Assessment in Education

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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.

About Summative Assessments

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.

About Formative Assessments

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.

How to Use Assessment in Education

1. Getting to Know You (Formative Assessments)
  • Kids learning styles inventory
  • Multiple intelligences inventories
  • Survey about attitudes towards subjects
2. Unit of Study Pre-Assessment (Formative Assessments)
  • KWLS Charts: What I Know, Want to Know, Learned, Still Want to Know
  • Word Sorts (Sorting relevant terms by categories)
  • Chapter Pretest (research supports the fact that students who pretest perform better)
  • Compacting Curriculum through Differentiated Instruction
  • True or False Anticipation Guide (not to be confused with T/F Summative Assessment)
3. Check for Understanding (Formative Assessments)
  • Dry erase boards for quick checks
  • Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down
  • Paint Chips
4. Closing Assessments (Formative Assessments)
  • Exit slips explaining one thing you learned today
  • Ball Toss (answer questions as the ball is thrown to you)
5. Traditional Assessments (Summative Assessment)
  • Multiple choice, True/False, Matching, Fill in the Blank
  • Essay writing, Extended response or Short Answers
  • "Pop" or "Quick" quizzes
  • End of Unit Tests
6. Self Assessments (Formative Assessments)
  • Assessment Rubrics
  • Journal Entries or Essays
  • Checklists
  • Likert Scales (rating items from 1-5, agree-disagree, etc.)

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