Types of Classroom Assessment
The Basics of Assessment
Assessment instruments on any level serve at least one of two purposes. One purpose can be to give an individual some indication of actual achievement. The other purpose is to identify trends among groups. The information compiled from standardized tests tells districts how their students are doing in comparison to students in similar situations around the state or nation. From this information, districts can make decisions about the delivery of their educational program. In the classroom, assessments can inform the teacher about the progress of students as a lesson proceeds and of their achievement when instruction has concluded. In all cases, it boils down to gathering information for making decisions. Simple. There’s nothing mystical or magical about this, though it seems that assessment folks often try to make it so. Just read carefully and you’ll see how it all works.
The Basic Terms
Assessment and evaluation are two completely separate activities. So let’s make a clear distinction between them. We cannot ensure that you won’t see them used interchangeably elsewhere, but our hope is that you will have a broader perspective of this important instructional tool. We will further break this down into two types of assessments: formative and summative.
Assessment, whether your version in the classroom or those districtwide high-stakes standardized versions, is the means by which information is gathered to make a variety of decisions. For example, a house may be assessed in terms of size, building materials, location, and number of bedrooms and bathrooms. In the classroom you might assess a student’s skill, knowledge, reasoning, or dispositions. When information about the characteristics or qualities of something or someone is gathered, that constitutes an assessment.
In school, and in your particular classroom, assessment is part of an effective educational strategy because it comes at the beginning (finding out what your students already know) and at the end of instruction (determining what has been learned as a result of the learning experience). In your work as a teacher, there will be times when you need information for purposes of making instructional decisions and other times when you will need to place an academic value on the information gathered. In either case, good assessment is the basis for all that follows.
Since assessment is just the gathering of information, that’s not the part that really bothers test takers. Rather, it’s the next step when the assessment information (data) is compared to some value structure. Evaluation is when value is placed on accumulated assessment data. When a teacher places a value (a grade) on test results, or a tax assessor places value (in dollars) on the assessment of a house, then evaluation has occurred. So you can see that all evaluations include assessments, but not all assessments necessarily include evaluations.
So, assessing and evaluating are two different activities with different guidelines. For assessment the key point is to gather the appropriate data for the decision that needs to be made. For evaluation the key point is in establishing an appropriate value structure to represent the data.
The keys to good evaluation of your students’ progress:
1. Gather the appropriate data (assessment)
2. Establish an appropriate value structure to represent the results (evaluation)