Authentic Assessment

This semester in READ 6329.10, students were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By V. Saladini

Authentic assessment may seem to a lot of teachers as something that was done once upon a time in a far, far away land.  Administrators and teachers are so often preoccupied with standardized high stake testing and its repercussion for the school, the students, and their jobs that many have given into the drill-and-skill methods of teaching in hopes that this will ensure satisfactory test scores.

Nonetheless, I remain optimistic that authentic assessment can be utilized in our classrooms alongside more traditional evaluative methods.  This will take extra effort, time, and resources from both teachers and students; however, once a system is in place students may find themselves empowered by the different ways in which they can demonstrate what they really know and can do.

Over the Shoulder (OTS) Miscue Analysis is just one of the many authentic assessments available to teachers and reading specialists.  During the OTS the teacher analyzes the word omissions, insertions, and substitutions made by the reader.  The teacher doesn’t aid the reader when he/she comes to an unknown word, instead documents the strategies the student uses to tackle the word.

All of these “changes” are not considered mistakes, but miscues.  Since reading is first and for most making meaning of text, and not necessarily decoding or even saying every single word, the teacher can look back at the student’s miscues and objectively assess if they were high or low quality miscues.  Did the miscues affect the syntactic or the semantic structure of the text, or did they keep the meaning of the story and the student was able to retell it without difficulty.  Areas of need can also be identified so the teacher can work with the student in targeted skills or strategies.

OTS miscue analysis is practical enough that most teachers may find themselves using it with at least some of their students in their classroom.  Yet, in order to become familiar as well as an efficient and effective user of OTS miscue analysis, teachers need to become familiar with more in depth and elaborate types of miscue analysis.  I suggest reading “Miscue Analysis Made Easy” by Sandra Wilde as a starting point.

Before learning about miscue analysis I would consider children who read at a slow pace, omitted, substituted, or inserted words as struggling readers.  I didn’t stop to consider how well (or not) they made sense of what they read.  It is true that efficiency, while reading, aids effectiveness; nonetheless, I have come across students who are excellent decoders of every word but did not understand what they read.  In such case, decoding words without being able to make meaning of the text would not be considered reading.

Changing the way we perceive our students as readers will allow us to focus on what matters about reading and to help our students become confident lifelong readers.


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