What is Assessment?

Photo by Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu on Unsplash

Assessment philosophy. What is assessment? What is its aim? What is the relationship between assessment, classroom environment, and instructional practices? What is important to keep in mind when designing assessments for your classroom? (Work will be started in class – upload after class).

            I would say that my philosophy of assessment was very “common knowledge” before starting ECS410. I knew that assessment is an important part of education and is a part of the day-to-day job of a teacher, but I didn’t have a very good foundation of what it meant. From my personal experience as a student, assessment was a grade that you received after you handed in the task you were assigned. Sometimes it had a few notes on it, and sometimes it included a rubric. All I knew, was that the teacher had the final say on the grade and they knew best.

            From my professional experience, I spent a couple weeks in two elementary classrooms in Regina, Saskatchewan. These experiences really helped me build confidence and experience with students, but it also allowed me to focus on where I could improve in the classroom. While grading papers with the four-point scale for the first time, I realised that I never expected how hard this portion of my job would be. Should I look over all the papers first? I wanted to leave comments of encouragement, but I wasn’t exactly sure what to write. Should I just put a “good job” and leave it at that? I started to realise that I wasn’t even sure what I was marking on! What does exceeding expectations entitle? I realised that I needed to gain more knowledge in order to set my future students up successfully.

            When researching deeper, along with collaborating with other future educators, a much deeper picture starts to emerge about what exactly assessment in practice means. There is a push in higher educational institutions towards new forms of assessment intertwined with traditional assessment pedagogy. In the traditional sense, assessment is used to gage what students know, the teacher is known as the knowledge holder who assesses how much information a student has retained from previous lessons. While this still does have a place in our education system, research has shown that assessment can also be used as a tool for student learning through formative tasks. By using alternative forms of assessment such as performance tasks, portfolios, and self-peer-assessment, students can become responsible for their own learning, become more engaged, and practice active learning.

While these new forms of assessment look very promising towards creating successful students, there needs to be an appropriate environment and an engaged educator in order to make it work. For educators, it can be challenging to break traditional forms of education that they grew up with. Practicing alternative forms of assessment can be daunting as they require more prep time, more assessment tasks, and more collaboration with students and other educators. Although there is more prep work involved for the teacher, research shows that when done correctly, this allows more free time during the lessons and work periods. When the environment is set up for alternative assessments, the instructional methods can become more successful.

Practicing formative assessment in the classroom involves assessing not only what students know, but how do they know that and what steps they took to reach this conclusion. This provides teachers the opportunity to teach for the diversity of their classroom, the strengths and weaknesses of the students. It also provides students more opportunities to learn and show what they have learned, as well as take responsibility for their learning from thorough consistent feedback. Instructional strategies should require room for formative assessment, along with summative assessment, and allow for diverse student learning needs. Instructional strategies should also allow opportunities for students to practice active learning, collaborate with others, and become responsible for their own learning. For teachers, it is important to critique their classroom environments, and instructional strategies in order to line up with alternative forms of assessment to create successful students.  

January 6 2020


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