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The Role of Assessment

The Role of Assessment

Author: Kathleen Johnson

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

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Hello, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you're having a wonderful day today. Today we're going to be looking at the role of assessment. And for today's lesson, I've chosen a quote by Ted Koppel, which states, "And if, periodically, you fail, as you surely will, adjust your lives, not the standards."

Now, by the end of the lesson today, you are going to be able to first understand the role that assessment can play in different learning environments. You'll also be able to explore the roles of both teachers and students when it comes to those assessments.

So first, let's go ahead and take a look at the role that assessment plays. Assessments play several different roles when we look at the various learning environments. First and foremost, assessments really help reveal what students know. So a meaningful assessment can provide a lot of information about that student's initial knowledge, about the skills that they've acquired, and also about their attitude toward learning, the way in which they've acquired that ability to analyze their own learning and the material that they're encountering.

Assessments also reveal whether or not students can apply what they now know in a more complex setting. So assessments, particularly meaningful assessments, can help determine the level of which that student has reached the competency that they're being test on or assessed on.

And finally, assessments really help guide the teacher in what to teach. So, for example, if you as a teacher are trying to determine how your instruction will go, meaningful assessments really allow teachers to adjust the way in which they're instructing based on that assessment's results. So assessments can really help teachers sort of guide that learning and instruction.

So an example of an assessment that I use would be a speech that the student is going to give at the end of a speaking unit. So students are to present a between 45 seconds and minute long speech-- they can determine how long it is within those parameters-- on an element of their background-- so how they grew up or their family's lineage or a specific story from their childhood.

So when those students get up and speak, they are first and foremost revealing to me what they know. What have they learned about the way in which we put together a speech, the way that you walk to the front of the room, carry yourself in front of the rest of that group and really smile to help show them what it is that you know? They are also revealing to me whether or not they can apply what it is that they know in a meaningful assessment. So can they apply what it is that they have learned, not just tell me on paper but actually incorporate it into the way in which they get up and speak in front of the room?

It also helps to guide what I'm doing in that I can help adjust what I am instructing to the class or specifically what I help each individual student with as I move forward based on how they have done in that first speech. So I can go back to them and say you did an excellent job with walking to the front of the room, but then you started to fidget a lot during your speech. So you can see one way that all three of these purposes can be seen through an assessment.

Now let's go ahead and take a look at the different ways in which educators and students can make use of those assessments. So first and foremost, educators can really use these assessments to help screen students for the different areas of need. They can also use the assessments to really determine a student's eligibility for special education or the different ways in which we can allocate resources.

Sometimes a student has a great area of need, but they don't meet the special education standard. And so in these cases, what we're looking for are the different ways in which we can really help use the assessment to guide those students and give them everything that they're going to need to become better learners.

Also, assessments help educators evaluate the effectiveness of a program or an element of instruction. So we can look back on what we've done, take a look at the data, and say, was what I was doing working? Maybe it seems like it worked. Maybe it was really fun for the students. But in the end, it didn't quite get them what they needed to present that information and solidify it in assessment form.

Finally, assessments really help to determine student progress towards mastery of competencies and standards. So one main role of assessment is really to help determine that. And then within a classroom, those assessments can be used then to either monitor the student's progress towards mastery-- so using it bit by bit as we're looking at students reaching those individual learning goals-- but they can also help us determine a student's knowledge or the skills that they're going to need when students have mastered that required content. So we can use the assessment to look back and say, have students taken the correct pathway to get to this learning? And do they now have that learning that they'll be able to take with them and apply elsewhere?

So the focus when we're looking at this context is really on the assessment data helping to move students forward toward the competencies that they need to master. That really helps us as educators kind of adjust what it is that we're looking at to make sure that we're really able to focus in all of our teaching to help that student meet that mastery.

However, there are many different ways that students can now use that assessment data as they are working through their education. So first and foremost, assessment is no longer just teacher driven. A lot of assessment now really incorporates the students, the students deciding when they're going to take that form of assessment, the manner in which they are going to take that assessment. And in many ways, it now reflects on student voice-- so students having the opportunity to really choose and add voice to the way in which they feel they should be meaningfully assessed-- but also the student's ability to self-reflect.

So, for example, if we were going to look at that previous form of the assessment that I discussed earlier of the speech, one way to really show that student reflection and that student voice in there would be for students to be able to have that choice over how long the assessment is-- so they have to speak within a certain amount of time, but they can assess what that time frame looks like-- that students are choosing what they are going to speak about or the content, of their speech and then students have the opportunity to grade themselves.

They're going to get the exact same assessment sheet that I will, and they can go through and self-reflect on the areas where they feel like they really succeeded and the areas where maybe they needed just a little bit more room. That opportunity for student voice and student reflection really improves the overall performance of the student and thus can really help increase how well they do on that assessment.

Now that you've reached the end of the lesson you have been able to understand the roles that assessments play in different learning environments as well as explore the roles of both teachers and students when it comes to those various assessments.

Now I'd like you to take just a moment for reflection. As you think back over all that you've learned within the role of assessments, what do you think would be a way that you could alter one of your current assessments to help include and incorporate some elements of student reflection and student voice.

Now it's your turn to take what you've learned in this lesson and start to apply it. As you do this, you would find the additional resources section incredibly helpful. In this section, you'll be able to find links guided to help you find more information and really explore and incorporate all that you've learned in this lesson. That's all we have for right now. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day.

Notes on "The Role of Assessment"

(00:00-00:19) Intro

(00:20-00:36) Objectives

(00:37-03:34) Assessment Roles

(03:35-06:08) Assessments & Decision Making for Educators

(06:09-07:49) Assessments & Decision Making for Students

(07:50-08:51) Review & Reflection

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.