Land Program from The Greensboro Montessori School on Vimeo.The GMS Land Laboratory program was devised by a team of Montessori teachers in 2004 and is now in it’s 8th year. Based on Maria Montessori’s vision of the Erdkinder, early adolescent students travel to a wooded retreat in Oak Ridge, NC every six week to eight weeks for 3 nights and 4 days, camping with no electricity and transporting their water in jugs and bins on student-made “chariots” constructed from old bicycles and baby carriages.
Dear GMS Community,
I recently read an article that gave me the idea to write a piece on assessment. In the form of standardized tests, it has divided the educational community in ways not seen before. I suppose a reading of this very brief essay will make some folks think that I am not a fan of standardized instruments, and they will be correct, but I do recognize that in some settings they may actually work. What follows are some thoughts or musings that I hope will pique someone’s interest in taking a closer look at testing.
When parents think about assessing their children, do they give their children a test wherein they fill in bubbles or answer true or false questions? Somehow, I do not think that is the case, at least with most of us. I think most folks look at how their children carry out a task given to them, you know, something mundane like taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn, or preparing a meal. Do parents simply say to a child the first time they are to perform a task, “Carry out the garbage”? No, there is a period of demonstration and then a careful re-teaching, if it is necessary, and finally there is the assessment; did the garbage make it to the curb or the trash can or did any of it spill due to carelessness in tying up the bag? No one takes a written test to determine such an outcome’s success. There are no multiple choices or true/false responses. Oh, I suppose T/F could be used, but to what end?
I think the same concept holds water for schools. I mean, how we assess children depends upon the outcomes we predict or that we believe are necessary for their future success, not only in school but in life outside of school. I would ask a parent if there were choices of how one wanted their child to be assessed on a daily basis, what would they select?
In Montessori schools, especially in the younger years, assessment is on-going and is focused upon what a child is doing at one moment in time and is she or he able to apply what is learned to another situation. For example, after experimenting with the forms of letters and discovering that each one has specific sounds associated with them, and finding that words begin and end with such sounds, a child then makes the association between those two specific tasks and the building of words based upon the beginning, middle, and ending sounds. The ultimate assessment is when a child goes through all the steps above (and more) to discover that three letter sounds can make a whole word and that word can be matched with a picture, and that a string of words can make a sentence. That’s authentic assessment!