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The Role of Assessment in Creating Tiered Assignments

The Role of Assessment in Creating Tiered Assignments

Author: Kathleen Johnson

In this lesson, you will learn about the role of assessment in creating tiered assignments, one way of differentiating instruction for your students.

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Source: Digital Access Key Image; Morgue File;

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Hello, ladies and gentlemen, I hope you're having a wonderful day today. Today we're going to look at the role of assessments when creating tiered assignments. And for today's lesson, I've chosen a quote by Ted Koppel on assessment, which states, "And if periodically, you fail as you surely will adjust your lives, not the standards."

Now, by the end of this lesson today, you are going to be able to really understand the definition of a tiered assignment, as well as identify the role of assessments in creating those tiered assignments. Finally, you're going to be able to identify the features of pre-assessments, which all tie into the creation and the use of these tiered assignments.

So first, let's go ahead and sort of understand a basic overview of what a tiered assignment is. So tiered assignments are really those differentiated learning tasks that are based on each individual student's different level of learning, as well as their learning needs. So when we look at tiered assignments, really we're looking at these assignments that are designed to address to those different levels in students; different levels of readiness, different interests, and different learning needs for each and every one of those students.

According to Carol Ann Tomlinson in 2005, as she's discussing these idea of tiered assignments, she states that a teacher uses these varied levels of activities to help ensure that students explore ideas at a level that builds prior knowledge and prompts that continued growth. So Carol Ann Tomlinson is a huge proponent and a developer of that idea of differentiated instructions. And when talking about tearing those assignments, this is another kind of really good reason why.

Another major focus of tiered assignments is the benefit that students are able to really focus in on the competencies. So when using tiered assignments, students really have the opportunity to master at a level that is determined based on their skill level. So you have the added benefit that, if we're in a traditional classroom and playing to the middle of the road, as opposed to using these tiered assignments, you're really losing the kids on the lower end and the kids on the higher end. Whereas when using tiered assignments, this helps to engage everyone in that classroom. Also, tiered assignments allow within that group of students in your classroom the opportunity to really reach a lot of different levels and abilities because students are given different assignments based on their ability within a certain area.

Finally, what I would like to do is I want to just go ahead and provide an example of a tiered assignment. So when I use To Kill a Mockingbird in my ninth grade English class, we end up doing what's called a mock trial right at the end of the unit. And within that overarching project, there are many different tiered elements of it based on student's, not only ability, but also on their area of interest.

So some students will be the lawyers in our mock trial. Those are the students that are highly interested in talking in front of the classroom; have some of the more advanced research abilities. Whereas, perhaps a juror is someone who is maybe not as comfortable speaking up in front of the class, but can focus a lot of their learning through their written work. And so you can see that there is an opportunity to provide for both of them, as well as students who are able then to play what we call the characters within, so the witnesses that will come up.

And those are students who kind of get to do a combination of both. So they both get to embody that character and speak in front of the class, as well as turn in some written journals. So you're reaching kind of those three different levels of students based on their skill level within that communication and that research.

Now what I'd like to do is go ahead and take a look at the role of assessments when we're creating those tiered assignments. So when you construct a tiered assignment, assessment can play a couple of different roles. First and foremost, the assessment really helps to provide information for you as a teacher on a lot of different aspects of that student learning. So the teacher is able to really change up the instruction that you're giving that child based on what you are seeing to really help benefit, that student's learning style or their need or really help to tailor it to their own individual learning ability.

Assessments can also be diagnostic. So what this means is that it helps to show the teachers where the students are within relation to that mastery that you've set out-- how well are they working toward that competency based on what they're doing within that tiered assignment. Assessment also really helps to identify those major gaps within student learning. So if there are any gaps within the student's knowledge, we want to make sure that you are addressing those before you get to the summative assessment.

So tiering assignments are really helping it to close those gaps. And then finally, as a result of all of this, assessment really helps allow the teacher the ability to then create that tiered assignment. So once we know where all of that is, we can incorporate either of the tiered assignment or other forms of differentiated instruction based on all of that pre-assessment data, so that pre-summative assessment data.

Now let's go ahead and talk just a little bit more about those pre-assessments. What does that look like? Well, in order to help really determine a student's kind of prior knowledge, what they're coming into the classroom with, it's really helpful for teachers to conduct a pre-assessment.

So before you can even implement a tiered assignment, a teacher needs to know the different levels of the students that are in the classroom. Otherwise, you don't know what tiers to create. And then again you're kind of flying blind as opposed to basing it on the individual students.

So that there are a lot of ways to do pre-assessments. It doesn't necessarily just have to be a pre-test with pencil and paper and questions and problems that students have to answer. Sometimes it could be a journal entry or a letter written to you. Perhaps it could be a graphic organizer that students need to fill in or open-ended questions that students can answer to really help you assess where they are.

It doesn't just need to be they got 50 out of 60 on a test. And this is something that can be done in many different subject areas because students bring different amounts of knowledge and a different interest in different subjects. So it should be a pre-assessment that is focused in on your area of teaching.

Now, pre-assessments should have the following features. First and foremost, they need to be written so that you can help document that understanding. So it shouldn't be a verbal conversation. There needs to be some way to record that so that you're able to see it as the teacher and reflect upon it. The student is able to see where they are. That's really important.

Also, they need to be individual. There's no point in having students collaborate with others if what we're looking at here is reaching each student as an individual. And these pre-assessments should really focus in on those key knowledge and skills that we want students to know within a particular unit of instruction.

So what are we identifying from the competencies and standards that students need to know and infusing that? Pre-assessments should be pretty short. You only want to include in that pre-assessment the amount of information that you need to determine what that student knows coming into this unit.

And they should not be graded. Students shouldn't be tested on their ability to be correct on something that they haven't learned yet. That doesn't make a whole lot of sense. So they're really only intended for planning, instructional use, and used to grouping students.

And finally, the most important part of a pre-assessment, it needs to be given back to the student at the end of the unit. After all of that instruction has taken place, you want to give students the opportunity to see how much they've learned. Again, put them in the driver's seat so that they're seeing and taking charge of their own learning.

Now that we've reached the end of this lesson, you have been able to understand the definition of a tiered assignment. You've been able to identify the role of assessments in creating those tiered assignments. And you've been able to really identify the features of pre-assessments and how all of that plays into the differentiation in your classroom.

Now that we've reached the end, I want you to take just a moment for reflection. I want you to think about the way in which we've talked about these tiered assignments and your own classroom. What do you think would be the first step you would take to incorporate tiered assignments within a lesson that you teach?

Now it's your turn to apply what you've learned in the video. The additional resources section is going to be super helpful. This section is designed to help you really discover some of those useful ways to apply what you've learned here. And each link is going to include a brief description so that you can easily target those resources that you want.

Notes on "The Role of Assessment in Creating Tiered Assignments"

(00:00-00:19) Intro

(00:20-00:44) Objectives

(00:45-04:09) Tiered Assignments

(04:10-08:29) Role of Assessments & Pre-Assessments

(08:30-09:24) Review & Reflection

Additional Resources

Classroom Strategies and Tools for Differentiating Instruction in the ESL Classroom

This article is a comprehensive look at differentiating instruction in the classroom.

Planning a Tiered Activity

This is a helpful organizer with detailed instruction from ASCD on creating a tiered lesson. It is simple to use when developing lesson plans.