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Want Teachers to Differentiate Everyday? Stop Using Assignments as Assessments

Updated: Feb 23

Philosophically, assessments and assignments represent distinct concepts.


Assessments are designed to gauge students' understanding of a specific topic, content, or skill. There are many different types of assessments of different lengths for different purposes. More on those varying assessments, here.


On the other hand, assignments, such as a task, exam, or response, typically serve as a tool to summarize a student's overall understanding of content, set of skills, standards, etc. A students' performance on these assignments may be graded, expressed through a numerical or letter-based score.


Assignments can be used as assessment tools, offering a representation of a student's comprehension and performance. Graded assignments can offer an average class score,

allowing teachers to revisit standards and objectives to close the gaps in learning.



However, using assignments as assessments is part of why data-driven instruction within the classroom is so difficult for teachers to grasp. Expecting educators to regularly administer, collect, analyze, use, input, and promptly adjust their teaching based on an assignment, is impractical. Not to mention, an assignment should only be administered after the teacher as provided individualized interventions that address the misunderstandings that specific students may have.


Instead, educational leaders should prioritize the Check for Understanding (CFU) as the primary and daily assessment tool, enabling educators to measure students' progress toward ultimate mastery. The CFU's specificity allows educators to 1. immediately tailor instruction in the classroom, and 2. differentiate based on concrete evidence of student understanding. Teachers can also quickly track when they have a low-prep system in place.


Subsequently, educators can focus on grading and recording assignments, responses, and tests that provide an overall view of mastery levels, without the added obligation of integrating it into the same day, or next day's instruction. The CFU removes the pressure of analyzing an entire task within a lesson to decide what happens next.


Although assignments can function as assessments, it is crucial to distinguish that assessments drive the differentiation for assignments. As a result, average assignment levels increase and teachers and students thrive.


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