How do we measure effectiveness in catechesis? How do we know whether or not we have achieved our learning outcomes? We may feel as though we’ve had a very good session. One catechist I know judges success on whether or not the participants “had fun.” That’s not a very reliable method of assessing whether or not someone has been further equipped to live as a disciple of Jesus. In catechesis, we are constantly assessing whether or not learners are grasping a way of life. That means more than simply giving a quiz or test to determine whether or not participants can recall certain concepts.
Jesus was constantly assessing the growth of his disciples.
- On numerous occasions, after preaching a parable, Jesus asked his followers if they understood its meaning.
- The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us that Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29) as he attempted to assess their understanding of his identity.
- At the Last Supper, after he had washed the feet of the Apostles, he sat back down and asked them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?” (John 13:12)
If we are to teach as Jesus did, we must constantly be assessing, in a variety of forms, whether or not his present-day followers are grasping the knowledge and skills needed to be a disciple in today’s world.
To assess (from the Latin assidere meaning “to sit with”) is something we do with and for a learner, not to a learner. We are not only assessing their comprehension of key concepts but also our effectiveness in transmitting those concepts. We seek to assess the formation that is taking place in our learners and offer feedback leading to further growth. Since people learn in a variety of ways, a variety of forms of assessment are needed.
In general, assessment takes three forms: formal assessment (quizzes, tests, essays), informal assessment (observation of each learner’s grasp of concepts by observing their participation in written work, group work, and group activities), and authentic assessment (providing opportunities for participants to put into action what they’ve been learning).
Over the next few days, we’ll take a closer look at each of these forms of assessment.