Assessment and the Jackhammer

This weekend I had the chance to help a friend and teacher in our district with quite a difficult project. Jackhammering and excavating a sewer line under a basement floor. The line was also twenty-four inches below the finished floor. So it was a very difficult job and after a night and a full day we were only half way done due to some very old, thick cement and clay below.

We had a multitude of tools which we more or less useful at various times. Some quite difficult and frustrating too. Two of the most often used were a jackhammer appropriately named “Brute” and a Hilti hammer drill. The Brute was over 60 lbs and the Hilti was around 20 lbs. We used the Hilti to drill 5/8″ holes throughout the concrete and then put a chisel bit on it so we could hammer away with both the Brute and the Hilti. (Note: we wore lots of personal protective equipment.) The Brute could take some serious chunks of concrete out when it was used properly and other times you could sit and hammer away at a piece while you moved it all over and get nothing. Either way it took a lot of time to do those large chunks. The Hilti often broke off smaller bits quickly most of the time. Occasionally the Hilti would fall into a hole it had drilled and get stuck. The Brute was a handy companion to free the Hilti in that case.

I found to be more satisfied with the Hilti as there was always small signs of success to keep you going. Occasionally it also took off large chunks. It was frustrating when they weren’t coming though. The Brute took a long time and was dejecting when there wasn’t any results. It was also very exciting when a huge chunk came off.

How does this fit with assessment? Well I think the two hammers are similar to assessment of learning and assessment for learning.

The Brute is similar to assessment of learning.

  • It can take a long time
  • It tries to cover a lot of ground and you won’t know if it works until the last shot
  • When you have difficulties it is hard to change the approach as it is cumbersome and heavy
  • When successful there is evidence of small or large gains
  • It can be successful or not
  • It is a tool

The Hilti is similar to assessment for learning.

  • It can happen over a short time and frequently
  • It often takes care of small chunks and you quickly know if it is working
  • If you run into difficulties it is easy to change the angle and keep working
  • When successful there is evidence of frequent small gains, or occasional large gains
  • It can be successful or not
  • It is a tool

We were better using the tools by the end of the day as well. Without both tools the job wouldn’t have gotten done.

Those last two bits said, assessment gets better with practice and there is a place for both assessment for and of learning in classrooms. Both are needed for success and to meet the needs of all of our learning community members.

Thoughts are appreciated as always in the comments!