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Saturday / November 18

How to Conduct a Preassessment

Authentic Application of Data Analysis to Advance Your Practices

Are you teaching in a school where you are required to conduct preassessments? Are you comfortable developing preassessments? What changes do you make based on the preassessments’ outcomes? The preassessment process is significant for you and your students. And, fortunately, the process is quick, easy, and provides with some of the most important data to advance the effectiveness of your practices!

Start with Preassessments in the Assessment Cycle

Gallavan_Assessment cycle

In my last blog post, I introduced the Assessment Cycle (shown above). Preassessments must be conducted BEFORE starting the teaching, learning, and schooling associated with any unit of learning. Understandably, units of learning may last from a few days to a few weeks. Your time is valuable and you want to both optimize the opportunities and maximize the measures. Following the five steps of the preassessment process allows you to work smarter, not harder.

  1. Identify Overarching Goals and Purposes Framing the Unit of Learning
  2. Develop 10-12 Appropriate Preassessment Items
  3. Conduct Your Preassessment THE DAY BEFORE Starting a New Unit of Learning
  4. Analyze the Data
  5. Use the Same Preassessment for the Postassessment

Step 1: Identify Overarching Goals and Purposes Framing the Unit of Learning

For any unit of learning, whether it is designed for a single curriculum from one content area or for cross-curriculum integrating content from several different content areas, you must identify the overarching goals or purposes for the unit. Your overarching goals or purposes should be based on and aligned with the standards and expectations for your content area(s) [including the anticipated knowledge, skills, and dispositions] published by the national professional association(s), the state department of education, school district, and school/department/grade level. During your educator preparation program, you visited these websites to locate the standards. Most units of learning are framed by 10-12 overarching goals or purposes.

Step 2: Develop 10-12 Appropriate Preassessment Items

Each of your 10-12 overarching goals or purposes should be developed into a preassessment item. [Please notice that preassessment includes items rather than questions. You may be developing statements rather than questions; plus later you will be conducting an item analysis, not a question analysis.]

Usually, preassessment items are developed into one of two forms: Selected Answers or Constructed Reponses. However, in some content areas and grade levels, preassessment items may include Demonstrated Performances and Spoken Conversations.

Selected Answers expect students to pick an answer from a set of possible answers, i.e., multiple choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank from a provided list, matching, ordering, ranking, rating, and so forth. The provided set of possible answers should be logical and reasonable; they should not be silly or tricky. You are attempting to discover the information your students do and do not possess before the unit of learning. You are not attempting to entertain, confuse, or embarrass your students.

Selected Answer preassessment items are more difficult to develop but easiest to score. Scoring involves looking at the answers that most likely have been circled, underlined, bubbled, and so forth. However, since Selected Answer preassessment items provided a set of possible answers, each student has a chance of selecting the correct answer merely by guessing. You cannot be sure if the student actually possesses the information—or if they can guess well.

Constructed Responses expect students to write an answer in words from memory, i.e., no set of possible responses is provided. Constructed Responses include writing a single letter (not from a set of possible responses for a multiple choice item), a single word, a few words, a phrase, a sentence, multiple sentences, a paragraph, multiple paragraphs, story, essay, report, and so forth. Just as with Selected Answers, your items should be logical and reasonable; they should not be silly or tricky. Again, you are attempting to discover the information your students do and do not possess, not entertain, confuse, or embarrass your students.

Constructed Response preassessment items are easier to develop but more difficult to score. Scoring involves designing a rubric in advance so you are ready for the range of responses you will receive. You must determine all of the possibilities before you start scoring, such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, accuracy, specificity, and so forth.

Demonstrated Performances expect students to show an outcome. For Preassessment Items, a Demonstrated Performance may include writing a mathematical computation, drawing, etc., or pointing to words, pictures, objects, etc.—especially for students who are non- or novice readers in the classroom language. The Demonstrated Performance relies on memory, not a set of provided possible performances.

Demonstrated Performance preassessment items can be easy or difficult to develop depending on the anticipated outcome, easy to score, but can be more difficult to administer since for some Demonstrated Performances, the teacher must meet with each student individually and in a location where other students will not view the Demonstrated Performance.

Spoken Communications expect students to speak an outcome. For Preassessment Items, a Spoken Communication may include saying a single letter (again, not from a set of possible answers for a multiple choice item), a single word, a few words, a phrase, a sentence, multiple sentences, and so forth. Spoken Communications are more appropriate for Formative and Summative Assessments, which will be detailed in upcoming blogs.

Just as with Demonstrated Performances, a Spoken Communication preassessment item scan be easy or difficult to develop depending on the anticipated communication, easy or difficult to score again depending on the anticipated communication, and difficult to administer since for most Spoken Communications, the teacher must meet with each student individually and in a location where other students will not hear the Spoken Communication.

Step 3: Conduct Your Preassessment THE DAY BEFORE Starting a New Unit of Learning

Many teachers do not conduct preassessments. When teachers skip preassessments, they are not aware of their students’ knowledge, skills, and dispositions, or acknowledge their students’ strengths and weaknesses. These teachers start the teaching, learning, and schooling as if all students are the same and the teacher possesses magical powers associated with their students’ capabilities, needs, and interests. Likewise, teachers who do not conduct preassessments or analyze their preassessment data are not aware of their own teaching practices or acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses. Conducting the preassessment and analyzing the data both equips and empowers teacher to modify and advance their practices. One of my colleagues says, If you always do what you always do, you will get what you always get. Most teachers want to increase their student engagement and achievement while they improve their effectiveness and self-efficacy.

