The Importance of Assessment
I'm sure you know the feeling of anticipation when you are about to take a quiz or test. Did you take detailed class notes and study enough? And you surely have been assigned with various essays. Did you give yourself enough time to research, write, and revise your essay in order to meet the requirements?
Exams and essays along with speeches and projects are forms of assessment. Assessment is a critical step in the learning process. It determines whether or not the course's learning objectives have been met. A learning objective is what students should know or be able to do by the time a lesson is completed. Assessment affects many facets of education, including student grades, placement, and advancement as well as curriculum, instructional needs, and school funding.
The Effects of Assessment
Let's look at a couple of the main effects of assessment:
Assessment is a key component of learning because it helps students learn. When students are able to see how they are doing in a class, they are able to determine whether or not they understand course material. Assessment can also help motivate students. If students know they are doing poorly, they may begin to work harder.
Imagine this situation:
Johnny is a chemistry student. He just took his first exam in his class. He earned a 56%; he needs a 79% to pass the class. The low exam score lets Johnny know that he missed something important he should have learned. Perhaps, he did not understand the material, or maybe he did not study long enough. Whatever the case, the assessment results let Johnny know that he did not successfully learn the material and that he must try something new in order to earn a better score.
Just as assessment helps students, assessment helps teachers. Frequent assessment allows teachers to see if their teaching has been effective. Assessment also allows teachers to ensure students learn what they need to know in order to meet the course's learning objectives.
Imagine this situation:
Mrs. Brown is a 12th grade biology teacher. After finishing the unit on cell division, she gives a 50-point multiple-choice test. Upon grading the exam, Mrs. Brown realized the average class grade was a 68%, far below the cutoff line for passing. Mrs. Brown can easily see that her students didn't fully learn cell division. This tells her that she needs to re-visit the unit on cell division and determine why students failed the exam. Perhaps she may need to try a different teaching strategy, or perhaps she did not spend enough time on difficult material.
Frequency and Feedback
Assessment is designed so that students understand their progress towards course goals and modify their behavior in order to meet those goals. In order to do that, assessment should be ongoing. In other words, classes that use one or two exams a term are not using assessment as effectively as it could be used. In order for students to gain a true representation of their understanding, frequent assessment is critical, and it should be accompanied with feedback.
Assessment is really only as good as the feedback that accompanies it. Feedback is the teacher's response to student work. In order to make assessment as effective as possible, teachers should provide their feedback as well as a letter grade. It is important that students understand why a particular question was incorrect or why their essay did not meet requirements.
Forms of Assessment
There are three main forms to assess students. They are:
Formative assessment occurs in the short term and is meant to provide students with the opportunity to find the meaning in the content they are learning. In formative assessment, feedback should be nearly immediate in order to provide the learner with the opportunity to understand why he/she may have gotten an incorrect answer right away. Examples of formative assessment include classroom discussions or short quizzes.
Interim assessment takes place occasionally over a given period of time (For example, a chapter or a unit). Feedback is given quickly but not immediately. In many cases, interim assessment includes an opportunity for a student to resubmit an assignment (not always for a new grade) once feedback has been digested and acted upon. Examples of interim assessment include chapter tests or an essay.
Summative assessment takes place after a large chunk of information has been learned. While students are given the opportunity to learn through formative and interim assessment, summative assessment is typically used to benefit the teacher and his/her teaching strategy. Summative assessment is typically not accompanied by feedback. An example of summative assessment is a final exam.
Let's review. Assessment is a process of determining whether or not students have met a course's learning objectives. It affects both student learning and teaching strategy.
There are three main forms of assessment:
Each of these forms is different in purpose and function, providing varying degrees of feedback.
- Assessment is a way to measure if the learning objectives of a course are being met.
- Assessment is valuable for both students and teachers in evaluating progress.
- Assessment can be formative (short term), interim (occasionally), or summative (at the end of a large unit of information).
- Feedback is an important part of the assessment process.
After you've finished, you should be able to:
- Explain what assessment is and why it is an important tool in the classroom
- Discuss the three main forms of assessment
- Recall the role of feedback in effective assessment
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Creating a Formative Assessment
The best way to prepare pre-service teachers for their future career is with hands-on learning that they can apply to their lives. After completing this lesson on assessment, there is no better way to have students practice their new skills than by creating their own assessment.
Begin by having students talk about the different types of assessment. A key point from this lesson is that evaluations need to take place during a lesson, before the summative assessment is given, to evaluate how students are learning and what needs to be retaught.
With this in mind, students will create some type of formative assessment that evaluates the content covered in this lesson. Encourage students to be creative. Remember, a good formative assessment is quick, provides feedback for the teacher and students and evaluates a small chunk of knowledge.
Examples of formative assessments include: exit cards, 3-2-1 tickets, quick write, sticky note discussion, short quiz, thumbs up/down, etc.
After students have finished their formative assessment, divide the class into small groups. Each student will take a turn being the teacher and giving their assessment to the students. This will provide real feedback on what it takes to create an effective formative assessment.
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