Cooperative learning, as talked about in Chapter 3, is a means of maintaining a flexible classroom, which is necessary for student success. Cooperative learning forces students to work on their group skills and social skills in order to be able to learn together. It also encourages a ‘sink or swim’ mentality through positive interdependence and individual accountability, in which if one student doesn’t embrace their role in a group or has failed to make meaning of the acquired material then it can bring down the rest of the group. Keeping to small groups forces each student to play a role and continuously interact with one another. It also helps students to keep one another motivated and compel one another to continue learning the material and bringing “something to the table” each and every class. Keeping an open classroom that challenges their students not only keeps students more engaged but it keeps the students together and allows them to contribute to each other’s success.
In her article titled, “To Improve Assessment, Invest in the Classroom,” Heidi Andrade believes that better assessment will come from classroom assessment and a shift away from standardized testing. Day-to-day assessment in the classroom yields positive results that not only give direction to the students’ and teachers’ learning experience but it allows for more “A-ha moments” — Andrade says that is when the ‘true learning’ happens. This relates nicely to our assigned readings and helps to give meaning to the relationship between instruction and assessment. Ultimately, Tomlinson’s article illuminates assessment as an explicitly positive tool that can be used to not only determine the comprehension of our students and give feedback to the progress in their learning but also is a tool that can be used to give meaning to a teacher’s instruction. The point of assessment is not to rank a student and just assign them grades through meaningless tests that simply induce anxiety and force students into feeling they need to achieve some expectation of curricular cognizance. Assessment should be used as a means to learn about your student: “Who are they as learners? What are their strengths and weaknesses in learning? What is their learning style? How can they best communicate to me their understanding of the content or what assessment works best for a particular student?” Assessments can be used as an instrument to help your students further learn during a unit, instead of waiting to assess them at the end of a unit. By providing students a mean to excel and communicate their understanding (as opposed to waiting to the end and making them just ‘earn a grade’ through a large test) it can keep them motivated and show more of an enthusiasm for the content, as well as helping them to become better learners as they are retaining the content throughout a unit and repeatedly recalling the information. Also, allowing students to be active in the feedback process and giving them opportunity to review each others’ work, without letting them grade it, will help them to become better learners as well as they are able to recognize strengths and weaknesses in other students’ assessments and then be able to improve upon their own work.