Assessing Higher Order Thinking by Brookhart

Before this year began I was out shopping at a used book store and came across “How to Assess Higher Order Thinking in Your Classroom” by Susan Brookhart. My assessments always haven’t been strong and was one of my priority areas for this year so I picked it up.

Brookhart's Text

This week on fall break, I procrastinated from planning and sat down and read the book cover to cover.  It was definitely worth my time because I think I’ll be able to make better assessments the rest of the quarter with her work in mind. I’ve never had formal training on creating or using assessments so Brookhart’s work was more helpful to me than it might be to others.

Assessment should be based on three principals. 1) specify clearly what you are assessing 2) Design items that require students to show this knowledge or skill 3) decide what you will accept as evidence [aka rubrics] (pg 17). I’ve never sat down and made a list of what I was specifically assessing by Bloom’s or DOK – its always been by standard and never intentional. My last assessment made this clear as students were assessed on the same skill way too many times so the test became too long and students gave up. Using Brookhart’s blueprints (like the one pictured below) will give me a better outline of what I want students to do and then I can backwards plan from there.

Brookhart Pg 21

Brookhart also suggests assessing with “novel” situations to assess transfer of learning. While I agree that is the best way to assess for transfer I have yet to create or find a complete enough assessment bank to make that a realistic and consistent goal. Looking forward however I can plan with the idea of novelty in mind to ensure an accurate assessment of learning.

She also focuses on feedback and saying that we need to make explicit when we are commenting on thinking versus format to ensure that students have a better way to move forward (pg 52). This year I’ve been working to improve my feedback focusing on giving students questions, but I can also improve by making sure I’m giving feedback on thinking and/or format.

The rest of the text breaks down different kinds of thinking to assess (logic, creativity, problem solving etc.) and provides a few worked examples of each type. Most of these were really helpful and I’ll go back to as I create assessments. Looking at her work on logic was the one area that stood out most. When I reflected upon my work with Construction Castles, I noted how students struggled and weren’t given enough feedback. Lo and behold – Brookhart knew that was coming and says we must build in formative assessment into long term projects so students can ensure they are on the right track with their thinking and working.

It all isn’t perfect though – Brookhart’s section on assessing judgement lacked any math examples. I need an example or two of how that would look and hoped I would see it to make the implementation faster but I’ll have to build specific items and compare to what she says is best practice to assess judgement.

All in all – Brookhart’s text will definitely be helpful provide insight into how I assess what my students are learning and how they are thinking but seemed at times a little incomplete at times from a math teacher’s perspective. I’ll be coming back to this once I craft a few blueprints and incorporate that work into my unit plans.

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