Wisconsin Learning and Thinking Assessment
Most educators agree that current forms of assessing students’ acquired knowledge do not accurately reflect how students perform on everyday school related learning tasks. I would like to introduce you to a new assessment device designed for authentic learning tasks. The Wisconsin Learning and Thinking Assessment (WILATA) provides educators a practical tool for both creating and assessing higher order thinking within classroom activities.
WILATA was designed and implemented over a three year period as part of a U.S. Department of Education grant assessing the impact of technology on students’ learning in the State of Wisconsin. Initially the instrument was used by the grant’s staff to assess students’ classroom work products. Subsequently, the U.S> Department of Education funded a follow-up study to determine the validity and reliability of the instrument when used by teachers as a means to assess student learning. WILATA was designed with flexibility and generalizability in mind. This rubric allows for the assessment of Thinking Levels and Thinking About Thinking Skills found in any type of assignment, project, or activity.. Abstract reasoning and Thinking About Thinking awareness is an important and necessary component for WILATA to be used successfully. WILATA’s recommended use is with middle grade, high school, and college levels. Ultimately, it is a tool to assist educators in better understanding the learning expectations they place on students, as well as students’ understanding of those expectations, and how these develop during their academic career.
- It raises teachers’ awareness of the need to engage students in higher levels of thinking. Once the need isrealized, a teacher can make a conscious decision to incorporate higher order thinking skills into his or her lessons.
- It informs teachers of the kinds of assignments and activities that open opportunities for students to engage in higher order thinking. By making some simple, easy adjustments in planning lessons and assignments, teachers will be able to help students improve their thinking skills.
- It gives teachers the vocabulary necessary to direct students to use higher order thinking. Higher order thinking skills can be explicitly taught and modeled.
- It motivates teachers to model higher order thinking skills.
- It rewards teachers for teaching higher order thinking skills by providing evidence in better standardized test scores and in students improving their use and understanding of higher Thinking Levelsand Thinking About Thinking skills on a daily basis.
WILATA is an innovative and more practical way to consider how and what students think and learn, as well as the quality and type of activities teachers expect their students to engage. By using a two-dimensional system – one that represents a range, type, and quality of cognitive strategies – educators can assess the processes students utilize when learning and disseminating knowledge. TheThinking Levels and the Thinking About Thinking Skills(see attached) categorize the progression of skills and knowledge necessary to produce authentic intellectual work. Thus, in a progression that proceeds from lower to higher levels, the seven levels of the Thinking Levelsorganizes certain types of thinking, from activities that require passive thought to more active and creative thought. The Thinking About Thinking Skills (see attached) illustrates the absence or presence of three different types, which include: 1) What Skills, 2) HowSkills, and 3) When Skills.
WILATA is an innovative and more practical way to consider how and what students think and learn, as well as the quality and type of activities teachers expect their students to engage. By using a two-dimensional system – one that represents a range, type, and quality of cognitive strategies – educators can assess the processes students utilize when learning and disseminating knowledge. The Thinking Levels and theThinking About Thinking Skills (see attached) categorize the progression of skills and knowledge necessary to produce authentic intellectual work. Thus, in a progression that proceeds from lower to higher levels, the seven levels of the Thinking Levels organizes certain types of thinking, from activities that require passive thought to more active and creative thought. The Thinking About Thinking Skills (see attached) illustrates the absence or presence of three different types, which include: 1) What Skills, 2) How Skills, and 3) WhenSkills.
Using the Thinking and Thinking about Thinking Skills, teachers can assess students’ classroom assignments to determine the level of students’ cognitive and metacognitive functioning and assign a qualitative score to reflect the students; depth of understanding.
The WILATA is a cost effective and valid means for assessing students’ learning. Initially, teachers can be trained in a one and one-half day training session by one of our staff trainers. A training manual is provided as a resource for the teacher. In addition, coaching can be provided through the training of a member of your staff and on-line assistance from our training staff.
If you would like more information on the WILATA or if you would like to have one of our staff trainers visit your school district please feel free to contact me at your convenience.
Randall J. Ryder
University of Wisconsin
Professor Emeritus Randall J. Ryder
This assessment framework is designed to measure K-12 students’ level of understanding and their knowledge of thinking strategies as they engage in classroom assignments. The assessment has two goals. First, the results of the WILATA provide teachers, administrators, policy makers, and parents a measure of students understanding of educational tasks they complete in school. These results are more sensitive to the day-to-day learning in school and they provide a clear indication of the depth of students’ understanding. A second goal of the assessment is to provide teachers a more thorough awareness of the level of cognitive tasks they present to students and to provide the teacher with a better understanding of the value of engaging all students in a variety of cognitive tasks.
The WILATA is designed for K-12 teachers in public, private, or parochial schools and can be administered to students of various abilities and language backgrounds.
The WILATA distinguishes itself from other forms of academic assessment in several ways. First, it is a form of an authentic assessment—one that presents tasks that are used in the individual classroom thereby assessing learning by acknowledging the goals and objectives of the individual teacher, school, or school district. Unlike standardized, norm-referenced tests such as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills or the Terra Nova, the WILATA is sensitive to the content students are learning (defined by a school districts’ goals and objectives), provides an indication of the level of understanding as well as the level of metacognitive (one’s own thinking about the process of thinking), and is designed to provide scores that reflect the quality of students’ learning and metacognitive engagement. Being a form of an authentic assessment, the WILATA does not provide grade level or percentile scores. Unlike a standardized norm-referenced test, the WILATA presents a representation of the level of knowledge a student displays, the quality of that knowledge and how the level of knowledge and quality change over time.
The WILATA provides an assessment rubric to examine two dimensions of learning: (1) cognition, and (2) metacognition. The cognitive dimension is composed of seven levels that proceed from more basic levels of understanding to higher orders of thinking. These levels are: 1) automaticity, 2) recall, 3) synthesize, 4) analyze, 5) apply, 6) judge, and 7) create. Metacognition, simply put, is thinking about thinking. More specifically, metacognition involves not only thinking about thinking, but also control of thought processes necessary to meet a goal. It is knowing what one already knows, understanding the learning task, and knowing what knowledge and skills the task requires. The Cognitive Dimension consists of four levels: 1) non-metacognitive, 2) declarative, 3)procedural, and 4) conditional. Use of this rubric allows a thorough examination of students’ understanding of the tasks they regularly engage in your classroom and how well they are acquiring your curricular standards.
How Can WiLATA Benefit Teachers and Students?
– Provides a mechanism to allow students to engage in a broad range of cognition
– Helps address the curriculum in a manner that goes beyond factual information
– Provides more relevant learning experiences
– Provides a form of assessment that closely monitors individual students cognitive performance with the content that is actually taught in the classroom
– Provides the teacher feedback on student learning so adjustments may be made in instruction or the curriculum
– Provides a VALID measure of student learning throughout the school year
– Addresses the cognitive needs and abilities of all students
– Engages students in meaningful learning experiences
– Prepares students for “real life” learning tasks
– When instruction is scaffolded all students are provided opportunities to have success with various levels of understanding
– Increases relevancy of learning
For more information please contact:
4420 McDonald Drive CT N
Stillwater, MN 55082
Home Phone: 651-342-1617
Cell Phone: 651-785-5259