What exactly is assessment?
Assessment is the process of gathering and discussing information from multiple and diverse sources in order to develop a deep understanding of what students know, understand, and can do with their knowledge as a result of their educational experiences; the process culminates when assessment results are used to improve subsequent learning. (Learner-Centered Assessment on College Campuses: shifting the focus from teaching to learning by Huba and Freed 2000)
That is a very technical definition, right?
Simply, assessments serve to help teachers see how well their students understand the material, and how effective their teaching methods are. They gather valuable data and serve to help educators improve the overall educational structure, as well as gain a better understanding of the learning process.
Formative and summative assessments
There are two types of assessments: formative, and summative.
Formative assessment is carried out during the lesson. It monitors student learning, and helps point out areas where the students excel and areas that need improvement. It also allows teachers to see which learners need extra help, and which ones are on or above the target. It allows the teacher to give appropriate feedback to students. Formative assessment has no point value assigned to it. Some examples of formative assessments are:
- asking questions to check for understanding
- working on a graphic organizer to plan ideas
- Write down main ideas from an essay
- even a short quiz can work
- summarizing key points
- reviewing vocabulary words and definitions
- Using body movements and hand gestures (i.e. “Put your hands all the way up if you understand, half-way up if you need a little help, or not up at all if you don’t understand at all.”)
Summative assessment is what we typically think of when we hear the word, “assessment”. It evaluates student learning. Summative assessments are final tests and grades. It gives students and teachers a benchmark or standard to reach. Examples of summative assessment are:
- A midterm or final exam
- College entrance exam
- A final paper
- A presentation
- A senior music recital
Summative assessments demonstrate overall comprehension by the student.
How is assessment connected with the rest of learning?
This graphic below demonstrates an important relationship between assessment, curriculum, and instruction.
Without assessing student learning, how can teachers tell if their methods are effective or if the content is understood?
Before teachers can gauge how well their students are learning, they first need to decide what is taught. The curriculum is typically set by the state’s school board early in the year. There should be clear goals that students can reach within the given time frame (i.e. “by the end of the year”, “at the end of the lesson”).
Likewise, the teacher should use methods that integrate different skills (reading, writing, listening, and speaking). These methods should also engage the students in a manner that is inclusive of various learning styles and student needs.
The curriculum and instruction should serve a purpose, and the assessments given should accurately reflect classroom learning.
Here are a few resources for further information on assessment and strategies: