Pre-Assessment: Letting Go of Assumptions

Pre-assessments are critical to learning, and today that point was driven home to me with my grade 5 students.

We come to our students, really everyone, with assumptions. One advantage of a pre-assessment, I’ve realized, is that it sheds our own assumptions, allowing us to knock down our own judgments so we can really listen to our students’ understanding.

Here’s an example: Today, we began a unit into government systems and how they influence the lives of citizens. I’ve done a similar unit before with grade 5 and found the unit to be a bit stale. The first time I taught the unit was earlier on in my PYP journey, and I think we just lived by the planner and taught different government systems. I was in Japan at the time. Most students, from what I recalled, didn’t know much about government at the beginning, and only knew a few terms they could throw around by the end.

So, I went into today’s pre-assessment a little closed-minded. I know, I should be open-minded as an inquiry, passionate educator, but I was hesitant. Government, really? Grade 5? These kids are into Youtube, video games and soccer. However, through a visible thinking routine: Think, Puzzle, Explore I found out that these kids have a really interesting perspective on government.

You see, I live now in Bangladesh, an independent country formed in 1971. It’s a young, turbulent country with some very in-your-face politics. Last year, students went through months of “hartals” or country-wide strikes where most businesses shut down in civil disobedience. Throughout their lives, these students have heard the news and their parents talk about the government and its heated politics. They’ve seen it on the streets and in the disruption to their schooling.

They had a lot to say about what they “think” about governments’ influence on citizens. They also had a lot of “puzzles” about why the government acts the way they do.

And, then, as if on cue, the loudspeaker came on during our visible thinking “pre-assess” and announced that the government had blocked Internet in the country for a period of time. The students, all in a frenzy, quickly made connections to how government was affecting them. More puzzles came up. More wonderings.

After some engaging conversations with students and almost all of them finding something really important and interesting to “explore,” we ended the class with another announcement that we would have another country-wide “hartal” tomorrow.

Wow. I am so glad for the pre-assessment and the timing of everything. This unit is going to be a fascinating study.


2 thoughts on “Pre-Assessment: Letting Go of Assumptions

  1. I think this is a really good point for why educator’s should use pre-assessment. I just gave my students a lesson on sequencing, and I expected a lot of them to struggle because of it being a brand new topic.

  2. Thank you for this post.
    I appreciated how your thoughts highlighted the importance of context (both local and global); and the extent to which this define the action we can take.
    I am experiencing the opposite: I am in China now. When I was in India, PYPers were thirsty for exploration and discovery, for unstructured learning that allowed us to wander in our thoughts. Working on breaking down the walls of structures at present, for living the world outside the classroom is an essential component of inquiry.

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