The winds of needed change are blowing throughout the entire educational system. One only has to look at the daily news to see that many students are not being challenged to reach their higher potential. A part of this problem lies in the manner in which students are taught and the methods that are used to assess their achievement

Assessment of student possibilities calls for new ways of viewing student achievement. The same conventional ways of teaching and evaluating student growth and development are falling short of motivating students in applying skill and knowledge in daily life. According to Fred M. Newmann, professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin:

The kinds of skills required to earn school credits, good grades, and high scores on typical tests are often considered trivial, meaningless, and contrived - by both students and adults. In contrast, a "restructured" vision of the goals of education seeks to evaluate performance activities that are worthwhile, significant, and meaningful- in short, activities that are "authentic".

What criteria helps us to recognize authentic forms of academic achievement? Consider the achievements of successful adults scientists, musicians, business entrepreneurs, politicians, craftspeople, attorneys, novelists, physicians, designers, and so on. What are the characteristics of their work that justify calling their accomplishments authentic rather than contrived and trivial? Can we identify key distinctions between these authentic accomplishments and the work that students complete in school? .

People in diverse fields named above face the primary challenge of producing, rather than reproducing knowledge. This knowledge is expressed through discourse, through creation of things, and through performances. We do not expect children to attain levels of competition comparable to those of skilled adults, but we do want students to develop in the same direction.


[Newman, Fred M. "Linking Restructuring to Authentic Achievement" Phi Delta Kappan, Fe. 1991. pp. 458-463.]


Every human must meet existence, whether well or poorly equipped to fulfill inner potential and outer opportunity, contributing to the integrity of the human race as the life process unfolds.

At any given moment, the possibilities for individual contribution are limited by prevailing conditions on several levels of experience. These levels are: the physical circumstances and environment, the emotional atmosphere, the thought life and availability of the thoughts of others, and the spiritual environment

Children taught to assess the possibilities facing them at any time on each of these levels will be equipped to make choices founded on integrity and the broadest perspectives. In the classroom, students can understand the true meaning of testing their abilities, if given a true purpose. They will see that tests are true opportunities for greater understanding and growth in their daily life. For life itself is a field of opportunities for greater expansion of consciousness or awareness of the life process.

The basic philosophy of the Robert Muller School is based upon the premise that education is a process of enlightenment that allows students to gain knowledge, wisdom, and skill in action, on all levels of their being —physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. From infancy, students are given opportunities to develop their highest quality of being. They are provided experiences that allow them to assess the possibilities and make choices in any given situation. Assessment of possibilities and making choices are valid ways of helping students achieve a high quality of life.

It is important that students understand that assessment is a vital part of striving toward an ever expanding consciousness. Each assessment experience is like a rung of a ladder or turn of the spiral, lifting one ever higher and higher. It enables students to accept the fact of "knowing" or having the needed knowledge, or else, the "need" for greater knowledge.

Creative ways of assessing the teaching and learning process are as varied as the students themselves. The assessment process is provided according to pwpose, need, and opportunity. For examples, types and methods of assessment are: written and oral observations, journals, student and teacher-made tests, essay opportunities, drama presentations, model-building, charts and graphs, checklists, etc.

The teacher's role, as an educational guide, is to assist students in setting forth and reaching realistic goals in the learning process. In order to fulfill the pwpose of student assessment, the teacher needs to be aware of the student's feelings, needs, and potential for development. Three basic needs of students are:

• The need of acceptance from peers, teachers, and parents.

• The need to maintain a,sense of self-respect and a feeling of well-being

• The need to affirm individual strength and knowledge.

In the assessment of students' progress in relation to the curriculum, it is important to utilize creative ways of viewing the effectiveness of the learning experiences of students and teachers. For example, in working with the very young children, teachers keep a daily journal of each child's growth pattern —progress is tracked and opportunities for growth are noted. The following excerpts from a teacher's daily journal of a class of toddlers gives clues as to the child's learning mode.

