Teachers make professional judgments on learners’ performance in every teaching and learning session undertaken, whether consciously or subconsciously. Using these professional judgments and translating them into feedback on the quality of individuals’ work is the focus of assessment for learning. Successful assessment for learning strategies result in improved learner progress on a continual basis. The principal characteristic of assessment for learning is effective feedback provided by teachers to learners on their progress. The value of the feedback is dependent on two factors: the quality of the feedback and how learners receive and ultimately use it. Teachers, therefore, need training and support to enable them to make valuable assessment decisions, to provide quality feedback to learners, and to teach learners to receive feedback positively and use the information contained within it effectively to improve their work. Assessment for learning and quality feedback can and do promote increased learner progress. However, assessment of learning rather than assessment for learning has preoccupied the minds of the profession for many years in an effort to meet awarding body requirements [1, p. 52]. Assessment of learning can detract from effective classroom practice and prevent feeding back assessment decisions to learners on their performance with the view to improving their work. In this article are used materials from different books like I. Duckett and G. Frankland’s “Raising achievement through vocational A-levels” (2004); D. Harris and C. Bell’s “Evaluating and assessing for learning. Routledge Falmer” (1994) and authors like A. Moore, P. Murphy.
One of the most challenging tasks for teachers is finding effective ways to determine what and how much their pupils are learning. Teachers need to think carefully about their instructional goals and what kinds of assessments support these goals. Effective assessment tools can help teachers modify and focus instruction on what pupils need to know and be able to do in the target language in order to achieve communicative competence. Information from assessments helps teachers determine which instructional approaches are best for certain students, what their students may already know about a given topic, and what subjects needs to be ret aught.
Why is Assessment important?
Assessment is important because of all the decisions you will make about children when teaching and caring for them. The decisions facing our three teachers at the beginning of this chapter all involve how best to educate children. Like them, you will be called upon every day to make decisions before, during, and after your teaching. Whereas some of these decisions will seem small and inconsequential, others will be “high stakes,” influencing the life course of children. All of your assessment decisions taken as a whole will direct and alter children’s learning outcomes.
Below outlines for you some purposes of assessment and how assessment can enhance your teaching and student learning. All of these purposes are important; if you use assessment procedures appropriately, you will help all children learn well.
Assessment plays a major role in how students learn, their motivation to learn, and how teachers teach.
Assessment is used for various purposes.
- Assessment for learning: where assessment helps teachers gain insight into what students understand in order to plan and guide instruction, and provide helpful feedback to students.
- Assessment as learning: where students develop an awareness of how they learn and use that awareness to adjust and advance their learning, taking an increased responsibility for their learning.
- Assessment of learning: where assessment informs students, teachers and parents, as well as the broader educational community, of achievement at a certain point in time in order to celebrate success, plan interventions and support continued progress [2, p. 115].
Assessment must be planned with its purpose in mind. Assessment for, as and of learning all have a role to play in supporting and improving student learning, and must be appropriately balanced. The most important part of assessment is the interpretation and use of the information that is gleaned for its intended purpose.
Assessment is embedded in the learning process. It is tightly interconnected with curriculum and instruction. As teachers and students work towards the achievement of curriculum outcomes, assessment plays a constant role in informing instruction, guiding the student’s next steps, and checking progress and achievement. Teachers use many different processes and strategies for classroom assessment, and adapt them to suit the assessment purpose and needs of individual students.
Research and experience show that student learning is best supported when:
- Instruction and assessment are based on clear learning goals;
- Instruction and assessment are differentiated according to student learning needs;
- Students are involved in the learning process: they understand the learning goal and the criteria for quality work, receive and use descriptive feedback, and take steps to adjust their performance;
- Assessment information is used to make decisions that support further learning;
- Parents are well informed about their child’s learning, and work with the school to help plan and provide support;
- Students, families, and the general public have confidence in the system [6; 5152].
The following general principles should guide both policies and practices for the assessment of children [3, pp. 68-69]:
- Assessment should bring about benefits for children. Gathering accurate information from young children is difficult and potentially stressful. Assessments must have a clear benefit either in direct services to the child or in improved quality of educational programs.
