43 8.1 Assessment and Evaluation

Assessment, as defined by www.edglossary.org, “refers to the wide variety of methods or tools that educators use to evaluate, measure, and document the academic readiness, learning progress, skill acquisition, or educational needs of students.”  It is analogous to evaluation, judgment, rating, appraisal, and analysis.(Great Schools Partnership, 2015)

Although the terms assessment and evaluation are often used synonymously, they are distinctive and different. The intent of assessment is to measure effectiveness; evaluation adds a value component to the process.  A teacher may assess a student to ascertain how well the individual successfully met the learning target. If, however, the measurement is used to determine program placement, such as a special education program, honors club, or Individual Educational Program documentation, the assessment constitutes an evaluation. 

Assessment is ongoing is positive is individualized provides feedback. Evaluation provides closure is judgmental is applied against standards shows shortfalls. Both require criteria use measures are evidence driven

Goals of Assessment 

Assessment is two-fold in nature. It enables the teacher to gather information and then determine what the learner knows or does not know and concurrently drives the planning phase. To meet the needs of all learners, the teacher may need to differentiate the instruction.

The teacher is then responsible for providing positive feedback in a timely manner to the student. This feedback should include whether the student met the learning target, specifically what needs to be improved upon, and who and how these goals will be met.

The intent of assessment has traditionally been to determine what the learner has learned. Today, the emphasis is on authentic assessment. While the former typically employed recall methods, the latter encourages learners to demonstrate greater comprehension.  (Wiggins, 1990)

7 Keys to Effective Feedback

Characteristics Outcome
1) Goal-referenced Learner knows whether they are on track towards a goal or need to change course.
2) Tangible & transparent Learners can understand exactly how your feedback relates to the task at hand.
3) Actionable Learners know specifically what actions to take to move towards their goal.
4) User-friendly Learner finds the feedback appropriate to his/her cognitive level.
5) Timely Learner receives feedback while the attempt and effect are still fresh in their mind.
6) Ongoing Learner has multiple opportunities to learn and improve towards the ultimate goal.
7) Consistent Learner can adjust his/her performance based on stable, accurate, and trustworthy feedback.

Methods to Assess 

Within an academic setting, assessment may include “the process of observing learning; describing, collecting, recording, scoring, and interpreting information about a student’s or one’s own learning http://www.k12.hi.us/atr/evaluation/glossary.htm.”

It can occur by observations, interviews, tests, projects, or any other information-gathering method. Within the early childhood and early primary elementary grades, observations are used frequently to assess learners. Teachers may use a checklist to note areas of proficiency or readiness and may opt to use checkmarks or some other consistent means for record-keeping.

Characterization by Value Set Organization Valuing Responding ReceivingAnother form of assessment in the early grades incorporates anecdotal records. These consist of narratives in which the teacher notes behaviors or abilities. Anecdotal records should be factual accounts, with interpretation clearly delineated.

It is helpful for a teacher to include the date, day, and time. This record-keeping may result in emerging patterns. Does the learner exhibit certain behaviors or respond to learning activities because of proximity to lunchtime, morning, or afternoon? The aspect of understanding how individuals learn can be noted within the affective domain. (Kirk, N/D) This may influence how a student learns and behaves within a classroom setting. Seating, natural and artificial lighting, noise, and temperature all influence how students feel and interact within the environment and affect cognitive behaviors.

Interviews can be used on the elementary or secondary levels as an assessment tool. Like any other well-planned assessment tool, they necessitate careful planning and development of questions, positive rapport with the student, and an environment free from distractions, outside noise, and time constraints. Interviews may or may not be audiotaped or videotaped, and scoring rubrics may be used to assess (Southerland, ND).

Tests offer yet another venue for assessment purposes. They may take the form of essay or short response, fill-in-the-blank, matching, or true or false formats. Like any of the other methods, they should be valid and reliable. Carefully thought-out test questions need to be tied to learning standards, and a clear and fair scoring measure needs to be in place.

Typically, assessment has been viewed as the result; the letter or point assigned at the end of an assignment; however, assessment can and should come at the beginning, end, and throughout the teaching and learning process. While assessment should drive instruction, it often falls short when determining instructional decisions.

5 Domains of Learning and Development Approaches to Learning Cognitive Development Language Development & Communication Health & Physical Development Emotional-Social Development


Danielle Stein eagerly anticipated the upcoming parent-teacher conferences of the day. She had studied hard as a Childhood Education major and had worked diligently in her first year as a third-grade teacher at Maplewood Elementary School.  Danielle had planned interdisciplinary lessons, employed inquiry-based learning centers, and regularly met individual students to ensure that they had mastered the skills as determined by the state standards.

Each student had a portfolio filled with dated representations of their work. Ms. Stein understood the importance of specific and timely feedback and had painstakingly provided detailed written feedback on each work sample. She meticulously arranged the portfolios and anecdotal notes and looked forward to sharing the students’ accomplishments with their family members.

As last-minute jitters began to set in, Danielle realized that she had no grades for any of the students. Despite doing all the right things, she had no way to assign a grade to any of the work the students had done. How would she respond when guardians asked what grade their child would earn on the first report card? How would she accurately tell them how they compared with their peers in reading? In math? In social studies and science?

Danielle quickly realized she was not as prepared as she had anticipated.


Discussion Questions

How do teachers assess student work? Is there a certain number of assignments that the teacher should grade within a 9-week session? Are there alternatives to letter grades? Reflect on how you were graded as a student. 




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Introduction to Education by Shannon M. Delgado and Sarah Mark is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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