Three Motivating Assessment Strategies to Improve Experiences in the Classroom

Take 15-30 seconds and think of the all the feelings you have when you hear the word “assessment.”  What words come to mind? 

Now…take 15-30 seconds and think of all the feelings a student has when they hear the word “assessment?”  What words come to mind? 

If, during this exercise, the word “motivation” wasn’t included in either answer, I URGE you to consider a different approach to assessment in the classroom. 

I have found motivation to be the key to successful assessment experiences with my students.  What do I mean by that?  Fostering motivation in myself, and my students, has given me a new perspective on teaching.  Assessments have provided me with useful information on student performance and given me better insight on the learning level of each student of mine.  In a nutshell, assessment has been my MOTIVATOR.

Please understand this picture I’m painting wasn’t a masterpiece to begin with.  Teaching Physical Education over the last decade, assessment has dealt me a strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  I have had both good and bad experiences with assessment.  Taking time to reflect on various assessment strategies I have used in the classroom, I can attribute my Dr. Jekyll (positive) experiences to personal and student motivation.    

Frankly, I’ve realized it starts with me, the educator.  Times where I’ve been motivated, my students have also been motivated.  Times where I haven’t been motivated…well, you don’t need me to finish that sentence.  If I’m motivated to know what students need to learn next, my students will see it.  They will feed off it.  Students cannot be motivated until they see the teacher make the effort to incorporate helpful strategies for their learning.    

Assessment in schools isn’t going away.  Yes, teachers…we have to assess students.  We have district/state level requirements to abide to.  We have teacher evaluations that determine the security of our jobs.  Most importantly, we have to justify being in this profession was the right choice by showing evidence that student learning has taken place.  If we can’t show that evidence, why teach?  

Through all my experiences with assessment, what I have learned is…motivation is the key to success, both for the teacher and the student. 

Here’s are 3 MOTIVATING ASSESSMENT STRATEGIES I have used when assessing my students.

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Motivating Assessment Strategies for Teachers

Share the Purpose

How is your assessment going to guide your future instruction with students?  Are you collecting information regarding student performance of skills, knowledge, or attitudes?  Do your students know the purpose?

My experience: I make it no secret what I want students to understand and be able to do in Physical Education.  I share a learning target with my students each lesson.  This serves as my main purpose for assessment.  I want to measure whether or not my students meet the criteria of my learning target.  All learning content and activities in my lesson are directly linked to my learning target.  

Be Creative

Assessments don’t have to be so cut-and-dried.  Show some originality and spontaneity.

My experience:  In Physical Education, I try to think outside-the-box for how I can assess my students.  There are so many options! Self-assessments. Peer-assessments.  Informal assessments.  I could keep going.   One creative way I check for mastery of student learning is allowing students to demonstrate their knowledge in a natural environment.  Students can do this during game play in my class or they can create a video of their performance outside my class. 

Dedicate the Time

How many times have you tried to administer an assessment with your students only to run out of time at the end of class?  Guilty as charged.  Know ahead of time how long your assessment will take, and plan accordingly.  Assessment should occur at some point in every lesson.  Maybe it’s during your instant activity.  Maybe it’s within the final 5 minutes of your lesson.  Post your assessments on your daily agenda as a daily reminder.

My experience: My goal is to incorporate assessment for at least 10% of every lesson.  For most educators that’s about 5 minutes of their lesson.  To meet my goal, I threw away the pencil-and-paper assessment and moved to technology-based assessments.  It’s impossible to hand out and receive back paper assessments in 5 minutes.  Sharpening pencils alone takes 5 minutes.  Transitioning to technology cut down an IMMENSE amount of time in my lessons to assess my students. 

Motivating Assessment Strategies for Students 

Provide a rubric 

If students don’t know what they’re working towards, they’ll have no motivation to perform at their highest capability.  PROVIDE your students with rubrics for every assessment!

My experience: I post rubrics all over my classroom.  Basically, wherever my students are learning, a rubric will be within close proximity.  Prior to my post-assessment, I CONSTANTLY refer to rubrics to ensure students are prepared to demonstrate the learning content I am assessing.  It is amazing to see the increased levels of confidence in students once they know how their learning is being measured.

Share the results

Students ALWAYS want to know how they performed.  And they probably want to know sooner than later.  Don’t keep your students waiting in anticipation.  Try implementing assessments that can yield immediate results.

My experience: I enjoy using Plickers as an assessment tool in the classroom because I instantly know how my class performed.   Plickers is just one of many technology-integrated assessment tools a teacher can use to whip out assessment results quickly for your students. 

Provide options

Everyone loves options!  Students can and should be able to demonstrate their knowledge multiple ways.  The next time you assess your students, try providing 3 different choices for your students to demonstrate their learning.  I guarantee you will see a highly more motivated class.

My experience: When assessing manipulative skills in Physical Education, I give my students the choice of different equipment they can use during performance.  I have found giving students the choice to choose their own learning path allows them to foster their own motivation for learning.   

If I’ve learned anything about assessment, I know motivation is key to successful experiences.  My BIG ASK to you is to think about assessment in your classroom.  Do you have strategies in place that will motivate your students?  If not, I challenge you to explore the possibilities.  Talk to other teachers in your building.  Send your colleagues an email asking what they do to motivate their students.  Or, simply see if any of my recommendations can help. 

I am always looking for new ideas I can share with the Health and Physical Education teachers I support in my district. 

If you currently have motivational strategies around assessment, what ideas have led to your success in the classroom?  Don’t forget to share this success with your colleagues.

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