The editorial “Zero Intolerance,” June 8, states, “student behaviour and performance are really inextricable sides of the same coin.” There is another side in this provincial and national conversation about assessment polices in our schools that seems to be overlooked.
Why do we give assignments and tests anyway?
The primary purpose is more than giving students a mark or grade. As a teacher of many years (more than 30), my primary purpose in giving an assignment or test was to help children learn. They also tell us what they had learnt, and determine if instruction affected children’s learning or, as we sometimes say, “did it get through?”
Students’ learning and performance on assessments are closely connected. By doing the assignment when given, students are deepening their understanding of the topic, or they should be. When I read assignments, I make decisions as to how I am going to help children improve their learning, especially if they did not perform well. I give feedback or I “sit beside” the student and help him/her learn the work better than the first time round. The translation of the Latin word “assess” is “to sit beside.”
Feedback to the student must be given close to the time the work was taught and learnt and, except in special circumstances, determined by professional judgment of the teacher, should assignments or tests ever be deferred or passed in late. It defeats the primary purpose as to why these assignments/tests were given in the first place — to help the children in our care to learn.
Now, if the entire class didn’t do well, as a teacher, I make decisions as to how I am going to change my instruction so children will learn the topic better. How can I do that if assignments are not passed in on time?