Our goals as educators is to help each child master the content they are learning. The assessment methods used at MIR support this goal.
In a conventional environment, children are given a set amount of time to master predetermined content. Assessment is focused on their progress within the given timeframe. Methods used include tests, homework assignments, and written reports.
Grades are the rubric to communicate children’s mastery within timeframe. Reporting is done for the purpose of informing the adults in children’s lives where they stand. This type of assessment is called academic achievement assessment.
In this model, time is the most important factor in the assessment, and students are compared with each other to develop a norm-referenced scale (often a “bell curve”). Mastery is sacrificed in this model - children who do not master content must still move onto new content in time with their peers. Conversely, students who master concepts too quickly may be under-challenged.
Montessori flips the model, allowing each child the time he or she needs to ensure mastery. Because each student moves at their own pace, assessment must be continuous and individual. Students cannot be compared with each other to develop a bell curve.
Assessment is used to support the learning process. Factors beyond academic learning are reported, including the social and emotional growth of the child. This is known as formative assessment.
Montessori teachers perform formative assessment through observation, by challenging students to solve specific problems, by asking them to teach younger students, or by holding an intellectual conversation with them. Students write essays, work on projects, and explain how they solved a particular problem.
It is the daily, constant interaction between teacher and child that tells us how a student is progressing, and whether they need extra help.