Another interesting moment at the weekend’s workshop: I learned that the word “assessment” has its roots in Latin. That’s no surprise, given that a huge chunk of English words have their roots in Latin. What is a surprise is that it likely comes from the Latin assedēre, which means “to sit beside”. (Just take a moment to let that sink in.)
Conceptually, this is a natural part of daily practice for teachers, but it is hardly what comes to mind when we think about assessment. In a perfect world, with smaller class sizes, more resources, and a “pause” button on time, perhaps this is what assessment would look like. Unfortunately, our realities are often less than ideal. In addition, someone is often requiring an assessment from us that serves a parent or administrator, rather than teacher and student.
When we sit beside a student, both physically and metaphorically, we engage in interactions that inform how effective our teaching is, reveal where each student’s understandings and misconceptions are, and give insight into our students as learners. It also supports and encourages students as we connect, give constructive feedback, and guide them to their next steps. Approaching assessment like this, even in the smallest doses, can transform the culture of our classrooms. I can’t do this every day with every student, but tomorrow morning, I’ll enter my room with this mindset, and that will be the first step in the transformation.