Assessment plays an exceptional role in operating and experiencing the curriculum, for enhancement of student learning, and the roles of feedback and comments for curriculum practice and learning enhancement. Students' learning should be assessed to provide summaries of learning, to provide information on learning progress, to diagnose specific weaknesses and strengths in an individual's learning, and to motivate further learning. Van den Akker (2003) stated that assessment is a process for obtaining information… in order to make decisions about student learning, curriculum and programs, and on education policy matters. In assessment of students’ learning progress and competence attained, there is a need to gather variety of information and determine the degree to which students have attained the learning targets intended in the curriculum.
Assessment has several purposes among which are: it directs the instructional process. Assessment as a pervasive observation, monitoring, and transaction that takes place in classrooms is important kind of educational assessment. In such case, instructors determine whether a lesson is going well and students are catching by observation during learning, student responses to questions, and student interactions (Nitko, 2004).
In directing instruction, assessment is a means to diagnose learning difficulties; it helps the instructor identify the learner’s areas of strength and weakness. Secondly, assessment provides feedback about success of a study program. Information from the assessment of student learning utilized in program evaluation (Pratt, 1998). Thirdly, assessment reports individual learning achievements or grades for various parties including students, parents, education institutes to which learners may apply for admission, potential employers, occupational, and professional licensing bodies. As stated by Nitko (2004), results from classroom learning activities, quizzes, tests, class projects, assignment papers, informal observations on how well the student has attained the intended learning targets can be used to grade students for a lesson, or unit, a marking period, or course.
Moreover, assessment is useful in enhancing student motivation, self-concept, and sense of selfefficacy. When assessment, designed to produce real success in student learning and curriculum experience, frequent use stimulates student confidence and willingness to learn. Meherns and Lehman (1991) described the importance of assessment in increasing student motivation towards a course, encouraging good study habits, and in providing feedback that identifies strengths and weaknesses of learners. Teachers can use assessment to guide decisions about the learners. The better the diagnostic and achievement data from assessment the teacher has about the students, the more appropriate will be the guidance to provide learners about their learning, and about their academic and occupational choices. Therefore, instructors in higher institutes should aware the salient role of assessment among the curriculum components and internalize proper skills and applications to effectively implement curriculum at course level.
Assessments are used for different purposes. First of all they can be used as motivators. Research shows that students study and learn more material when they are told they will be tested on it or held accountable for the material. Assessments also can be used as mechanisms for review. They can serve to promote constant review of material, which aids in moving the material from short-term to long-term memory in order to be accessed in the future. Assessments also provide feedback to a teacher about the student's knowledge and the effectiveness of instruction, as well as to students about areas in which they may need to focus or on areas in which they are proficient.
As in the recent understandings, assessment is not something that follows learning process or is separable from it. Rather assessment shapes, and is a part of the learning process. Assessment and instruction should be seamless, each contributing to the goal of improved learning. Moreover, effective instructors integrate assessment and teaching, and how learning activities are structured. Recent developments in assessment procedures have also encouraged having students participate in the generation and even in the scoring of learning activities and assessment tasks, or having choices in aspects of the learning activity (Smith, 2003). In describing the advantages of classroom assessment environment for the student, (Brookhart, 2003) stated that from the students’ point of view, classroom assessment information is not merely information about himself or herself, rather, it forms a major part of his/her learning life, becoming part of the lesson he or she is expected to learn, the relationship he/she has with the teacher and the subject matter, and relationship with peers.
Assessment can be divided into four main types: formal and informal, formative and summative. All these types of assessment vary according to their purpose and can help the educator to determine what students are learning, and to re-evaluate the teaching strategies.
Formative assessment is the continuous use of assessment to guide the educational process, rather than provide a summary of attainment.
It 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. Formative assessment can be formal and informal. It is the most powerful type of assessment for improving student understanding and performance.
The formative assessment process itself is part of the learning because, it is in this process that students come to understand the standard quality work with which their work is compared. This differs from summative assessment in which the assessor is the only one who necessarily has to understand the standard (Brookhat, 2003).
Summative assessment usually takes place at the end of the course in order to find out what has been learnt and what standard the learner has reached. It has the least impact on improving an individual student's understanding or performance. Teachers use this assessment to identify strengths and weaknesses of curriculum and instruction, with improvements affecting the students. Summative assessment requires that teachers become members of community of practice, where as formative assessment requires that learners become members of same community of practice (Black & William, 1998).
Formal assessments have data which support the conclusions made from the test. We usually refer to these types of tests as standardized measures.
Informal assessments are not data driven but rather content and performance driven. For example, running records are informal assessments because they indicate how well a student is reading a specific book. Formal or standardized measures should be used to assess overall achievement, to compare a student's performance with others at their age or grade, or to identify comparable strengths and weaknesses with peers. Informal assessments sometimes referred to as criterion referenced measures or performance based measures, should be used to inform instruction.
