This question sounds commonsensical, however, deep reflection on this fundamental issue sharpens our design and use of assessment in classroom in order to help students learn effectively.
In reality, both purposes of selecting and educating are of equal importance. However, it seems that much pedagogical attention has been paid to prepare students for public examinations or high-stake assessments, and as a result, the notion of using assessment to help students learn has been overlooked.
Regardless of which purpose of assessment we subscribe to, there seems to be a general consensus among scholars in the area that the design and demand of assessment defines the actual curriculum that students learnt.
It is why the understanding of the design of assessment is essential for enhancing learning quality and outcomes.
We have discussed the purpose of assessment, assuming that we all have a clearly shared definition. But what is 'assessment' and how does the term differ from 'measurement' and 'evaluation' that are often used interchangeably with assessment? Are they the same?
In sum, the term 'assessment' is the most encompassing, which includes both the process of 'measurement' and 'evaluation'. Assessment are sometimes used to serve different purposes, based on the measurement information gathered as well as the interpretation of such measurements.
No matter which purpose we design our assessment for, there are some essential concepts that we need to understand in order to ensure the assessment produce meaningful information for use.
It represents the appropriateness and suitability of assessment practices, specifically in relation to the interpretations and applications of resulting data. It simply asks the question whether the measurement measures the thing we aim at measuring.
Some guidelines for safeguarding validity:
It represents the stability and consistency of assessment outcomes. It simply asks the question whether the measurement can produce similar range of measurement when applied more than once.
Assessment form that requires students to choose an answer from among given options (multiple-choices, true-or-false, matching), which normally involves three components:
The pluses of this form of assessment:
The pitfalls of this form of assessment is:
Guidelines for constructing better selected-response items:
Assessment form that requires students to compose an answer instead of selecting from specified options. It can be in restricted (fill-in the blanks, short answers) or extended form (essay writing)
The pluses of this form of assessment:
The pitfalls of this form of assessment:
Guidelines for constructing better constructed-response items:
(section adapted from Alexander, P. A (2006), Psychology in Learning and Instruction
Assessment are generally used for the following four key purposes.
Researchers highlight some of the key characterisitcs in the use of Assessment for Learning in classroom, they are:
Among the key elements in Assessment for Learning, there is always a dimension of involving students to understand, monitor and evaluate themselves and their peers with explicit criteria and standards. Researchers (Lorna, 2003) further differentiated this group of assessment that emphasizes the development of students' metacognitive ability, naming it "Assessment as Learning".
Information extracted from "Rethinking Classroom Assessment With Purpose in Mind Assessment for Learning Assessment as Learning Assessment of Learning" (2006) Western and Northern Canadian Protocol for Collaboration in Education www.wncp.ca.
(extracted from "Rethinking Classroom Assessment With Purpose in Mind Assessment for Learning Assessment as Learning Assessment of Learning" (2006) Western and Northern Canadian Protocol for Collaboration in Education www.wncp.ca.)
The use of Assessment for Learning and Assessment as Learning can take many forms. The most common one is through asking students' questions. However, instead of repeatedly asking student questions, it would be helpful to have a variety of activities to select from in order to keep your student engaged and to cater for different learning and curriculum needs.
The following are an non-exhaustive list of small activities, derived from the principle of Assessment for Learning (and Assessment as Learning), for your adoption or adaptation in classroom practices:
Teacher in a physics class, asks students to show 'yes' or 'no' cue cards, to decide the class' prior knowledge in the topic.
An English teacher asks students to keep a Portfolio of all their draft writings and only the final submission of the writing will be graded.
A team of mathematic teachers hold a review meeting of their subject, and collectively reflect on their teaching with the use of last year students' final examination performances to decide which module requires more pedagogical attention and time. Teaching plan and alloted time for the topic has then be subsequently changed in next year to address that need.
The above three scenarios demonstrate several over-simplified views of what is regarded as Assessment for Learning:
(It's common to say 2) is the only example of Assessment for Learning. But in fact, both 1) & 3) are Assessment for Learning, except 2). WHY?)
According to Shepard (2000), the role of assessment is closely tied with the paradigm of learning, where previously a behaviorist approach was used and currently a socio-constructivist approach is espoused. Such change in paradigm has huge implication not just in curriculum design but also in classroom assessment.
Previously from years 1980 onwards, educators predominantly assumed a behaviorist paradigm that pertains to the following key assumptions of learning and assessment:
With the advancement of research and knowledge gained in understanding human learning, it seems that a socio-constructivist paradigm describes better of human learning. Under this paradigm, learning is:
Accordingly to Shepard (2000), assessment has to be changed both in forms and content in order to be compatible with this new paradigm of learning. In particular, Assessment for Learning addresses the need of taking students' prior knowledge into account; while the use of Assessment as Learning aims at developing students' metacognition in learning.
There are many strategies you can use to implement Assessment for Learning and Assessment as Learning in your classroom. You can also use self-developed assessment to cater for similar purposes.
Whichever means you take, the use of Assessment for Learning and Assessment as Learning is more than simply adding a few more activities in your instructional routine, but it is about changing the classroom and learning culture that aligns with the key pivots of how people learn.
Shepard (2000) summarized several principles of using formative assessment to create the necessary classroom culture for sustainable learning (Shepard, 2000):
The grade is determined in comparison with the other students in the group following a more or less normal distribution
The use of summative assessment is normally associated with the use of norm-referenced grading as such can help making fine discriminations among students' performance
There are several disadvantages:
The grade is determined by the reaching of a set of pre-set criteria and standards. In such case, the number of students able to obtain any of the grades is not fixed and independent from the performance of other students.
The use of formative assessment is normally associated with the use of criterion-referenced assessment. As it involves the following steps which lie close to the heart of formative assessment:
Self-referenced grading is done with students' performance as a baseline for comparison. The goal is to track students' development in a particular learning goal and hopefully to motivate students to improve without having the distraction of ranking and grading.
A rubric is a matrix of criteria and standards defined clearly for the purpose of comment or grading students' work in a qualitative manner. It normally involves an ordered set of verbal performance descriptions of criteria and associated standards (Andrade, 2000; McMillan, 2001):
Structure of the Observed Learning Outcomes (SOLO) and assessment is based on the level of learning complexity (Biggs, 1999). It provides a generic standards that can be applied in different domain of knowledge and assessment work forms.
In SOLO, there are five levels, in ascending order they are:
In order to design assessment to promote effective learning, according to Biggs (1999), we should understand that the key in teaching is not what teachers teach but what teacher would like the students to learn and how to help them achieve that. And such involves attention in the following aspects of curriculum and assessment design:
In a nutshell, Biggs named the process "Constructive Alignment".
The alignment between the selection of assessment and intended learning outcomes creates "backwash effect" in learning.
It refers to the outcome of how assessment determines the actual curriculum students learnt. So, there can be good or bad backwash effect depending on the alignment or misalignment between assessment and curriculum.
After understanding the key idea of Constructive Alignment and backwash effect, it is essential for us to know two key forms of assessment: Summative Assessment (Assessment of Learning) and Formative Assessment (Assessment for Learning)
Authentic incorporation of Assessment for Learning (formative assessment) practices in classroom requires more than effort in simply adding a few activities in the existing teaching plan.
It requires the change of teachers' beliefs regarding learning and teaching in order to incorporate assessment as an integral part of the learning process. It requires some structural and conceptual change of pedagogy. However, such change and use is advised to be taken on board gradually (Black & William, 1998; Shepard, 2000).
With the introduction of different theories, concepts and ideas regarding assessment in classroom, it is hoped that teacher should be able to: