• Sara Needleman

How Do We Define "Exceeds"?

How do we define a 4 in a 1-4 assessment system? What does pushing beyond the 3 really look like? These are a few questions that I raised in a post a few weeks ago. Rather than answering them then, I took a detour to write about the general merits of defining the 4. As promised, I’m returning to this topic, to share my thoughts on how we distinguish a 3 from a 4 and the tools that we might use to build strong habits of our own in making these distinctions.

The tools I’m referring to are the taxonomies that I turn to each time I design an assessment. My favorites are good ole’ Bloom’s Taxonomy, Wiggins and McTighe’s Six Facets of Understanding (I use operative corresponding verbs), and Marzano’s Taxonomy. These tools help me think through what I might ask my students to do in demonstrating proficiency, and in that thinking, they help me determine what’s really important in that demonstration. Once I’m clear on what proficiency should look like for any learning activity, I can begin to consider what moving beyond it will entail and what that product will look like.

So my first step is to locate proficiency for the target on the taxonomy I’m working with. Let’s start with Bloom using an example raised by some kindergarten teachers in Biddeford, Maine. The question was: If the target is to count to 100, is exceeding the target counting to 102?

Here’s another example, using the Six Facets verbs. In reading The Giver by Lois Lowry, an ELA teacher would like her students to interpret the text. If interpreting the text demonstrates meeting the target, she needs to look further along in the taxonomy to figure out what exceeding the target could look like.

Let’s look at one more example invoking an image for one of Marzano’s taxonomies. In a physical science class, if the students are exploring the relationship between mass and velocity, the target might be to explain or describe how mass affects velocity. We might ask students to move beyond an explanation by actually making and testing predictions.

The next conversation I’m interested in having is how do we nest our targets in higher order thinking and then within those higher orders of thinking, how do we define success? For example, once each of my science students designs an investigation to test a prediction relative to mass and velocity, how do I further distinguish their achievement when some of the investigations introduce a second variable? Share your thoughts with us!

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