Not exactly a quote from my latest read, Embedded Formative Assessment (Wiliam, 2011), but definitely my favorite take-away so far. "What did you learn today?" is often something we ask our children when they arrive home from school. It's also something we (hopefully) close our day with in our classrooms before students walk out the door. But most importantly, it should be something we are asking ourselves each and every day.
You see, (one of) the most important piece(s) to formative assessment is not necessarily the questions you ask, the activities you've set up, or how you are collecting evidence of learning. It's the LISTENING that is happening as you are trying to understand what students really know, and what they are missing. You can make assumptions about a piece of paper with a written answer to a question on it. You can also make assumptions about a written prompt that a student turns in. But only through actually listening, digging deeper, and seeking understanding do we truly get to the heart of what a student is understanding.
Interestingly, one needn't apply the principle of listening to just our conversations with our students. You could easily learn today from a colleague, a boss, a parent. Truly listening means seeking understanding, without presuppositions or bias.
So...what did you learn today?