Another dot in the blogosphere?

Weighing in on assessment

Posted on: July 9, 2020

Depending on how you design and implement it, assessment is when students learn the least or the most.

Students might learn little to nothing if there is no assessment or if the assessment is not constructively aligned to learning outcomes, content, teaching strategies, and learning experiences.

On the other hand, learning is tested and measured if well-designed assessment challenges students to apply, analyse, evaluate, create, and/or cooperate.

Whether formative or summative, assessment puts the responsibility of showing evidence of learning on the student.

Prior to this, the teacher might have delivered information or provided other learning experiences. But we still do not know if the student has learnt anything.

Prior to assessment, students might have the opportunity to negotiate meaning with their peers, but we still do not know if the students have learnt anything.

The evidence of learning is often in the assessment. And yet this is one of the most poorly conceived and dreaded aspects of the teaching and learning process. One need only review poorly-written multiple-choice questions, critique vague rubrics, or rail against grading on a curve to see this.

Parts of assessment are also poorly understood by students, parents, and other stakeholders. They see the obvious classroom performances of teaching, but they are not privy to the heart-wrenching and mind-numbing process of, say, grading essays.

In this respect, assessment is like the engine under the hood of a sexy sports car. Everyone sees and appreciates the outsides. Very few know how to design and maintain the insides so that the car actually works like one.

Just like a car, when the engine breaks down, practically everything else stops working. You have a car that isn’t. Likewise, you have teaching that is empty of evidence of learning.

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