- Assessment should be tailored to a specific purpose and should be reliable, valid, and fair for that purpose. Assessments designed for one purpose are not necessarily valid if used for other purposes. In the past, many of the abuses of testing with young children have occurred because of misuse.
- Assessment policies should be designed recognizing that reliability and validity of assessments increase with children’s age. The younger the child, the more difficult it is to obtain reliable and valid assessment data. It is particularly difficult to assess children’s cognitive abilities accurately before age six. Because of problems with reliability and validity, some types of assessment should be postponed until children are older, while other types of assessment can be pursued, but only with necessary safeguards.
- Assessment should be age appropriate in both content and the method of data collection. Assessments of young children should address the full range of early learning and development, including physical well-being and motor development; social and emotional development; approaches toward learning; language development; and cognition and general knowledge. Methods of assessment should recognize that children need familiar contexts to be able to demonstrate their abilities. Abstract paper-and-pencil tasks may make it especially difficult for young children to show what they know.
- Assessment should be linguistically appropriate, recognizing that to some extent all assessments are measures of language. Regardless of whether an assessment is intended to measure early reading skills, knowledge of color names, or learning potential, assessment results are easily confounded by language proficiency, especially for children who come from home backgrounds with limited exposure to English, for whom the assessment would essentially be an assessment of their English proficiency. Each child’s firstand secondlanguage development should be taken into account when determining appropriate assessment methods and in interpreting the meaning of assessment results.
- Parents should be a valued source of assessment information, as well as an audience for assessment. Because of the fallibility of direct measures of young children, assessments should include multiple sources of evidence, especially reports from parents and teachers. Assessment results should be shared with parents as part of an ongoing process that involves parents in their child’s education.
Effective assessments give students feedback on how well they understand the information and on what they need to improve. There are three types of assessment which helps teachers better design instruction.
Formative Assessment occurs in the short term, as learners are in the process of making meaning of new content and of integrating it into what they already know. Feedback to the learner is immediate or nearly so, to enable the learner to change their behavior and understandings right away. Formative Assessment also enables the teacher to "turn on a dime" and rethink instructional strategies, activities, and content based on student understanding and performance. Their role here is comparable to that of a coach. Formative Assessment can be as informal as observing the learner's work or as formal as a written test. Formative Assessment is the most powerful type of assessment for improving student understanding and performance.
Examples: a very interactive class discussion; a warm-up, closure, or exit slip; a onthe-spot performance; a quiz [4, p. 96].
Interim Assessment takes place occasionally throughout a larger time period. Feedback to the learner is still quick, but may not be immediate. Interim Assessments tend to be more formal, using tools such as projects, written assignments, and tests. The learner should be given the opportunity to redemonstrate their understanding once the feedback has been digested and acted upon. Interim Assessments can help teachers identify gaps in student understanding and instruction, and ideally teachers address these before moving on or by weaving remedies into upcoming instruction and activities.
Examples: Chapter test; extended essay; a project scored with a rubric.
Summative Assessment takes place at the end of a large chunk of learning, with the results being primarily for the teacher's or school's use. Results may take time to be returned to the student or parent, feedback to the student is usually very limited, and the student usually has no opportunity to be reassessed. Thus, Summative Assessment tends to have the least impact on improving an individual student's understanding or performance. Pupils and parents can use the results of Summative Assessments to see where the student's performance lies compared to either a standard or to a group of students. Teachers and schools can use these assessments to identify strengths and weaknesses of curriculum and instruction, with improvements affecting the next year's or term's students.
Examples: Standardized testing; Final exams; Major cumulative projects, research projects, and performances [4, p. 97].
