Vanessa Bianchi
Educator and learner. The opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the York Region District School Board.

Assessment Vs. Evaluation

No piece on assessment would be complete without looking at assessment in settings that require looking at student-work through a unique lens. With that in mind, I called on the work of a Full-Day Kindergarten and a Special Education Educator. What both these teachers offer clearly demonstrates assessment from a different vantage point and really highlight the difference between assessment and evaluation.

“Assessment fills us in on what our kids are doing. However, it also tells is how effective our instruction has been. When we reflect on evidence of their learning and understanding, we revise and reshape our subsequent instruction. Authentic assessment provides us with three very important pieces of information: our students’ learning and progress, past instruction and future instruction…Evaluation, on the other hand, is about putting a value–a grade–on the work” (Inquiry Circles in Action, pg. 271)

Transformational assessment measures in classrooms that necessitate a unique lens, much like assessment measure in mainstream classrooms, must reflect the students within the space. In Special Education Classrooms and in Play-Based Learning, Full-Day Kindergarten, this is very much the case.

I was introduced to Trista Dutt through social media, Instagram to be precise. I was quickly drawn into Kindie Korner, to the carefully thought-out provocation and the amount of detail her students demonstrated in their work. What came through on Kindie Korner was Trista’s dedication to showcasing the work her students were producing and in putting out exploratory materials that honoured who they were as learners. Trista has since become a friend, mentor and inspiration, so it was a given that I would call on her expertise in this piece.

I have been following the remarkable work of Laura Merkle for some time however, only had the opportunity to meet her a short while back. Laura is currently working as a Special Education Consultant with the YRDSB, prior to that she was working in an exemplary Autism Spectrum Disorder Classroom and believed that “every space in the ASD classroom has a meaning, purpose and function to the students who use it. It must reflect the strengths and personalities of its students and accommodate their needs.” As an educator who has a special passion for students with exceptional rights, I have marvelled at Laura’s work, her passion and her willingness to go the extra mile. When considering educators who could speak on assessments that fall outside the box, Laura was the natural choice. She explores the fine balance between assessment of concrete, observable behaviours/skills and what those behaviours/skills could mean and become.

Trista Dutt


Trista Dutt has a degree in Early Childhood Education, as well as her Bachelor of Education    in Primary/Junior divisions, Intermediate Qualification and Kindergarten Specialist. She is        currently in her fifth year of FDK at Moraine Hills Public School, where she is a K-2 Lead          Teacher and Learning@Schools Classroom. She is passionate about the early years and        enjoys exploring the world of play- and inquiry-based learning.


Our student portfolios are a collection of individual work samples, photographs, interviews, inquiry documentation, and student and educator reflections, which are compiled over the two year Full-Day Kindergarten program (have a look at how Fourever Inspired’s, Joanne Babalis uses Portfolios here). Having a program that is heavily based on learning through play, it is important to make the students learning visible in a multitude of ways. Portfolios make visible the progression of growth in the student’s development and allow educators to focus on what the child can do rather than what they cannot do. In addition, students are able to engage in the process by selecting work samples for their portfolio on a regular basis (i.e., choosing a piece of writing each month and using the “two stars and a wish” model to self-assess their learning) and they often revisit and reflect on their portfolios over the school year and recognize their own growth through the visual representations of their work.


Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 11.49.22 PM


Documentation Board

Inquiry-based learning is large component of the Full-Day Kindergarten program. In order to make visible the learning that happens during an inquiry, documentation of the process over the product is critical and should occur while the learning is happening. Using a board to display the process, allows students, educators, and parents alike to reflect on the learning and consider next steps. A documentation board could include, but is not limited to, the driving question(s) of an inquiry, the initial spark (how the inquiry was born), invitations that were offered to students to explore, conversations that were had during knowledge building circles to push thinking, student work samples and photographs, students theories and ideas, and educator reflections and questions.


Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 11.49.37 PM


Learning Collages

With the increased use of technology in the classroom and a push towards online documentation, learning collages have become an effective way to document, assess, and reflect on students daily learning. (Have a look at how Jocelyn Schmidt of Fourever Inspired, and her former teaching partner Heidi Theis, sparked this documentation strategy). Creating learning collages using the PicCollage App and uploading it directly to a folder in Google Drive is not only a great way to protect students privacy, but it is also accessible from any device, and can be shared with students and parents alike, as a reflective tool for learning. In our classroom, we also print copies of our learning collages and have them available to our students in a binder. The students are provided with opportunities to revisit their daily learning, which in turn provides educators the opportunity to discuss with them their interests, ideas, and plans to inform next steps.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 11.49.50 PM


Laura Merkle



My teaching experience includes non-traditional ABA and treatment classrooms where I developed a passion for teaching students with ASD. I am currently a resource teacher member of an Interdisciplinary Team with a focus on student behaviour in mainstream and Special Education classrooms in the YRDSB.

Data Tracking

Data tracking is great when:

a) You have SPECIFIC and clearly MEASURABLE goals to track (i.e. there needs to be a correct or incorrect answer for best use)

b) Your students might be inconsistent (i.e. successful one day and maybe not the next)

c) Your student is working on similar goals over time.

Below is a sample of a data tracking sheet for a student who is identifying the numbers 1-5 for Math. Every day I would show the student numbers and he/she would have to say the number out loud (By the way, a non-verbal student could present their knowledge here by pointing to the correct number when read out loud). Her goal at first would be to identify the numbers with 60% accuracy (i.e. 3/5 numbers), and the expectation would increase with her success over a 5 trial period.

data tracking

Task Analysis

Task analysis is the breaking down of one task into small, manageable steps. The teaching of the steps individually is called “chaining.” The assessment of these steps can be done in a checklist format, where similar to data tracking, expectations could be increased as the student learns new steps towards completing the task.

handwashing handwashing2


washing hands



The Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills – Revised system is a formal assessment tool that is used to identify skills from 25 skill areas, including language, social interaction, self-help, academic and motor skills. It is not a diagnostic device, but rather will help pinpoint where a child is at with their learning milestones, and what barriers might be restricting them from continuing.



“We are like archaeologists who come home in the evening with their finds, and re-reading their sketches, notes and writings, not only seek to place a subject or object in time, in a space, in a culture, but to place their own relation with that subject or object” ~Loris Malaguzzi, 1993

Educators and assessment to me read very much like that. We gather facts, put together information and ultimately create a culture within the classroom that is reflective of the students within the space. Together, with our students and our documentation of their world, we create and cultivate our own landscapes for learning.

Thank you to Trista Dutt and Laura Merkle for sharing some insight into your unique perspectives and assessment practices. It was truly an honour.

The Evolving Educator,

Vanessa Bianchi

Filed under: assessment, documentation, equity, Essential Questions, grading, inclusivity, Inquiry, literacy, Mathematics, modern assessment, partnership


  1. Google Just beneath, are a lot of absolutely not connected web sites to ours, nonetheless, they're surely really worth going over.
The Evolving Educator