When we’re afraid of results 

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.



4 thoughts on “When we’re afraid of results ”

  1. I often feel this way, and not just about student learning. I also experience it from the other side — I help students in distress and my feedback to their teachers about this is often taken as an offense, probably because of this very fear of results.

    1. That’s a great point. Teachers are always asked to justify the things we do in our classroom – and this contributes to your point. Simply have a valid justification, and the thought behind it, makes us feel untouchable at times.

  2. Somewhat related to what you’ve shared is the struggle to balance the individual vs. collaborative effort of students-and it’s something I’m more cognizant of this year than ever before. I often find myself going with the “feel” of the room and decide, wow majority of the students understand or are approaching the standard and then formatively assessing them shows a complete different picture. It’s partially devastating and partially motivation to get better at “feeling” and assessing the room when they are working collaboratively.

    1. Khatri you and I are in the same boat! To your point, I’ve learned that many aspects of teaching is not intuitive at all. Assessment being one of them. There are times that I feel like I have an informal understanding of student learning based on observations and interactions with my students, but I fear trusting that feeling…because I’ve been wrong so often. How to get better at the informal assessment process? Hmmm…

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