A new mantra: Assess what we value

Just this week I was part of a global meeting about assessing and reporting deep learning.

Eight educators and two consultants located in and across North America, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia zoomed in to share ideas, current work, and ask questions about how we might collect evidence of global competencies in assessments, share growth of these competencies on the report card, and maybe even showcase them on the transcript (above academic performance- would be my dream!).

Global Competencies: New Pedagogies from Deep Learning

A wise member of this group said something that I just can’t get off my mind…

How might we help teachers better understand how to assess what we value rather than value what we assess?

At that moment, it was like a flood of excitement and questions and ideas rushed through my mind and my heart.

How is this the first time I have heard this phrase?

I immediately looked at our school’s mission and vision. What DOES our school value? The school where I work values students as unique individuals, self-directed learners, risk-takers, empathy, compassion, human and environmental sustainability, solving complex problems, collaboration, inquiry, meaningful knowledge construction, reflection, taking action, and so much more.

Would students look at our assessments and know what we value as a school or do our assessments look like we value

  • the right answer,
  • low-level knowledge and understanding, and
  • maybe even secrets (as in- we were tested on something that we weren’t taught!)?

Do our assessments tell students what really matters?  

If we want self-directed learners, but only assess them through more traditional means, why should they believe what their school values? Students might be hearing one thing but seeing another. They will play the game of the holder of their grade, not the vision of the school.

Consider Student Voice and Choice

One example of how to show students that we value self-directed learning could be the opportunity for students to choose how they should be assessed on the targeted outcomes. Ask them for ideas. Some might choose a portfolio of various evidence and reflection, some might choose to create a gameshow, some might choose an infographic, or maybe a TedTalk. As long as they can show valid evidence of their proficiency toward the outcomes, doesn’t this show them that we value their ideas, their creativity, their voice, and the application of their learning?

The Real World

All we have to do is look at the real-world examples we view or read every day.

I can’t think of any multiple-choice/matching/fill-in-the-blank questions embedded in news articles or documentaries. I see lots of graphs, charts, infographics, rich text, and interviews.

How can we use newspapers, websites, newscasts, webinars, documentaries, and social media as models of authentic assessments?

But, But, But…

Shouldn’t we prepare students for the traditional assessments they might see later… like AP exams, SATs, university?

Sure, as formative assessments to inform what might need time for reteaching, individual differentiation, or going deeper based on interest. Keep these short, used at the beginning or end of class- depending on your needs, and definitely not high-stakes (no-stakes would be awesome!).


Fullan, M., Quinn, J. and McEachen, J., 2018. Deep learning. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Corwin.

Quinn, J., McEachen, J., Fullan, M., Gardner, M. and Drummy, M., 2020. Dive into deep learning: Tools for engagement. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.