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Piaget (2008) contends that there are two processes responsible for how children use and adapt their schemata. These two processes are assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation is when a child incorporates new knowledge to existing knowledge and accommodation occurs when a child adjusts to new information (Marsh et al., 2008). These aspects are important for the twenty-first century learner because the learner is from a culturally diverse background and is surrounded by technology from a very young age. They are eager to continually learn and engage in social activities with peers. They also tend to share past experiences and build on to existing knowledge. The twenty-first century learner constructs knowledge which makes sense to them, new learning depends on their current understanding. Social interaction increases learning and students want to be engaged in an environment where they are participating in real world tasks (Eggen et al., 2010).
A major problem in the present school system is the methods teachers use to assess their students. Students who may appear capable of showing understanding appear deficient because they cannot reveal their knowledge with the usual means of assessment. Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences gives educators a comprehensive framework in which different solutions can be implemented. Students learn, represent and utilise knowledge in many different ways. According to Gardner, the broad spectrum of students, and perhaps society as a whole, would be better served if disciplines could be presented in various methods and assessment of learning in variety of ways (Eggen et al., 2010, p.127).
The assessment process should be able to meet the needs of the learner. Students come from different backgrounds and each learns at different levels. Piaget's theory of cognitive development depicts how individuals develop by a number of stages of cognitive development (Marsh at el., 2008).The assessment process should meet the learning abilities of students, as each student expresses answers and knowledge in different forms and ways. Multiple measures have important reasoning in education; they enhance construct validity which is an attribute being measured in a specific domain (Brookhart, 2009). Decision validity is also enhanced through various types of information where each could have more than one measure. According to Gardner, teachers' present content must capitalise the many different intelligences as possible. This can be achieved through the teacher's efforts and focusing on helping students to understand their strengths and weaknesses (Eggen et al., 2010, p.137).
The combination of multiple measures in assessing a students' progress, specifically assesses a student's stage before instruction begins (McMillan, 2010). Piaget saw cognitive or intellectual development consisted of four stages. These are the sensori-motor (0-2 years), pre-operational (2-7 years), concrete operational (7-11 years) and formal operational (11 years and above) stages. This is important in the assessment process as these stages describe general patterns of thinking for children at different ages and with different amounts of experiences (Eggen et al., 2010, p.37). Assessments must cater for these stages to ensure students are capable of achieving the correct understanding and skill for the transitions between each learning level.
Many recommendations have been made to use multi-faceted approaches when assessing a students' performance. This includes first impressions of a student, student school records, pre-tests, standardised tests, informal interactions, assignments etc (McMillan, 2010). Each child's achievement and progress in class is assessed by their teacher. Teachers must use a variety of ways to assess their students including observing their work in class and looking closely at the work they produce. They make assessments of their students' progress throughout the year (DETNSW, 2006, p.2).
Formal and Informal Assessments
Assessing the twenty-first century learner is based on ensuring a student understands what is being taught. The various assessment methods used to assess a student's knowledge and understanding have to be created to involve making decisions about the students learning progress. Formal and informal assessments could be used to assess students. Informal assessment may take place during learning activities. This is the process of gathering information incidentally about the learning process or other aspects of student behaviours, and making decisions based on that information (Eggen et al., 2010, p.437). Formal assessments include paper and pencil tests, portfolio assessment and commercially prepared items. Formal assessments are used to systematically gather the same type of information from every student in the classroom (Eggen et al., 2010, p.440). Twenty-first century assessments in education should support a balance of assessments, including high-quality standardized testing along with effective classroom formative and summative assessments. Assessments should also have a strong emphasis on useful feedback on the performance of students that is embedded into their everyday learning and also assist students with continued improvement and self confidence (McMillan, 2007, p.118).
An effective teacher in 2010 and beyond will need focus on constructivism and the use of technology to create a more student-centred approach to learning and teaching through assessments (Shifting Literacies, n.d.). Teachers must have the content knowledge and the knowledge in the usage of technology. This is invaluable and beneficial for the teaching and learning process. A teacher should have prior knowledge of a student's past experiences as this knowledge is of benefit both the teacher and student. It will assist the teacher with creating assessments that are suitable and appropriate to the students understanding. This will also benefit the students as they will be able to be more cognitively active, and their learning will be more meaningful because it is linked to past knowledge (Eggen et al., 2010).
Formative and Summative Assessments
Assessments in 2010 and beyond require a balance of technology enhanced formative and summative assessments. Formative and summative assessments are not difficult; in the past however, the definitions had been confusing. Both are an integral part of information gathering. Summative assessments are given regularly to determine at a specific point in time, what a student knows and does not know. Summative assessments can be associated with standardized tests, but are also used at and are important to classroom programs. These are generally used as an accountability measure through the process of grading (Eggen et al., 2010, p.460). Although the information that is collected from this type of assessment is important, they only assist with evaluating certain areas of the learning process. This is due to them being spread out and occurring after teaching instruction every few weeks or months. Summative assessments are tools that evaluate the effectiveness of learning programs, goals of the school, alignment of curriculum and student placement in particular programs (Eggen et al., 2010, p.460). Various types of summative assessment include short-answer items, matching items, true/false and other binary choice items, multiple choice items, comprehension and application.
Formative assessments are used to improve student motivation and learning. To achieve this goal, teachers must continually process information involving their evaluations of student work and behaviour, feedback to students and giving correct instruction (McMillan, 2007, p.118). All forms of informal assessments are formative (Eggen et al., 2010, p.460). When a teacher uses a student's response to questions as a source to move forward with a learning activity, she is not using the information to grade students. Therefore, teachers gather evidence of students' knowledge, understanding and skill by monitoring the students and asking questions. This way the evaluations are achieved and the appropriate feedback is provided back to students (McMillan, 2007, p.460). This feedback will then either support and extend on student understanding or will target deficiencies.