Knowre Blog

Can Assessments be Celebrations? Reframing to Create Lifelong Learners

Posted by Reba Nelson on 11/27/19 12:24 PM
Reba Nelson

My instructional decisions as an educator are driven by my goal of helping students grow into lifelong learners.  

I grew up on a farm of over 1,000 cows in central Minnesota with six siblings and two loving parents. My dad and mom encouraged us to try new things, to fail, and to learn from our mistakes. The concept of having a growth mindset has always been their philosophy. I am thankful my parents raised me in a home where trying, failing, learning, and trying again was the norm. 

My dad was instrumental in my decision to study mathematics. While growing up, he would correct my mathematics homework every night and work with me to fix my errors. My parents have always supported me, and thanks to them as well as many other excellent educators, I am glad to be where I am today - teaching mathematics at an international school in Seoul, South Korea. 

In addition to mathematics, I love languages! This love is precisely why I focused on Spanish and mathematics during my undergraduate studies. My Spanish professor in college would always call any assessment we took “una celebración” or, in English, “a celebration.” 

Initially, my classmates and laughed at the idea that a quiz or test could be enjoyable, engaging, or desirable. Regardless of our opinions, she would always call them una celebración with a big smile on her face. Slowly but surely her reframing permanently changed the way I view assessments. As I currently work to complete my Master of Arts in Education, this idea of reframing is prominent in my mind. The power of assessment can be incredible. All assessments should be an experience of and for learning, and any and all progress made by a student should be celebrated!

I translate this concept into my classroom in a number of intentional and simple ways. The first way is through classroom discussion. We begin the year by discussing how learning is something to be celebrated. We then discuss how assessment is a way to show the progress someone has made in mastering a skill, and how assessment can inform us of where we can each grow. 

Second, from the start of the year, I call any assessment a celebration of learning. The goal of my use of this term is that students view their assessments as a way to celebrate the progress they have made over their course of study. 

The initial response from my students is always quite similar to my own initial response - they laugh at the idea of a test or quiz being something to celebrate. While assessments are not always celebrated like puppies and flowers are, my desire is for students to find joy in the work they have put into understanding the world through mathematics. 

It is funny to see the students shift their vocabulary use during the year. Eventually, they too start calling our assessments celebrations and correcting other students when they “misspeak” about an upcoming “celebration”. 

Student 1. - “Mrs. Nelson, when is the test?”

Student 2. - “You mean the CELEBRATION!”

Student 1 (laughing) - “Haha! Yes, when is the celebration?”

Though shifts in mindset and terminology take time, it has already become clear that our intentional reframing of assessments has greatly helped to further my goal of helping all of my students grow into lifelong learners.

Learn more about Reba's journey here:

Topics: Classroom, Formative Assessment, Teachers