Gauging the quality of our teaching practice and the learning experience of our students inside our classroom is a way of determining how effective and good are we to our students. To do that we use assessments as a tool to craft, modify, explore possibilities and improve our teaching practices so that it suits the needs of our students. However, due to the overwhelming demand of our responsibilities being a teacher we sometimes overlook the importance of it and forget the basics of why we do an assessment, how should we do it and how can we improve it further. A mere neglect of it has a direct consequence in our teaching practice and on how we become an effective teacher. Thus, allow me to provide answers to these questions and guide us back again to the principles of effective assessment. I believe literacy on assessment and having a deep understanding of it will give us an opportunity to be great in our vocation.
Three Purposes of Assessment
Doing assessment without purpose is like chasing the wind. It’s pointless and meaningless. Our human nature stretch us to do something beyond our capacity because we want to fulfill our purpose. Same with assessment, we do this and implement it in our classroom because we want to achieve its sole purpose. That is to improve teaching-learning experience with our students inside and outside our classroom. An assessment expert named Dr. Lorna Earl, in her book “Rethinking Classroom Assessment with Purpose in Mind” argued that there are three important aspects why we do an assessment. According to her, we do assessment because we use it FOR learning, AS learning and OF learning. Now, let’s define these, one by one and determine the underlying principles that we consider as we implement these assessments? Starting with Assessment FOR learning. Assessment experts and most educators call this as FORMATIVE assessment. It is an assessment to measure how much the student have learned with the content, what can they do with what they’ve learned, be able to determine their confusions, bridging any gaps of learning, and keep track of the progress they are making with the course or lesson. This assessment is used to understand what students are thinking with the materials and instructions that were given so that teachers are able to have a good decision on what should be going to do next with their instruction. During the process of this assessment, teachers provide descriptive feedback and coaching for improvement to their student. Note that assessment FOR learning occurs throughout the learning process. Therefore, teachers should remember always to align instruction with the learning outcomes or goals set for the course. During the process, teachers identify particularly the learning needs of students or groups, and by that, we select and adapt materials and resources to suit the needs of a student. As a consequence, differentiated teaching strategies and learning opportunities are created in helping individual students to move forward in their learning experience. We need to take into consideration during this process that we should always give immediate feedback and direction for our students to help them improve their learning progress. In doing this, we can modify the instruction and more of what should be done in class to achieve the learning outcome. As a result, this benefits the students where it enhances the motivation and commitment to learning. For us teachers, we uncover what students believe to be true and to learn more about the connections students are making, their prior knowledge, preconceptions, gaps, and learning styles. In getting a clear picture of how the students are thinking and what it is that they understand or find confusing will serve as our foundation in improving our classroom instructions and teaching practices.
However, assessment AS learning focusses on students and emphasizes assessment as a process of metacognition. Metacognition is the awareness of their own thinking and learning. It is an active process of cognitive restructuring that occurs when individuals interact with new ideas. In this assessment, students are the critical connectors between assessment and learning. Making sure students are actively engaged in creating their own understanding, by helping them to learn to be critical assessors who make sense of information, relate it to prior knowledge, and use it for new learning. During assessment AS learning, teachers will guide students by designing instructions and assessment that allows all students to think about, and monitor their own learning. Helping them to become adept at personally monitoring what they are learning, and use what they discover from the monitoring to make adjustments, adaptations, and even major changes in their thinking. Teachers should focus on the explicit fostering of students’ capacity over time to be their own best assessors in order to acquire the skills and the habits of mind to be metacognitively aware with increasing independence. To achieve this, teachers need to start by presenting and modeling external, structured opportunities for students to assess themselves by providing exemplars and models of good practice and quality work that reflect curriculum outcomes. Also, providing descriptive feedback is necessary for this assessment to monitor students’ metacognitive processes as well as their learning. Teachers have the responsibility of creating environments in which students can become confident, competent self-assessors by providing emotional security and genuine opportunities for involvement, independence, and responsibility. The benefits of this are that students are capable of becoming adaptable, flexible, and independent in their learning and decision-making. They will be reflective in their own learning and make adjustments so that they achieve deeper understanding.
On the other hand, assessment OF learning is more on evaluated in nature. Assessment experts consider this as Summative Assessment. It is used for certification and accreditation of performance of the student, the course or program, and even the school. It is a summary of each students’ level of accomplishment or what they’ve achieved during the term, semester, grading period, unit or chapter. This will serve as the foundation for discussions on the placement of the student or promotion and reporting to the parents. During the process, teachers should provide a rationale for undertaking a particular assessment of learning at a particular point in time, clear descriptions of the intended learning, processes that make it possible for students to demonstrate their competence and skill, a range of alternative mechanisms for assessing the same outcomes, public and defensible reference points for making judgements, transparent approaches to interpretation, descriptions of the assessment process and strategies for recourse in the event of disagreement about the decisions. As a result, students can look forward to the assessment of learning tasks as occasions to show their competence, as well as the depth and breadth of their learning. In doing these three purposes of assessment, we gather evidence to evaluate the performance of our students, improve our teaching practice, and determine the outcome of our program. We need to underscore that they are interrelated and connected to one another as we do our teaching practice. Thus, all of these are essential and beneficial for us teachers and to our students in our teaching practice.
Success in implementing these three approaches of assessment underlies in our planning. It is important to take into consideration all the possible factors that would affect the quality of the evidence we gathered. There are five questions that we teachers should ask as we plan and design our assessment as discussed by Dr. Earl. These are: Why am I assessing? What am I assessing? What assessment method should I use? How can I ensure quality in this assessment process? And How can I use the information from this assessment? On the same book, “Rethinking classroom Assessment with Purpose in mind” Dr. Earl provides us an elaborated summary on what should we consider when we answer these questions with respect to three purposes of assessment. The table below is the summary of Planning Assessment taken from the same book “Rethinking Classroom Assessment with Purpose in Mind.
Improving Classroom Assessment
None of these assessments that will be implemented in our classroom are perfect. We always welcome rooms for improvement to master our craft. With that, we always take into consideration the quality of our Assessment. Dr. Earl emphasized that the quality of our assessment is a function of reliability, reference points, validity and record keeping. These four factors are important criteria to ensure that our assessment is consistent and meaningful. We make sure that we are sure with our assessment. Also, we use a reference point to ground our judgment. Verifying how our assessment represent the idea or concept learned is important for validity. And the record keeping should not be taken for granted because the grades and symbols used are a representation of what the child is learning. Assessment is a complex process that needs professional knowledge and skills. It needs leadership, support, and collaboration. Good teacher and those who are effective in their practice are having a reflective behavior on what they are doing. Thus, it is very important for us to reflect these questions in taking into consideration how we improve our assessment in our classroom. These are: what can I do to improve my classroom assessment practice? What do I need in order to do this? Where can I get what, I need? Whose help do I need to engage? How will I know that I improved? Answering these reflective questions create a growing mindset and attitude to always improve our teaching for excellence.
 Earl, L. & Katz, S. (2006). Section 2: Three Purposes of Assessment.
 Goldner, S. (2014). Purposes of Classroom Assessment. [YouTube video].
 GECDSB AER. (2011). Assessment FOR, AS, & OF Learning. [YouTubevideo].