If this was the title of a Jeopardy slide, the answers could be numerous. General Motors, Ford, & Chrysler might have been your answer if you are into the world of automobiles. Or maybe Yale, Princeton, and Harvard would have been your response if you followed college football in the 1880s. If you grew up with myself and the rest of the Gen Xers, a plausible reply would be the TV networks – ABC, CBS, and NBC. Most recently, the answer was likely to be Miami Heat’s power lineup of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh (although LeBron decided to take his talents back home). And, if you were in Bible class or Sunday school, Father-Son-Holy Spirit would bring a smile to your teacher’s face.
The answer behind this slide, however, is planning, instruction, and assessment. The Big Three of teaching. Every teacher around the world would agree, to a certain extent, that these three words describe their life from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. for 5 days a week and at least 180 days a year. While it is too simplistic to state that this is all that teachers do, it really is all that teachers do. Modeling, discipleship, mentoring, and all of the other daily tasks that teachers embrace can fall into these three categories in some form or fashion.
Previously the order used to be planning, instruction, and assessment. Teachers would plan a lesson or unit, provide instruction, and assess students to see how much of what was taught was caught. I am very excited to share with you that, in the best classrooms I get to observe, the order has changed. Assessment happens first. Teachers discover what students know and are able to do before they plan their lessons and choose teaching/learning strategies. Prior knowledge and experience are learned before the lesson plan is created or the first learning activity begins. Assessment is the key to meeting students where they are at, engaging them in developmentally appropriate learning, and understanding whether a classroom is fulfilling the mission and vision that it has been called to.
Intermountain Christian is in the process of choosing some new assessments, ways to measure their effectiveness as a learning institution. They are looking at academic measurement tools like MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) and Aspire. Valid and reliable assessment tools such as these are needed to provide good data for teachers to use as they answer big questions like “What should be taught” and “How should it be taught?”
Assessment data is also needed to answer the question “Do we matter?” If our local Christian school failed to exist, would it matter? How would we know? Do we have the data on our graduates that tell the story of XYZ Christian School? I think it is time to follow the classroom shift of thinking about assessment first. Let’s get some answers to the question of why do we matter. Then we can strategically plan and instruct our students and constituency on why we matter and why we are critically needed in God’s Kingdom.
Dr. Tim Van Soelen serves as the Director of CACE. Tim is also a professor of education at Dordt University. He has served as a principal, assistant principal, and middle school math and computer teacher at schools in South Dakota and California. Tim has his undergraduate degree from Dordt and advanced degrees from Azusa Pacific University and the University of South Dakota.