A Reflection on Differentiation in Assessment and Evaluation: Towards Personalization and Equity

Shantel Popp, Science Teacher and Department Head
During the week of March 27, faculty had the opportunity to take part in professional development led by Sandra Herbst. Sandra has become a familiar face in our school community, especially to the faculty that she works so closely with. She is a leader in systems education and engaged with us specifically around differentiation and triangulation in assessment and evaluation.

A critical piece of the work that Sandra facilitated alongside faculty was embedded in the importance of differentiation, specifically with regard to moving toward the model of personalization here at HTS. Since our vision is to create a world-class learning environment while offering a personalized student experience, her work with us was both timely and incredibly meaningful.

In Ontario, we have an outcomes-based curriculum. This means that at the end of a lesson, unit, or course a teacher determines the degree at which students in their class have achieved those outcomes. These outcomes specifically address the knowledge, skills, process and competencies that are documented in the curriculum. This is done by examining the products a student creates, the conversations students take part in, and observations that can be made of student process. Sandra spoke about the variety of different ways a students can show their learning. For example, in Grade 9, science students have a choice to create a portfolio of their learning from a unit, or they can take a test at the end of the unit. Each of these methods of assessment are targeting specific outcomes directly from the curriculum. The important part here is that a student gets to have a choice in how they can best show their understanding of the aforementioned outcomes.

Black and Wiliam (1998) write in their research Inside the Black Box, Raising Standards through Classroom Assessment that “quality classroom assessment has the largest positive impact on student learning and achievement ever documented.” The faculty here at HTS have worked with Sandra since 2014, and our learning has continued to develop and be challenged by best practices in education. HTS continues to be a leader in learning grounded in excellent research. By continuing to engage in conversations about our practice as professionals, we bring our students together to be a part of a community that supports their growth and success as lifelong learners.