An essential part of learning is evaluation or assessment. It is critical to both student and instructor. Students need to be assessed to find out whether instruction goals are being met. Assessment is an integral part of instruction and the learning experience.
Assessment affects decisions about grades, placement, advancement, instructional needs, and curriculum. Assessment makes teachers reflect on their instruction methods and practices. It makes teachers ask some difficult questions such as “are we teaching what we think we are teaching?” “Are my students learning what they should be learning?” “Is there a way I can teach this subject better, thereby promoting better learning?”
Is All Assessment Testing?
We must make the distinction between testing and assessment. Assessments cover more broad procedures than testing, and testing is one form of assessment. “A test is one form of assessment and refers to procedures used to measure a learners’ learning at a specific point in time and often involves collecting information in numerical form.”
What Are The Different Types of Assessment?
There are three main types of assessments, and these are diagnostic, formative, and summative assessments. Diagnostic assessments are used to know how much information or knowledge students already know about a specific topic. They are pretests that helps both the instructor know how much knowledge students know about an upcoming topic. Diagnostic assessments are essential because they allow teachers to plan the lesson accordingly. It can help the instructor decide how much time needs to be dedicated to a particular lesson topic, which will make better use of class time.
Diagnostic assessments happen at the beginning of the year or the beginning of a specific lesson or unit. They serve the goal of understanding students’ current standing to inform instruction better, and they help identify students’ areas of strengths and weakness. Diagnostic assessments are low stakes meaning that they do not have a considerable grade value attached to them. More often than not, they tend to be ungraded. Click here for a list of diagnostic assessment techniques.
Similar to diagnostic assessments, formative assessments are assessments for learning and not of learning. The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning and provide ongoing feedback. This feedback is helpful to both teachers and students, as teachers can use it to improve their teaching and students to improve their learning. Formative assessments can help teachers identify what students are struggling with (i.e., specific topics, units, or skills), and they can adjust instruction to address these areas. Formative assessments are also low stakes meaning they have low or no point value. Click here for some formative assessment techniques.
Unlike diagnostic and formative assessments, summative assessments are an assessment of learning. Summative assessments are used to measure knowledge and understanding at the end of a checkpoint, and they are used to help determine a student’s grade. Summative assessments do not have to be at the very end of the year or semester; some examples are midterm and final exams. Summative assessments are used to evaluate and document student understanding after a specific unit or module.
The Changing Face of Assessment
Throughout K-12 schooling, education assessment practices are changing to use more assessment for learning than of learning. There is a shift to making education more student-centered and offering teachers and educators insights on personalizing learning for different students.
From Traditional Gradingto Standard Based Grading
Traditional grading practices provide students with a letter grade or number that shows how well or poorly a student has performed. However, this practice offers a small window of insight to students and parents on what students have learned. Standard-based conversation changes the conversation in the classroom and the approach to learning. The question changes from what is my grade? To what do I know? This shift in mindset allows teachers to adjust their instruction to tend to student needs. Thus, ensuring that students master these topics before moving on to more complex skills and concepts.
There is a general trend of leaving traditional types of assessment behind or not wholly relying on them. There is a general trend of moving more towards alternative types of assessment. This is to replace high stakes testing with more innovative types of assessment. This has especially been on the rise during the COVID-19 crisis. Many educators found themselves unable to use traditional exams and regular kinds of assessments. Moving towards alternative types of assessment offers all students an opportunity to reduce stress and anxiety with testing. However, it also normalizes and offers great opportunities for students with learning disabilities.
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