assessment aligned with student development. A comprehensive table is provided modeling an assessment blueprint as a resource for readers. The large majority of the chapter provides additional guidance and models for developing and implementing purposeful assessment.
Chapter 2: Informative Assessment
The author starts by offering the analogy that if one has back pain from over extending in backward bends, it makes no sense to have the information from a doctor that the muscle has been sprained if no treatment plan is offered. This chapter discusses having clear objectives when conducting assessments, and then to provide guidance that can inform instructional practice to address students’ learning needs. Once tangible outcomes are identified of what students will be able to do as objectives, there needs to be a student focused classroom that incorporates assessment holistically and coherently from the first day of instruction. Examples of tangible assessment outcomes (i.e., visible student practices from assessment). The author provides a step by step description of visible assessment in practice for readers, while highlighting that assessment that is growth focused improves students' knowledge and skills as it is cyclical and ongoing.
Chapter 3: Sticky Assessment
The author describes how an assessment that is sticky takes two forms. It needs to interest students to engage students’ learning and it needs to effectively identify how much learning is being retained by students. It is a guide for what will be the next step for teachers’ instruction and students’ subsequent study focuses and use of learning strategies. Next, the author explains that sticky assessments are founded on three principles: i) they need to engage and provide leverage to learners, ii) they need to be flexible and adaptable, iii) they need to occur over time at determined intervals. The chapter then addresses what types of assessments motivate learners, while also discussing how to students as their own assessors, with two sections addressing how to implement this in practice. The author closes the chapter by addressing the use of differentiated assessment, embedded assessment and assessing higher and deeper learning.
Chapter 4: Technically Sound Assessment
For assessment to be beneficial it needs to be based on validity and reliability. The author starts the chapter by describing these foundations of assessment. Additionally, the concepts of fairness in addressed, stating that learning goals need to be explicit while also adjusting assessment for learner differences. Lastly, the topic of balance in assessment is addressed, noting that it is important to use a variety of assessment types (i.e., diagnostic, summative, school district level, class level) to obtain a full understanding of student learning.
Summary: Endings are New Beginnings
The author reflects back on the topics of the chapters and insists that assessment is not an end point in learning rather is part of the process of student learning and it is important to have this shift in mindset to truly leverage the outcomes of assessment. She offers a checklist for readers to review their understanding of the concepts around assessment which were discussed. She argues for the value in local assessments as they account for learner and contextual factors that large scale standardized testing cannot. To assist readers leverage local assessment, she offers a five-step process: i) identify objectives, ii) create an inclusive process, iii) establish coherent processes, iv) establish practices for implementation, v) foster the use of differentiated assessment among teachers The chapter closes with how to strengthen and build a culture of classroom assessment.
As in-service and pre-service teacher trainers in a foreign language higher education institute where students are highly oriented and concerned about their performance on formal in-course testing, as well as an end of course standardized test that has significant impact on their careers, we found this text highly accessible and applicable to various contexts beyond the one we work in. Each chapter provides a checkpoint on learning and chapter summaries. It’s a thin book in terms of page number, but offers a wealth of insight for busy teachers, as each chapter hits the needed key points.