Why Is Assessment Important?
Asking students to demonstrate their understanding of the subject matter is critical to the learning process; it is essential to evaluate whether the educational goals and standards of the lessons are being met.
Assessment is an integral part of instruction, as it determines whether or not the goals of education are being met. Assessment affects decisions about grades, placement, advancement, instructional needs, curriculum, and, in some cases, funding. Assessment inspire us to ask these hard questions: “Are we teaching what we think we are teaching?” “Are students learning what they are supposed to be learning?” “Is there a way to teach the subject better, thereby promoting better learning?”
Today’s students need to know not only the basic reading and arithmetic skills, but also skills that will allow them to face a world that is continually changing. They must be able to think critically, to analyze, and to make inferences. Changes in the skills base and knowledge our students need require new learning goals; these new learning goals change the relationship between assessment and instruction. Teachers need to take an active role in making decisions about the purpose of assessment and the content that is being assessed.
When assessment works best, it does the following:
Provides diagnostic feedback
- What is the student’s knowledge base?
- What is the student’s performance base?
- What are the student’s needs?
- What has to be taught?
Helps educators set standards
- What performance demonstrates understanding?
- What performance demonstrates knowledge?
- What performance demonstrates mastery?
- How is the student doing?
- What teaching methods or approaches are most effective?
- What changes or modifications to a lesson are needed to help the student?
Relates to a student’s progress
- What has the student learned?
- Can the student talk about the new knowledge?
- Can the student demonstrate and use the new skills in other projects?
For student self-evaluation:
- Now that I’m in charge of my learning, how am I doing?
- Now that I know how I’m doing, how can I do better?
- What else would I like to learn?
For teacher self-evaluation:
- What is working for the students?
- What can I do to help the students more?
- In what direction should we go next?
Read more about Assessor Jobs Opportunities here.
What Are Some Types of Assessment?
In the early theories of learning, it was believed that complex higher-order thinking skills were acquired in small pieces, breaking down learning into a series of prerequisite skills. After these pieces were memorized, the learner would be able to assemble them into complex understanding and insight — the puzzle could be arranged to form a coherent picture.
Today, we know learning requires that the learner engage in problem-solving to actively build mental models. Knowledge is attained not just by receiving information, but also by interpreting the information and relating it to the learner’s knowledge base. What is important, and therefore should be assessed, is the learner’s ability to organize, structure, and use information in context to solve complex problems.
Almost every school district now administers state-mandated standardized tests. Every student at a particular grade level is required to take the same test. Everything about the test is standard — from the questions themselves, to the length of time students have to complete it (although some exceptions may be made for students with learning or physical disabilities), to the time of year in which the test is taken. Throughout the country, and with the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, commonly known as the No Child Left Behind Act (which requires research-based assessment), student performance on these tests has become the basis for such critical decisions as student promotion from one grade to the next, and compensation for teachers and administrators.
Standardized tests should not be confused with the standards movement, which advocates specific grade-level content and performance standards in key subject areas. Often, in fact, standardized tests are not aligned with state and district content standards, causing considerable disconnect between what is being taught and what is being tested.
Alternative assessment, often called authentic, comprehensive, or performance assessment, is usually designed by the teacher to gauge students’ understanding of material. Examples of these measurements are open-ended questions, written compositions, oral presentations, projects, experiments, and portfolios of student work. Alternative assessments are designed so that the content of the assessment matches the content of the instruction.
Effective assessments give students feedback on how well they understand the information and on what they need to improve, while helping teachers better design instruction. Assessment becomes even more relevant when students become involved in their own assessment. Students taking an active role in developing the scoring criteria, self-evaluation, and goal setting, more readily accept that the assessment is adequately measuring their learning.
Authentic assessment can include many of the following:
- Performance tasks
- Exhibitions and demonstrations
- Teacher-created tests
- Self- and peer-evaluation
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Originally posted 2015-01-30 15:01:52. Republished by Blog Post Promoter