The teacher can have variety of assessment methods to use in the classroom. For instance, observation is greatly used by experienced teachers to identify students progressing or having difficulties in their learning. Some teachers maintain a logbook in which they record observations on students’ daily work habits and progress they show in learning, particularly when working in groups.
Portfolio or records of work are also another important classroom assessment used by teachers. Portfolio is a kind of file in which a students’ written work, or the best examples of it are kept. It provides cumulative record of student performance that show learning progress over time in much detail and substance than a mere list of scores. Portfolios enable the teacher to make much more specific instructional plans and recommendations than of standard test scores.
Self and peer assessment are essential to learning. Students’ self-reflection and their understanding is used to inform future teaching, and their feedback indicates in what areas the teacher needs to spend more time and effort. Assessment may be justified as means of engaging students, to develop and demonstrate students’ deep understanding, to communicate individual differences, or to provide students with opportunities to be successful. Brookhart (2001), Shepard (2001), and Stiggins (1999, 2001) maintained that students should be actively involved in assessment through selfevaluation. They argued that students need to monitor their progress by applying ongoing meaningful feedback that is helpful in showing them how to meet ultimate learning targets. However, self –assessment will happen only if teachers help their students develop the assessment skills, because there is always difficulties to get students think of their work in terms of set of learning targets (Black & William, 2004). Peer-assessment is also important component to self-assessment that helps realize curricular targets for students’ learning. Peer assessment is valuable to attain curricular goals because the interchange is in language that students themselves naturally use. Peerassessment is useful in placing the learning task in the hands of students. In this case the teacher is free to observe and reflect on what is happening and frame helpful interventions. In using peer assessment, one teacher described his astonishment as in the following (Black & William, 2004: 15).
Van Cecil defines self-assessment in learning as a child's development relies greatly on what they learn in the classroom. It is not only about reciting facts, or being able to critique a piece of literature, but also includes the student's ability to assess his or her own performance. Self-assessment in the classroom is important for building lifelong skills that will be used in work and interpersonal relationships.
Participation in self-assessment is much more than just checking for errors or weaknesses. It involves making explicit what is implicit, and thus it requires students active learning. As one student stated it ‘after a student marking my investigation, I can now acknowledge my mistakes easier. I hope that it is not just me who learned from the investigation but the student who marked it did also’ (Black & William, 2004:16). Collaboration between teachers and students can produce a supportive environment in which students explore their own ideas and evaluate them. Research findings also indicated that students trained to prepare for examinations by generating and then answering their own questions outperformed comparable groups who have prepared in conventional ways. Preparing test questions in the form of self-assessment … help students develop an overview of the topic (Black & William, 2004). In general, assessment practices involving students have salient contributions for effective practice of curriculum. For improving classroom practice with respect to assessment, Black and William (2004) have suggested the following:
Students should be encouraged to keep in mind the aims of their work and to assess their own progress toward meeting these aims as they proceed. Then they will be able to guide their own work and so become independent learners.
Furthermore, Stinggins (2001) underscored the importance of student-involved classroom assessment, involving students in the design of assessments, in self-assessment over time, in student record keeping of progress, and in student self reflection to bring effective learning environment. These motivational principles are ones that teachers need to be aware of appropriate assessment decisions. For example, teachers could be guided by a series of questions about assessment procedures that focus on student engagement. These are: “Are assessment tasks meaningfully related to student interests, backgrounds, and goals?”, “Are assessment tasks challenging to students?”, “Are students provided with meaningful feedback and comments as they learn?”, “How is student engagement determined?”,
“Is student self-assessment' used to help understand their progress and criteria for judging success?” and “What skills do students need to be good self-assessors?”.
Assessment is one essential component of curriculum practice that has salient contribution for effective curriculum operation and implementation. Instructors' recognition for continuous assessment and practice has significance for students learning of substantive knowledge and skill. They should integrate plan for continuous assessment with the instructional process to raise learning standards of students. Moreover, they should devise assessment tasks that practically challenge students, engage students in the assessment process. However, as discussed in this review article, the current state of assessment, particularly formative/continuous assessment in higher learning programs is not in line with best practices to enhance student learning and actualize curriculum intentions. Furthermore, current changing paradigms of learning such as cognitive and constructivist have implications for awakening and changing instructors' views and practices of assessment in order to prepare competent graduates with marketable knowledge and skill in their specific fields of study.
Here is a part of the lesson where the educator promotes self-assessment to the learners to improve their reading skills. Each student should be provided with the computer. Learners work with Audacity program to create podcasts. Audacity is an open source cross platform audio editor. (It can be downloaded from http:// audacity. sourceforge. net/). This is a great reflective tool for students to assess their own reading by recording themselves and then listening back to the recording. Students like to work with this program, because it allows them to record themselves and listen to their pronunciation. After the text is recorded, students listen to the text they have recorded and try to answer such questions as: “What do you do well when you read aloud?”, “How do you think your pronunciation sound?”, “Do you change your voice as you read?” or “How could you improve your reading?”. At the end of this activity students save their readings and share them with the teacher. The teacher gives analysis to the students and discusses their answers to the questions mentioned before.
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