Assessment in education is meant to inform us about student progress and needs. Too often though, teachers miss out on using this valuable information to guide their instruction.
Educators should use differentiated assessment tools. This means that teachers use different types of evaluations to determine background knowledge, current understanding, and overall learning.
Classroom assessment techniques fall into two distinct categories: formative assessments and summative assessments. They are used not just as evaluation tools, but as a means of informing instructional practices.
Both of these types should be used in a balanced approach as they are equally valuable in gathering information about students.
Formative assessments are ongoing at different intervals. Different assessments are used, such as DIBELS, pre-tests, classroom observations or even a full diagnostic.
A summative assessment is generally used to measure growth of knowledge, such as at the end of a unit or state administered tests.
Often teachers use these only in their grading, but that is simply a gauge, a pinpoint of a particular moment in time that indicates how a child performed at precisely that moment.
Report cards for school performance are based on these. So are chapter tests, exams and mid-terms.
The problem with this type of classroom assessment is that it happens so far down the road that the real growth and value of what has been learned is not apparent. It does little to help teachers know what their students need to continue on towards mastery learning.
The only way to make adjustments and interventions is during the learning process, not at the end. That is why we use the formative assessment in education.
This is what teachers do every day. It is actually a built-in part of the instructional process. The information gained from formative assessments should guide the teacher in continually evaluating the needs of the students.
Adjustments can be made quickly using these evaluations. Perhaps a child requires academic interventions or differentiated lessons.
A key difference between a summative and a formative assessment in education is that a formative assessment is "practice." It gives teachers an opportunity to consider the next steps that are needed based on practice results.
Another important factor is that the students are completely involved in evaluating their own learning. They learn to identify what they need help with, what is going well, and the teacher provides targeted feedback.