The Power of Assessment

The power of assessment

 

By Evangelidou Foteini

Greece, 2014

 

According to Sally Brown (2005) “assessment is probably the most important thing we can do to help our students learn”. But, how could we use the assessment in order to lead our classrooms to learning and particularly to critical, creative and effective learning? Isn’t the word “assessment” sometimes really scaring for our students? How could we change it? All these thoughts and challenges about the assessment made me want to learn more about this theme and I strongly believe that this course (Foundation of Teaching and Learning: Introduction) has inspired me to reflect a lot on the power of assessment.

I started the “assessment journey” by searching the definition of assessment and especially the definition of assessment in education. I found the definition given by NCCA (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment) somehow close to my thoughts about it. So, according to NCCA “assessment in education is about gathering, interpreting and using information about the processes and outcomes of learning”. In my opinion, if I had the chance, I would add to this definition the sentence “not only of learning but also for learning”. I would make this addition because I think that if we use the assessment in a right and creative way, we could have “miracles” both for our and students’ learning progress.

Furthermore, I believe that it is really important for a teacher to know the categories of assessment from the perspective of purpose rather than the result. The teaching and learning purposes could be vital for the learners’ progress and the assessment purpose is significantly connected with it. In detail, we can find three purposes of assessment: assessment of learning, assessment as learning and assessment for learning (Earl & Kats, 2006).

Among these three categories, there are big and important differences between the assessment of learning and the assessment for learning. The first one occurs when teachers use strategies to confirm what students have learned and whether or not they have followed the goals and the context of curriculum (Earl & Kats, 2006). In this kind of assessment, teachers typically teach by transferring the knowledge and then test the students if they absorb this new knowledge. Then the teacher and the class move on, leaving behind unsuccessful students, as they have completed the tests in low rank (Chappins & Stiggins, 2007).

On the other hand, assessment for learning takes place throughout the learning process (Earl & Kats, 2006) rather than at the end of them (Chappins & Stiggins, 2007). This kind of assessment is an alternative way for teachers to collect data and understand the learning progress of their students. This is a different perspective to traditional methods of assessment (tests, quizzes etc.), as it is formative and characterized by descriptions which can lead students to the next step of their learning progress (Earl, 2003).

As Davies A. (2000) noticed, the assessment for learning “begins to look more like teaching and less like testing”. This sentence challenged me to learn what exactly assessment means for the students. The only way to find the answer was by asking them. Specifically, I asked my students to make “The Map of Assessment”. After collecting all data, the final map contained the following answers, as they are depicted in the picture 1.

picture 1

Picture 1

From the picture, we can see that the assessment causes negative feelings to our students. They only understand this process for the grades and for proving their parents that they are good students. These are the result of assessment of learning and if we want to call ourselves not only good teachers but also teachers who care about their students, we should find new ways for assessing, so that the learners take a role in the whole process.

Personally, I use some methods for the assessment process, which prove to me the fantastic and unrespectable results of the assessment, when it takes place in a creative and useful way.

First of all, I strongly believe that teacher’s feedback is very important for the learning progress of students. According to Brown S. (2005) “feedback must be at the heart of assessment process”.  If teachers replace the judgmental, disappointing criticism with specific, descriptive and immediate feedback, with useful comments on students’ work, they could definitely benefit learners to their learning development (Black & William, 1998). Furthermore, my experience has shown to me that self- and peer- assessment are processes which are very beneficial and can help students to reflect on their progress and “move from their current position to the final learning goal” (Chappins & Stiggins, 2007).

Moreover, it is significant that the assessment for learning offers the chance for the parents to contribute to their children’s learning development. This happens, because parents know the special personality of their child, its strengths, willing, difficulties, experience and needs. By informing the teacher of their child with this information, they help the teacher to make an overall description for every child.

In conclusion, I would like to make a wish: “I hope that every teacher would find the right way of assessment. By setting the appropriate goals, they can find the appropriate methods and they can create the path which will lead every student with confidence to his mentally-critically-learning success destination”.

References

 

  • Black, P., & William, D. (1998). Inside the black box. Raising standards through classroom assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 80(2), 134-148.
  • Brown, S. (2005). Assessment for Learning. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, Issue 1.
  • Chappins, S. & Stiggins, J. R. (2002). Classroom Assessment for Learning. Associations for supervisions and Curriculum Development, Education Leadership.
  • Davies, A. (2000). Making classroom assessment work. Merville, British Columbia, Canada: Connections Publishing.
  • Earl, L., & Kats, S. (2006). Rethinking Classroom Assessment with Purposes in Mind. Monitoba Education Citizenship and Youth Cataloguing in Publication Data.
  • Earl, L. (2003). Assessment as Leaning: Using Classroom Assessment to Maximize Student Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA, Corwin Press.
  • NCCA. Assessment for Learning. http://www.ncca.ie.
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