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S1E4 - Rehumanize Assessment with Stories - Natalie Vardabasso

Laura Heyes
July 26, 2022

In this episode of Growth over Grades, educator, consultant, and author Natalie Vardabasso discusses the transformative power of using stories as an assessment tool, advocating for a shift to "rehumanize assessment”. She highlights how stories capture a learner's journey, providing valuable insights into their understanding, growth, and development over time. She explains that using stories for assessment allows educators to grasp a fuller picture of student progress, moving beyond traditional metrics and standardized evaluations. Natalie asserts that stories effectively align with the four fundamental principles of assessment, thereby warranting their rightful recognition as credible and dependable indicators of learning.

The Power of Stories in Assessment

Natalie illustrates how prioritizing stories as an assessment tool fosters equity and inclusion in the classroom by valuing the diverse backgrounds and experiences of every student. She offers an example of a "Portrait of a Graduate" as a story that showcases the individual journey of each student, organized around moments of reflection and significant milestones as they work toward proficiency in key 21st-century competencies throughout their academic career.

Listen, watch, or read the takeaways below.

Episode Highlights

  • 10:06 What does rehumanizing assessment mean?
  • 14:16 Why is assessment also focused only on the individual?
  • 16:31 Storytelling and the Principles of Sound Assessment Practice
  • 23:39 Stories are evidence of crucial competencies
  • 34:01 What is one piece of wisdom you’d like to share with other educators?

Key Takeaways

  • A story is a collection of evidence of the process of learning. It includes some subjectivity because it is personal to the learner. It may include observations or documents and, emphasizes reflection.
  • By accepting stories as valid and reliable pieces of evidence of learning, we are ‘rehumanizing assessment’.
  • Centering stories as an assessment practice disrupts oppressive structures associated with colonialism and the removal of the oral tradition that was based on storytelling and contributes to equity and inclusion in the classroom.
  • Storytelling adheres to the 4 principles of assessment:
    • Purpose - stories told through reflection can be used to drive further learning (Formative/Assessment as Learning) and stories told through project-based learning can be used to validate learning (Summative/Assessment of Learning).
    • Accuracy - stories allow for natural differentiation as their open-ended structure allows all students to tell a story unique to their skillset.
    • Agility - People naturally respond to a story with questions and the best feedback is in the form of questions.
    • Empowerment - the ability to share your story is very empowering and supports student agency making assessment a positive experience.
  • The Portrait of a Graduate is a student’s unique story of developing key competencies throughout their academic career.

Rehumanizing Assessment Resources

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