"John has not changed a great deal during this three weeks period, except in the area of language development. He is using many more words, but is not using sentences. He is learning the concept of counting by pointing to several things with his forefinger and then verbalizing sounds. He loves to participate in group singing and hand movements. Lately, he hasn't been doing the hand movements all the time. I think he is beginning to learn the words to the songs, but has not yet begun to verbalize them. John loves a new challenge but it mitst be based on things he has already mastered. He has an amazing grasp of language. He even laughs at subtle jokes. "

"Philip is still learning that there is a better!way of relating to others than in hitting and shoving. He has days of acceptable behavior, but it is a reprogramming of response with which we are UJ..orking. It will take loving understanding and time to help him gain a sense of right relationships. He has made great improvement in his ability to sit and work but he must have individual attention. He is developing a group awareness and wants to go with the group. He loves reading and will sit for longer and longer periods of time. "

"Amrita is participating a great deal more in group activities. She is learning the words of songs, with accompanying hand movements. Reading is one of her favorite things to do. At least once a day she will select a book and sit down to read by turning the pages and looking at the illustrations. She usually works alone, but has been observed cooperating with one or two of the children. She learns very quickly. After one short observation she will try anything. She has great confidence and stands her ground with all the children. "

"Jona is really improving with physical development in large motor and fine motor skills. Emotionally, she is working on fearlessness. She has to be introduced to something slowly and gradUally. Jona needs to work on a feeling of being daring. She has mastered block stacking and the graduated rings. She is working on language development. She can repeat a word only by syllables. She doesn't seem to hear the whole word but will repeat it if given to her one syllable at a time. "

"Serapis has made incredible improvements in his participation with the group. He seems to have mastered some obstacles as far as feeling comfortable enough to allow himself to "let go ". He is still the star of the class in cleaning up at the end of class. He is now working with the idea that others can help him,. He loves to read books or have thern read to him. He enjoys stacking blocks. He can stack as many as ten. His attentio!,,- span is excellent. He does not like gymnastics, but will always help to lift the heaviest objects at clean-up time. Serapis seems to build a complete mental picture of everything before he attempts to do it physically. He is easily intimidated by strangers. "



 


Clarification of Values

Another aspect of assessing student growth is through a clarification of values which affect the student's quality of life. Important data concerning the student's basic values can be gained through a unit of study which involves inquiry, exchange of ideas, sharing, and meaningful dialogue. The following list of questions, activities, and topics can be explored in this unit:

• A leader is:___________________________________________________

• Make a list of important leaders. Select at least three leaders.

• List the basic qualities of great leaders. Make a comparison of the leaders of varying cultures.

• Each student lists, according to priority, five top values basic to their life. Discuss the possible impact these values have on individual and group life experiences. Keep a diary for one week.

• Discussion of the term alignment as to meaning and use of this technique in individual relationships and experiences. Each student makes a chart depicting how he or she exemplifies top values in daily life.

• Questions —What keeps me from acting in alignment most of the time? List the fears that affect keeping alignment with higher values. What is your internal state when acting out of alignment with your values? .

• When acting in alignment I feel:_________________________________________________________

• When acting out of alignment I feel:_________________________________________________________

• Make a composite chart of group values. Compare the group values to society's values. Discuss how higher group values can bring about change.

At the elementary level progress records are used to plot students' growth patterns.

• Capabilities:

Spiritual
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________

Mental

_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________

Emotional

_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________

Physical
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

• Qualities

• Attitudes

• Academic growth


The measurement of students' academic progress has long been a question in the minds of parents and teachers. It is time to take a broader view of this educational process. There are as many ways of assessing student growth and development as there are students. Each human being is unique in his or her own way. The task before educators is to address this uniqueness and yet attain a unity of purpose within the diversity of educational opportunities offered to the youth of today.

Testing, per se, is a natural process of life. As individuals and as groups, we are tested daily in relationships, resourcefulness, attentiveness, faith, and so on. Students have a need and purpose for assessing academic progress. Assessment of academic achievement however, should go beyond the test as the only method of meeting evaluative needs. A standardized test is most restrictive in that it does not accurately reflect student ability since these tests involve both knowledge and the ability to take a test. Therefore, unless these two conditions exist, the test cannot reflect the student's true perlormance. To be valid, a standardized test would have to be given to all students under the same conditions.

Assessment, as a process of evaluating student achievement, should incOIporate not only knowledge but also the creative, psychological, and social skills which have value in the student's life. It should address students' abilities to create, to perlorm, to prod:uce (not reproduce) knowledge, and the ability to function from their higher capabilities.

When testing or assessment can be viewed as a natural part of daily life then authentic methods of assessing student growth and achievement will become an effective means of guiding youth through their formative periods of life. Students can then accept challenges as points of progress or milestones in the varying states and stages of the life process.