Assessment – you cannot teach without it

Assessment is the process of identifying, gathering and interpreting information that will relate to the progress of a student’s learning development.

Assessment is a huge component of teaching and is an integral part of the planning of each learning programme

How do you know what to teach, how to teach, or why you are teaching in any given way, if you are not able to assess outcomes and whether or not objectives are reached?

Monitoring and recording student’s abilities and achievements should be a consistent and continual process.

But how do we assess? What guidelines do we use? What standards do we aim to meet?

Assessment involves so many issues. Assessment strategies involve identifying the kinds of tasks and activities that are most likely to provide evidence that students have achieved particular l earning outcomes.

First, there the methods of assessment to consider, ie. – observation, anecdotal record keeping, peer and/or self assessment?

And then there is the consideration of knowing what to assess, such as, do we focus on academic skills, behaviour patterns, or any other talents?

Assessment is an area of teaching that is discussed at some length in most teacher-training institutions. Indeed, self-evaluation and reflection are an ongoing part of the learning-curve for any teacher themselves.

Each school system, and in fact each school within a system, has different ways of assessing and reporting. ALL teachers need to have a sound knowledge of assessment and reporting techniques.

The aim of assessment:

# to help teachers know where to proceed
# to gain an understanding of where children are in relation to any given subject
# for parent and other teacher guidance
# a legal requirement in many instances
# as a useful reflective tool of our own teaching – by providing information about whether the learning goals within a teaching program have been achieved
# to improve the learning outcomes of each student

Relevant assessment:

# what will you assess – attitude, intellect, personality?
# make sure you assess what you teach
# do you assess child against child?
# have you provided students with assessment guideines?
# is your assessment fair, consistent and of purpose?
# should be meaningful and based upon a clear set of criteria
# knowing when to assess – weekly, daily, during or after a lesson

Different assessment methodologies:

# portfolios
# formalised tests
# checklists
# conferencing
# anecdotal records
# verbal and/or written
# peer assessment
# self assessment
# product analysis
# observation
# video
# audio
# photographs
# journals

Teacher and Student involvement:

# avoid “tests” where possible.
# inclusion rather than segregation
# avoid competition
# promote intrinisc value of assessment

Write it down and make sure you keep checking for relevant data collected Listed below is a useful summary that suggests six manageable steps which will help you to plan a systematic assessment process.

This suggestion is taken from Literacy Assessment in Practice (Education Department of South Australia 1991:3-6) but it does not only apply to literacy and is suitable for use across the key learning areas.

1. Clarify what you need to assess
- what is your objective, on what will you base your assessment, compare this to what you currently assess. Make adjustments if necessary.

2. Decide how you will collect the information you need
# – the ways of gathering information about students’ learning – administering tests
# – analysing students’ outcomes
# – observing behaviours
# – student/teach
er interactions
# – drawing on student record-keeping and self-assessment
# – collecting information from parents and others

3. Recording your decisions
- this in an individual choice but you need to make sure you are choosing the right information to assess. Is it useful? What is the relevance for assessment in the information you are recording?

4. Draw up an assessment calendar
- when you will find the time to assess? A rough calendar is a good means of ensuring you are assessing for the right occasions, ie. for parents interviews, mid-term analysis and so on.

5. Plan a more detailed assessment timeline
- making sure you do actually collate enough information. It is very easy to think you have collected enough information but then when you sit down to work out a student’s assessment you discover you have not had enough frequent information, or you only have one aspect of a child’s progress. A timeline helps you to make sure you get ALL the information you need over a given period of time.

6. Plan a weekly timetable
- one more step in the pursuit of collecting enough information. A weekly timetable helps you to keep a constant and continual monitoring system on your assessment procedures. It is anothr safety net to fall back on because as all teachers know, time is elusive and will slip away from you in the classroom. A weekly timetable also helps you to prepare the types of assessment you will be undertaking.

Of course, assessment has no relevancy whatsover unless it is then collated and and made useful. This is where Recording and Reporting come in.

Recording

Effective means of collecting information are essential in any assessment exercise.

The information gathered for assessment must be concise, manageable, relevant and beneficial. It is often a good idea to use checklists to collect information quickly and efficiently during class time.

Subject areas such as Reading may have criteria such as – fluency, pronunciation, word comprehension, whereas in mathematics, scores may be noted or understanding of basic principles checked, ie. times tables, formula usage and so on…

Do not forget that in your recording process you should be looking for such factors as:
achievement – knowledge – skills and understanding – participation – social skills – and attendance, however it is important that the students are provided with the skills necessary to be involved in the recording themselves.

The important thing to remember is to nake sure you are collecting the specific information you need for your evaluation and reporting process.

Evaluating and Reporting

One way in which we can evaluate a child/class outcomes is in the simple process of a child actually completing, or partly completing, any given work. This in itself is work that is assessable. However, more often than not, it is important for teachers to assess specific skills.

Furthermore, most of what a teacher assesses relates to the actual lesson given by the teacher. In this light, questions such as,
- was the content of the lesson suitable?
- were the teaching strategies used, effective and appropriate for this lesson?
- did the objectives and tasks relate to the class in terms of culture and level of understanding?
The significant factor to consider at this point is that reporting is a form of communication. Reports communicate the comprehension and knowledge gained from student learning.

The purpose of reporting is to:

# provide information about students to parents, caregivers, teachers, other support staff, and
# support your teaching and student learning

Another factor you will need to consider is informal reporting, such as parent/teacher acquaintance evenings, diary messages, and possibly even casual parent/teacher conversations.
And then there is planned reporting, which may be in the f
orm of portfolios, formal parent/teacher interviews, Basic Skill Testing (BST) in some schools, and possibly governing body report requirements.


Previous comments from Teacher Education v1.3

Submitted by: Natasha Pouwbray
Date: 01-01-00
Location: Casterton Australia
Email:npouwbray@hotmail.com

I think it helps if the students know what you expect of them. Here is an example of some expectations of the teacher that I use in geography with my secondary students. The file is in doc format.
Secrets of Success.doc


Submitted by: Frederick DeWit
Date: 10-02-01
Location: Howell, New Jersey
Email:bunniebee21@aol.com

Do you have information on adapting assessment in a normal classroom setting to the needs of gifted learners?


Submitted by: Rebecca Zimerla
Date: 08-05-01
Location: U of Manitoba
Email:umdewit2@yahoo.ca

I am going to be doing my student teaching next spring, and I’m more than a little nervous. But I must say that you cover a lot in this site that has lessoned that lost at sea feeling for me. Thank you, keep up the good work.


Submitted by: Neilson Daniely
Date: 10-07-01
Location: Dar-es-salaam,Tanzania
Email:n71tz@yahoo.com

Thanks for your nice presentation, it has helped me a lot in that area. Do you have any information regarding assessing slow learners? Thanks again, may God bless you always.


Submitted by: Colin Ferderer
Date: 19-01-02
Location: Kiama, South Coast, NSW, Australia
Email:cferd@austarnet.com.au

I am a Chef of 20 yrs and am now doing Bach Of Ed (TAS) acc course @CSU, I have workplace assessed many apprentices and trainees and can see how this experience will help in the classroom.
Your notes on assessment are great and easily undestood I wish I had them when I started teaching @ TAFE yrs ago.
Col


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