Is it possible that a teacher could be subconsciously afraid of what formative assessment could reveal about student understanding and, as a result, not do it?
I know I’m guilty of this. Especially early in my career.
Looking in the mirror is hard. After hours of planning I’m supposed to accept the fact that my thinking was flawed or incomplete? I’m supposed to realize that my students have not met the objective(s) of the lesson? I’m supposed to openly accept that it’s back the drawing board? For reflective teachers, the answers to these questions are welcomed as a means for growth, but still not always easy to accept.
To this end, it’s easier to get a “feel” for the learning happening in the classroom rather than to strategically measure it. We subconsciously fear that crushing moment when the lack of learning is exposed, so we evade it. We fear a reality that harshly contradicts with our own expectations. We fear what these humbling results echo about our planning and teaching.
I also find that the need to formatively assess is at times disguised by a belief that students should understand the lesson objective(s) based on previous experience or other factors. This, then, somehow equates to implicitly thinking that students are reaching objectives.
This idea came to while speaking to an instructional coach recently and I feel that it happens more often than we think. If we don’t embrace the uncertainty related to students not meeting expectations, if we’re not highly critical of our own practice and willing to accept unfavorable outcomes, then we save face. Things go “well.” We feel comfortable and all of our hard work is justified.
What a tragedy.