Academic Lens: You Are What You Assess

Posted by Scott Allenby


Two weeks ago we posted a blog on the importance of diet and nutrition for adolescents. The main message: you are what you eat. The same can be said in slightly different words for any organization: you are what you value. At Proctor, we value many things, but as we wrap up Fall Term final exams, we must ask ourselves: do our assessment methods line up with what we value as a learning community?

Proctor Academy academics

Last winter, Dean of Faculty Karl Methven shared this article from Independent School Magazine in reference to on-going conversations among faculty around the concept of assessment. The article discusses the need to have meaningful assessments that challenge the learning brain. Since last winter, Academic Department heads and a group of faculty have continued to explore what a formative assessment looks like. Longtime Proctor educator Sue Houston has blown up her former methods of assessments, and later this winter all faculty will engage in a professional development day on the topic.

Read Sue's Blog: How Do Kids Learn Proctor Academy Academics

While a role still exists for traditional assessment methods (in preparation for SATs, ACTs and other standardized tests), we know mastery focused assessments are far more effective in creating lasting learning that performance based assessments.

A tour around classrooms during final exam week illustrates this, as students give speeches, present research on neuroscience, present social entrepreneurship business plans to ‘investors’, and engage in seminar discussions around key questions in history. Sure, many courses also give final exams, but assessment methods vary tremendously on campus (and off-campus as Kyle takes his final exam on Ocean Classroom below). 


We understand no two students are the same, and therefore, no single assessment method will be effective in measuring the lasting learning taking place in our classes. However, we do recognize some assessments can be more effective than others in helping students along their educational journey. The aforementioned article quotes neuropsychology professor Tracy Tokuhama-Espinosa saying, “While students manage to keep enough dates, facts and formulas in their head to pass the test, this knowledge never made it to long-term declarative memory, it was never truly learned at all (only memorized in the short term).”

Proctor Academy academics

Assessment methods vary tremendously at Proctor, and this is a good thing, but how can we continue to grow as educators? How can we, as Proctor's Adam Jones writes in his most recent blog post HERE, rethink what ‘school’ is all about?

Read Adam's Blog on "New Schools"


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