A process for assessing writing achievement Assessing written work is important as planning activities to help students develop their writing skills is assessing their written work. It is invaluable to both students, who can learn from their errors, and teachers, who can check the students' progress and identify specific problems. However, correcting written work is usually a time-consuming activity which teachers do not particularly enjoy doing. Fairly controlled writing tasks can easily be corrected orally in class students can correct each other's work in pairs and then the whole class goes through the answers together. This type of correction not only reduces the
teacher's workload, but it also involves students in the revision and editing of their own pieces of writing so that they can learn from their errors. However, there are times when students have to write more freely in English and it is necessary to correct their work individually. Then, there seems to be no escape from the tedium of marking compositions. It is therefore necessary to plan a clear assessment program of writing at the beginning of the academic year [5, p. 41].
Within a planned whole-school approach, teachers gather assessment information based on contributions from a variety of sources by, for example [6; 51-52]:
- collecting samples of students’ writing, carefully selected over time, to provide evidence of progress; criteria for assessing writing need to cover the whole text, sentence level and word-level aspects of the text;
- observing students’ behavior and interacting with them as they engage in the processes of writing during modeled, guided and independent writing;
- analyzing the student’s Basic Skills Test results;
- using student self-assessment recorded on self-editing checklists, self monitoring sheets and questionnaires;
- conducting three-way conferences where the teacher, parent and student meet to discuss the outcomes achieved and address relevant issues;
- discussing student progress with teaching staff, including teachers, community language teachers and support staff;
- consulting with outside specialists; for example, speech pathologist.
Teachers analyze the evidence collected to identify what students know and can do, and match this against the English Syllabus outcomes. Priorities for teaching are established. Teachers plan ways to meet students’ needs through grouping for whole class, small group and individualized instruction. Modeled, guided and independent teaching strategies are used to support students. Teachers use teaching and learning experiences that develop the skills, knowledge and understandings needed to achieve the writing outcomes towards which students are moving. Principles of effective instruction are adhered to. Teachers monitor and record students’ evidence of progress. Written records may include logs and diaries, observation sheets, submissions or records of meetings, questionnaires. Teachers constantly review, adjust and re-plan teaching and learning activities to support the individual writing needs of all students. Students experiencing difficulties need to be identified and supported as early as possible [7, p. 226].
Historically, a major role of assessment has been to detect and highlight differences in student learning in order to rank students according to their achievement. Such assessment experiences have produced winners and losers. Some students succeed early and build on winning streaks to learn more as they grow; others fail early and often, falling farther and farther behind. As we all know, the mission of schools has changed. Today's schools are less focused on merely sorting students and more focused on helping all students succeed in meeting standards. This evolution in the mission of schools means that we can't let students who have not yet met standards fall into losing streaks, succumb to hopelessness, and stop trying. Our evolving mission compels us to embrace a new vision of assessment that can tap the wellspring of confidence, motivation, and learning potential that resides within every student. High-stakes assessments and the sheer numbers of tests students are expected to take will continue to be issues of prominent debate in the education world. The future of assessment is online and adaptive. In fact, as we move towards this future, tests will become increasingly precise, meeting students where they are, and pinpointing exactly what they need to learn. With this kind of data-rich precision, assessments should become less frequent in number and in intensity. After all, in the end, the problem is less the idea of testing itself, but how we design them, apply them, and make use of their data. Done the right way, assessments are a great way for educators to better understand their students’ progress, because helping students learn is the primary objective of education [8, p. 112].
- Duckett I., Frankland G. Raising achievement through vocational A-levels. Learning and Skills Development Agency, 2004
- Frender G. Learning to learn: strengthening study skills and brain power. Incentive Publications, 2004
- Harris D., Bell C. Evaluating and assessing for learning. Routledge Falmer, 1994
- Huddleston P., Unwin L. Teaching and learning in further education: diversity and change. Routledge Falmer. 2002
- Jones C. Putting learning first: the effective delivery of vocational A-levels. Learning and Skills Development Agency, 2004
- Lockitt B. Learning styles: into the future. Further Education Development Agency; now Learning and Skills Development Agency, 1997
- Moore A. Teaching and learning: pedagogy, curriculum and culture. Routledge Falmer, 2000
- Mortimore P. Understanding pedagogy and its impact on learning, 1999