Derek has a Masters of Science degree in Teaching, Learning & Curriculum.
Assessment in the Classroom
As a teacher, you probably spend all day assessing your students. You might not believe this because you're not giving students tests all day, ever day. However, everything you do in the classroom usually revolves around an assessment. Assessment in the classroom is any activity that teachers or students do that informs teachers about the progress their students are making.
For example, think back to a time when you asked a student in your classroom a simple question to check for understanding. You have just conducted an assessment. It may have been short and provided a very narrow piece of information, but you still learned something about that student's progress. This lesson will detail several common assessment tools and methods that you can use in your classroom to monitor student progress and drive instruction.
First, we'll start off with the standard pencil and paper test, which is the kind of assessment you might give at the end of a unit or series of lessons on a topic. Giving pencil-and-paper tests can become problematic if you are inexperienced with test design or did not have clear instructional objectives for your lessons. These tests must be carefully designed so that they are testing whether students have attained the instructional objectives you put forward.
A well designed test, however, can give you a huge amount of data about how students learned during your lessons. They can also be used to determine which skills might need to be retaught to which students. The data obtained from tests can be incredibly helpful for driving instruction and changing your plans from year to year.
While standard tests are used at the end of a set of lessons or objectives, formative assessments are used during units and individual lessons. These types of assessments give you information in the middle of teaching, allowing you to retool your instruction or intervene in certain areas where students are struggling.
Formative assessments can take many forms and are by far your most useful assessment tool in the classroom. For example, you can use a short quiz to target very specific areas of knowledge. You can also use a class discussion to check for understanding for the whole class. The type of formative assessment you use is only limited by your creativity and what kind of data you want to get from students.
The most important thing to remember about formative assessments is that they should be used to determine if students are obtaining instructional objectives on a day-to-day basis. They are the main drivers of instruction and will tell you whether you need to teach concepts in a different way or if students are understanding the material.
While tests are designed for the end of units and formative assessments drive day-to-day instruction, long-term assessments are used to determine student learning over a much longer time period. These types of assessments are useful for charting and showing student progress.
An example of a long-term assessment would be a student-created portfolio in a writing class. This portfolio would be constructed over several months (maybe during a marking period) and would include examples of student work from various points in time. It would present a clear image of student progress because you can compare early work to later work and determine areas of improvement or skills that still need to be practiced.
One other assessment tool you will come across in teaching are standardized assessments. which are tests that are used to determine where students lie in terms of acquiring skills dictated by state standards. Standardized assessments are usually given over the course of several days or weeks during the school year.
During these tests, students are on their own and are unable to ask for help (and you are unable to provide it). They are designed to ask students questions that target their knowledge in a variety of skill areas, all aligned with the state standards your school follows.
Assessments are tools that can inform you about student learning and help you decide how you need to adjust instruction. There are a wide variety of assessment tools and methods you can use. To find out how students learned during your lessons you use pen and paper tests, which are given at the end of a unit or series of lessons on a topic. During units and individual lessons, you can use formative assessments to get information in the middle of teaching to evaluate if students are obtaining instructional objectives on a day-to-day basis, while using long-term assessments can help you determine student learning over a much longer time period. Finally, standardized assessments determine where students lie in terms of acquiring skills dictated by state standards. Each of these types has its own strengths and weaknesses, but when used together effectively, they can give you a nearly complete picture of student achievement and learning.
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