When I hear the word "assessment" I think of it in terms of how it informs instruct for me in the classroom. I use assessment to help me design lessons for my scholars, not necessarily to grade them. Since I don't grade them, this is not an issue. I also don't confuse assessment with accountability, since the two are not the same. Accountability drives instruction and is usually high stakes. Assessment on the other hand is informative and instructive to the parties involved. Since we usually don't receive much more than numbers from the accountablity tests, I find them useless. So assessment is more authentic if it informs instruction and if it is not high stakes. It is part of scholarship. Scholarship is making one's work public, engaging in peer review, and passing it on. First the scholar must make hir work public and I like the web for this. Once it is public, then other scholars may engage in reviewing it in what is deemed peer review. After revisions and such, the original scholar passes it on for others to read and advance.
Why use the Internet in the classroom at all? One answer is simple. It provides a better way for us to assess our scholars. The work each scholar constructs is on the web in hir own webfolio. The webfolio is an electronic version of the portfolio. The webfolio, though, is a collection of all of the scholar's work and it is available to more people than the hard copy of the portfolio. By digitizing the work we can make it more available to more people than we can with the printed version. The webfolio, if started early can be a record, of the scholar's development over a lifetime, let us say starting as early as elementary school. So as teachers get new students, the teacher can peruse the scholar's webfolio to determine instruction. Employers can gain valuable insight about a future employee through a webfolio. Since the webfolio is accessible to all on the web, then parents, relatives, peers, other teachers, administrators, pre-service teachers, employers, college and graduate school admissions, and anyone else can make an authentic assessment of said scholar.
Once the webfolio has been begun and the work is public, the process of peer review, the second tenet of scholarship can begin. Developing good peer review skills is taught in the class and the scholars learn about the use of rubrics. As the work is created, rubrics are designed so the writer and the reader are aware of the criteria of each assignment. The rubric becomes the criteria by which the scholar created the work and it must therefore be the criteria by which the reader assesses it. Connecting expectations with assessment makes for better work and for an understanding between scholar and evaluator. That doesn't mean the reader can't make suggestions outside the rubric, but assessment shouldn't be made outside the rubric since the scholar wasn't using that idea either by choice or by not thinking of it. It would fall into the area of discovery and certainly cna be added and included in further rubric development. The suggestion by the reader may cause the scholar to alter the rubric and add that new idea. But what is key here is that the scholar has explained what s/he will do as stated in the rubric and the reader now has the guidelines by which to evaluate the piece. Rubric building is a collaborative effort among teacher, scholar, and other concerned mentors and peers. If the writer and reader are not in synch on this matter then assessment is useless and will only add to the frustration of the scholar. We have seen tests given to young scholars which test something for which they have not yet had instruction and as a result they are embarassed, chastised, and called stupid. The method I use of the rubric eliminates any confusion between writer and reader. In fact, this form of assessment provides for positive interactivity between writer and reader. I have always been under the impression that assessment was to inform instruction. The current forms of assessment are more like business, methods of accountability and puninishment. Rarely do they inform instruction, except to have teachers teach more to the test than to the scholar. Authentic assessment makes more pedagogical sense for the classroom.
By publishing on the web, we provide greater access to information for our scholars, we can make their work public, we can engage them in peer review, we can let them become information providers, and we can develop that national test by practicing authentic assessment. The web opens up our schools to the public thereby allowing us to actually practice that oftentimes used expression: "It takes a village to raise a child." In this case we are speaking about the global wired village of netizens. It provides for local control and practices to be made known to the scholars as well as providing access to diverse points of view. The use of the web in our schools will return to the purpose of the school to the scholar and hir education.
Why limit one's defense of one's work at the end of an academic career, the PhD, to a few when it can begin in fifth grade for all. The webfolio grows with the scholar and can be used by all to better prepapre the scholar for the next level based on where that scholar is at each step.
In 1998 I was fortunate to become part of the first cohort of Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL), that supported me in my efforts to explore matters of authentic assessment in pure scholarly style. My research helped me fine tune my practice by providing me time and guidance in pursuing the theories of assessment. I had collected the data from the current scholars in CyberEnglish. the next step for me was to research what others had done in assessment and see how that work would apply to my work with my scholars on the Internet. My work at Carnegie became practical theory.
A discussion of how we do peer review and create rubrics will be detailed.