Current Issues

Assessment: What are your Assumptions?


Over the next few weeks, I am planning to create a series of posts on the topic of assessment. Assessment is a complex and controversial topic, so I thought it would be most helpful to begin by addressing our assumptions about it. We all hold assumptions about assessment even if we are not aware of them. Here are mine…

Assessment is a critical part of the learning process.

Assessment impacts the whole of the learning experience.  It is not a one-time event at the end of a unit or course.  If a student knows (or at least expects) that they are going to be assessed by an exam at the end of the unit, this will shape their motivation for learning, and significantly influence what and how they learn. A student who is going to be assessed on the same learning goals by the presentation of a project will experience a very different motivation with very different outcomes in terms of what they learn and how.

Assessment should provide students and teachers accurate and useful feedback regarding progress towards established standards or learning goals.

The point of assessing is not primarily to give a grade that can go on a report card.  Students should be able to use assessment as feedback that helps them make further progress towards learning goals.  This, of course, implies that such standards or goals need to exist, and that the teacher and students need to be aware of what they are!  Teachers should be able to use assessment as feedback that helps them to adjust and improve their teaching.

A variety of assessment tasks need to be used so that students with diverse learning styles/backgrounds/preferences can demonstrate their progress towards established standards or learning goals.

Since assessment is not a one-time event and is designed to provide useful feedback, it can be most effective when students accumulate a “scrap book” of various completed tasks as evidence of their progress towards the learning goals.  A degree of student choice can be incorporated into what they will produce for assessment and how they will produce it.

Assessment is related to, but is not the same thing as, grading.

Since grading is not the primary reason for assessing, not all assessment needs to be recorded in the grade book.  Assessments that are recorded in the grade book need to be weighted according to their importance, with those that occur later in the process after opportunity for feedback being given a higher weight than more formative tasks.

You may not completely agree with all of these assumptions, but please stay with me! Let’s have a discussion so that we can all learn.

  • What are your assumptions about assessment?
  • What questions do you have about assessment?

Post your ideas and questions in the comments below.

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