There are a number of ways to assess student progress both formally and informally. This can be done through observation, discussions, assignments, projects, group interaction, quizzes, self-assessment, and more. Some say we need to move into a new era of assessment where authentic student learning is measured through more comprehensive methods than just basic standardized tests. I would argue that project-based learning is both a more effective and differentiated instructional technique, as well as a more accurate means of assessing students’ skills. Whatever form assessment takes though, it should meet some specific goals to remain effective.
The keys to effective assessment
- Use Multiple Measures – One exam or even one type of assessment will never give you the full measure of a student’s capabilities.
- Measure What Matters – Don’t worry about trifling issues and make sure your intended goal serves the students’ learning needs.
- Align to Goals – Make sure that what you’re assessment is actually and accurately measuring what you intend (those aforementioned goals).
- Fair & Equitable – Not all tests are equal and ones that disproportionately disenfranchise certain groups of students in ways that are unrelated to the actual knowledge/skills that are meant to be assessed should be discarded.
- Engaging -Yes, you may think there is a time for students to put their head down and trudge through a difficult ordeal. There is value in perseverance, but it shouldn’t be in drudging through something arbitrary. In the real world, people are measured on how well they complete a task they sought out in the first place which means they likely found some level of purpose or pleasure in it. Here again is my push for project-based assessments.
- Understood Goal – Students, if possible should have some connection to the ‘why of learning’. How can you reach a summit if you don’t know what direction to go in? In sharing the goals you will also contribute to student engagement.
- Ongoing Evidence – There should be continual evidence of learning in a way that is measurable.
- Worthwhile Feedback – “Good job” is a worthless phrase far too often uttered by teachers. Feedback should be something specific with suggestions as to how a student build upon it.
- Adapt & Modify – If your instruction is at all successful students will be growing which means you need to regularly adapt instruction and assessment. Apart from that though your assessments should be modified to meet the individual needs of students in general.
- Student Independence – You may not start there, but the ultimate goal should be for a student to take responsibility for their own learning and be able to accurately assess their own strengths and deficiencies, – the Dunning-Kruger effect notwithstanding.
This may seem like a lot of things to keep in mind especially for a beginning teacher, but there are tools and techniques that can help simplify and automate some of these steps. You can find more information on how to put these into practice in my posts on Google Forms & Game-Based Learningand Making the Most of Assessments Digitally, and The Right Way to Quiz Is…
If you wanted an easy job, you shouldn’t have become an educator.