Just as teachers who do not conduct preassessments or analyze their preassessment data before starting a new unit of learning, teachers who conduct their preassessments on the same day they start a new unit of learning, most likely, are not interested in modifying or advancing their practices. Therefore, the preassessment for a new unit of learning should be conducted THE DAY BEFORE starting the new unit so you have time to modify the teaching, learning, and schooling appropriately. Conducting preassessments should require less than 15 minutes. You should allocate these 15 minutes with enough time to transition from the completed unit of learning to the new unit of learning. It is suggested that you return your feedback to the summative assessment from the completed unit and then transition to the new unit on a Friday (or the last day of the week that you meet with these students). Then you have time to analyze data and modify your practices.

Step 4: Analyze the Data

The most convenient approach to analyze data is to create a table with the item numbers along the x-axis and the students’ codes along the y-axis. Insert an x for each student’s correct outcome on every item. This display allows you to see the full picture of the preassessment scores.

Item 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Student                    
A + + + + +
B + + +
C + + + + +
D + +
E +
F + + + +
G + + + + + +
H + +
I + + +
J
K + +
L +
M + + + + + + +
N + + + + +
O + +
P +
Q
R
S + +
T + + + +

Then, use an Excel spread sheet to enter the scores to generate two bar graphs. One bar graph, the Preassessment by Item Number (in Figure 1) shows the item numbers along the x-axis and the number of correct outcomes on the y-axis. The other bar graph, the Preassessment by Student Code (in Figure 2) shows the student codes along the x-axis the number of correct outcomes on the y-axis as shown.

gallavan_figure-1

gallavan_figure-2

The bar graphs will reveal several different scenarios including:

  1. the preassessment item outcomes that your students already possess
  2. the preassessment item outcomes that they need to learn
  3. the preassessment items that you should use when you teach this unit of learning again in the future
  4. the preassessment items that you need to redevelop before you teach this unit of learning again in the future

However, you SHOULD NOT redevelop the preassessment items during the unit of learning. You must use the same items for the post assessment so you can compare and contrast change over time. If you redevelop the items, your data will not align and your analyses will not be helpful.

Step 5: Use the SAME Preassessment for the Postassessment

You must use the SAME Preassessment for the Postassessment to fully comprehend your students’ growth. Now you can create the same table and two bar graphs with the Postassessment data as you created for the Preassessment Data as shown in Figures 3 and 4.

gallavan_figure-3

gallavan_figure-4

Finally, you can create bar graphs that compare the contrast change over time as shown in Figures 5 and 6.

gallavan_figure-5

gallavan_figure-6

CAUTION: You SHOULD NOT redevelop the preassessment items during the unit of learning. If you redevelop the items, your data will not align and your analyses will not be helpful.

Modification of your practices will be detailed in an upcoming blog post.

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Written by

Nancy P. Gallavan, Ph.D., is Professor of Teacher Education at the University of Central Arkansas where she specializes in classroom assessments and cultural competence in the Department of Teaching and Learning MAT Program, which she helped to start in 2006. The UCA MAT Program was recognized as the Distinguished Program in Teacher Education by the Association of Teacher Educators in 2010. Dr. Gallavan also serves as the UCA Academic Liaison to Institutional Diversity.

Receiving university and college awards for her teaching, scholarship, and service, Dr. Gallavan has expertise in K-12 education, classroom assessments, curriculum development, cultural competence, social studies education, and teacher self-efficacy. With more than 120 peer-reviewed publications in journals, as chapters in books, and as books, Dr. Gallavan authored two versions of Developing Performance-Based Assessments, Grades K-5 and Grades 6-12 with Corwin Press in 2009. She also authored Navigating Cultural Competence: A Compass for Teachers, Grades K-5 and Grades 6-12 with Corwin Press in 2011. With Ellen Kottler, she co-authored Secrets to Success for Beginning Elementary School Teachers with Corwin Press in 2007 and Secrets to Success for Social Studies Teachers with Corwin Press in 2008. Most of these books have been republished in multiple languages.

Her research agenda focuses on classroom assessments and teacher self-efficacy. Her chapter, “If you want your students to change, then you need to change: Mediating the sources and benefits of teacher self-efficacy with teacher candidates,” will be published in the Handbook of Research on Professional Development for Quality Teaching and Learning in 2016. Dr. Gallavan serves as the editor of the Arkansas Association of Teacher Educators Electronic Journal (ArATE EJ) and co-editor of the Association of Teacher Educators (ATE) Annual Yearbook of Research.

An active member of American Educational Research Association (AERA), Association of Teacher Educators (ATE), Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME), and National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), she is involved with the AERA Classroom Assessment Special Interest Group and serves as Chair of the ATE Commission of Online Teaching, Learning, and Schooling. Dr. Gallavan is a Past President and a Distinguished Member of the Association of Teacher Educators (ATE), a Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Chapter inaugural member, and a member of Phi Delta Phi (education honor society).

Prior to joining the University of Central Arkansas, Dr. Gallavan was an Assistant/Associate Professor with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, specializing in social studies education and cultural competence. She began her career in education as an elementary school and middle level classroom teacher primarily in the Cherry Creek School District in Colorado. She earned her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Literacy from Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University); her master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Gifted and Talented Education from the University of Colorado, Boulder; her school administrator license from the University of Colorado, Denver; and her doctoral degree in Curriculum Leadership with a cognate in Cultural Competence from the University of Denver. At the University of Denver, she received the Phi Delta Kappa Outstanding Dissertation Award.

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