Assessment for Learning

Terminology

Assessment:
The collection of information about student learning for the purpose of making judgements about the progress/development of the learner and about learning activities.

Evaluation:
Comparing assessment information across time or against some standard to make a judgement or a decision.

Evaluation starts with assessing something.

Grade:
A step or stage in a course or process; a letter, number, or other symbol indicating the relative quality of a student’s work in a course, examination, or special assignment; mark.

Grading: Determines quality.

A test is a measurement of something learned.

The goal of past assessment models has been to determine a final grade or standing for a student with an emphasis on the finality of the measurement and the end to that portion of their learning. A more recent emphasis has been on using assessment as another learning tool, a developmental stage rather than as a final or ending point. More emphasis is put on feedback on performance to assist the student in improving performance at some other point, whether it is still within that course or future courses. Another part of assessment for learning requires more frequent assessment that is formative in nature and hence, developmental throughout the term. Summative assessments are done less frequently and less weight is put toward the them, instead, the benchmarks, already achieved through formative assessments, are used to make up a summative grade.

An analogy that could be used to differentiate between formative and summative assessment is cooking – when the chef tastes the meal mid-process, it is formative assessment, but when the guests taste the meal it is summative or final assessment.

Assessment for learning strives to involve the student as much as possible.

Here are a few ways to do this:

Allowing students input in choosing assessment formats –

written, oral, individual, group, etc.

*  Allowing students input in the weighting of assessments

*  Allowing students input in creating the criteria for assessment (rubrics)
*  Communicating expectations for assessments early and sharing
criteria/rubrics, letting the students know the weighting/importance
*  Organizing multiple stages to an assessment – proposal, draft, peer
review, etc., prior to final submission
*  Allowing students to choose due dates for assessments

Assessment for learning involves detailed feedback rather than just a letter or number grade. The detailed feedback (sometimes referred to as “feed-forward” in assessment for learning) does take more time, but it is invaluable to the student’s further development. Detailed feedback will offer the student an opportunity to develop areas identified as weak and celebrate the areas of competence.

Rubrics can be very helpful and save time in this process of feedback because if you have created a detailed rubric then students can reflect on where their further learning needs to be concentrated. Rubrics set out various levels of competence with descriptors at each level and normally grades or points associated with each level. Students could also use such a rubric to self-evaluate and peer evaluate.

Stages involved in assessment:

  • Setting the criteria for assessing the work
  • Selecting the evidence that would be relevant to submit to judgement against those criteria.
  • Making a judgement about the extent to which these criteria have been met.

Things to consider prior to using an assessment strategy:

  • What instrument will best perform the assessment?
  • What are the criteria for competence or completion?
  • What performance scale will be used to evaluate the participant?
  • Why am I using this particular type of assessment?
  • Why am I assessing the students at this time? (productive use of time?)
  • What do I expect to learn about the students as a result of this assessment procedure?
  • What do I want the students to learn from this assessment activity?
  • Does this assessment consider the objectives?
  • Have I adequately prepared my students for this type of assessment procedure?
  • Have I accounted for the various ability levels in the class?
  • Have I planned for time to do follow-up activities after the assessment?

Things to consider after using the assessment strategy:

Did the students understand what was asked of them on the assessment?

Do the results indicate that the students were prepared for this type of assessment activity?

Feedback . . .

  • should encourage learning
  • should provide guidelines on how work can be improved
  • should be constructive and specific
  • should offer two or three points as goals for the next assignment

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