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The Role of Assessment

The Role of Assessment

Author: Jody Waltman

This section will examine the role assessment in measuring learning outcomes, student competence and effectiveness of instruction.

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In this tutorial, we'll explore the role of assessment in competency-based education. We'll begin by discussing the purposes of assessment. And then, we'll take a closer look at both the educator's role in assessment and at the student's role in assessment. Let's get started.

First, why do we use assessment in the first place? Well, different learning environments are going to create different roles for assessment. One possible role of assessment is that it reveals for us what our students know. Employing meaningful assessments can help provide us with important information about our students, including what they know, what skills they have, and even what attitudes they're bringing with them into the classroom.

Another purpose of assessment is to demonstrate whether or not students are able to apply what they know. So a carefully designed assessment can help us to understand not only just the student's level of competence with a particular skill, but actually how well that student can apply that skill in a more authentic performance task.

And finally assessment results can help to guide our instruction. We can make decisions about our instruction based on the results of the assessments that we administer in our classrooms.

So let's consider, for example, a pretest that is administered at the beginning of a unit of instruction. This pretest would first and foremost reveal to us what students already know. If we're administering a pretest, one of the main purposes here is really going to be to determine what level of understanding, what level of competence students already are bringing with them into the classroom. Not only that though, the pretest can also help us to understand whether our students can already apply that information. There may well be some students who have mastered the individual skills from the unit, but who haven't yet achieved the level of competency where they can actually apply those skills into more real-world settings. And so that would be really valuable information for the teacher to have going into the unit.

And that leads us right into this third purpose. The results of this pretest can and should guide our instruction throughout the unit. Why administer a pretest if you're not going to use those results to help you make good decisions about your instruction throughout the entire unit?

Let's take a closer look now at the role of the educator in assessment. While traditionally a summative assessment would be used at the end of a unit of instruction to see how students did and to generate a numerical score for the grade book, the focus really has shifted now to using assessment data for decision-making in the classroom.

So there are a whole variety of ways that we can use this assessment data to guide our decision-making. For example, we can use assessment data to monitor students' progress towards the mastery of the competencies or the standards that are part of their goals. Assessment data can help us to design learning pathways for students based on those individual results. Overall, the idea is that we can use assessment not only to determine at the end of the unit whether the students have mastered the required content, but also we can use it along the way in order to help move students towards those competencies that they need to master. This helps us to make decisions about instructional changes that we might need to make as needed throughout the unit.

So using assessment along the learning path can help us to screen for weaknesses; to determine whether students might be eligible for special education programs; to evaluate the effectiveness of our program; to make decisions about the allocation of resources; and to make determinations about how effective our instruction is in moving students along those learning paths. Clearly there is greater value in assessment than just assigning a numerical score for a student at the end of a unit.

So now let's talk about the student's role in assessment. With this shift in focus in the overall purpose of assessment, assessment is no longer just a teacher-driven activity. Student voice and student reflection have become important parts of the assessment process.

So referring back to the pretest that we talked about earlier, not only can that pretest provide valuable information for the teacher that will guide those instructional decisions, it can also be a really valuable experience for the students. If we encourage students to reflect on their own performance on that pretest, that can help open their eyes as well to what their individual strengths and needs are. If we offer choices to students then, for educational activities that they can participate in throughout the unit, they can base their decisions about which opportunities they want to choose on that self-reflection as they think about what do they already excel in and what do they need to practice a little more.

In this tutorial, we talked about the purposes of assessment. And we examined both the educator's role and the student's role in assessment. Now, it's your turn to stop and reflect. Are you using assessment for meaningful purposes in your classroom other than just assigning a numerical score or a letter grade at the end of a unit? As you reflect on how this new information can be applied, you may want to explore the Additional Resources section that accompanies this video presentation. This is where you'll find links to resources chosen to help you deepen your learning and explore ways to apply your newly acquired skill set. Thanks for watching. Have a great day.

Notes on "The Role of Assessment"

(00:00 - 00:19) Introduction

(00:20 - 02:17) Purposes of Assessment

(02:18 - 03:51) Educator's Role in Assessment

(03:52 - 04:50) Student's Role in Assessment

(04:51 - 04:58) Review

(04:59 - 05:29) Stop and Reflect

Additional Resources

Three Ways Student Data Can Inform Your Teaching

This Edutopia article provides useful strategies in using assessment data to drive instructional decisions.

Teaching vs. Learning: How Assessment Informs Instruction

This website offers useful tools for using assessment and data to inform and guide instruction based on the research of Solution Tree Experts like Rick Dufour, Thomas Many, Cassier Erkens, and Robert Eaker.