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Assessment and Evaluation are two very common words in education, often mistakenly thought of as two words with the same meaning. Assessment has got more to do with test and measurement, that is it concerns with collection and combination of information from tests based on performance, quality and learning in order to establish clear, measurable expected outcomes of student learning and using this data to improve learning in students. It is a decision making tool. Rowntree (1977) said "assessment in education can be thought as occurring whenever one person, in some kind of interaction, direct or indirect with another, is conscious of obtaining and interpreting information about the knowledge and understanding of abilities and attitudes of that other person"
Evaluation is seen as the next step to assessment as it is equated with making informed judgements using data accumulated from assessment. Evaluation is then defined as processes which involve judging on the significance of, qualities, merits or ascertain the value of specific programs in education, and related projects, teaching materials, or techniques (adapted from Gullo, 2005, p.7).
Seeing as these two processes are on the forefront of successful learning, these two have to be constantly used by the teachers to check the students learning and growth. Effective teaching happens when the teacher uses these tools in order to determine students' prior knowledge, and then work to build upon that knowledge and facilitate good learning.
Assessment and Evaluation from a Developmental Perspective
The most basic use of assessment and evaluation is of course to aid in the development of the learner and to help students reach their maximum potential. Moreover, the development process is not just limited to the student, it also helps in the teacher's self-enhancing and therefore also in curriculum development.
Growth of students can be seen by assessing what the student achieves when given some teaching in an unfamiliar topic or field. It can be useful to assess potential for specific learning in the absence of relevant prior attainment, or to assess general learning potential for students who have a particularly disadvantaged background.
As assessment and evaluation is integral for any learning and developmental process, assessment should be carried out keeping in mind its three most important criteria:
Does the marking criteria free and fair so that different assessors can reach similar judgements and show reasonable parity in their evaluation? Are the students aware of the criteria set to mark their works?
Do the aims and objectives of the learning programs, the intended learning outcomes of the module and the techniques and methods used in assessment of the students works compliment and support each other? Are these three in perfect coordination?
Absence of Bias:
Do the assessment procedures contain elements that would be offensive or demeaning to students on basis of race, gender, and ethnicity? Is a free and fair assessment ensured? Is there unfair penalization?
The assessment procedures should be in concordance with the listed criteria for maximum effectiveness. Moreover steps should be taken so that assessment and evaluation aids in curriculum development and also meets the curricular standards.
In making sure that the test contains all necessary parts of a the curricular aim, educators have to employ test-development procedures which focus on making sure that the assessment procedure contains and reflects the curricular aim. (Adapted from Popham (2011), p.91)
Formal Assessment and Evaluation
Formal assessment methods are data-driven methods used to check the overall achievement of the child and compare the student to other students and pointing out their weaknesses and strengths and measuring them against that of their peers. These assessments are done under carefully monitored test-taking conditions, and the results are reviewed and calculated and display the scores are percentages and rankings. There are three methods to achieve this: a) Holistic Scoring, b) Primary Trait Scoring and c) Analytic Scoring.
Formal assessment means generally include testing methods such as Oral Tests, Long and Short Answer Questions, Multiple Choice and Binary Questions, and Matching Questions. Suitable examples of formal assessment are the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).
Summative Assessment refers to the use of tests whose purpose is to make a final success/failure decision about a relatively unmodifiable set of instructional activities. (Popham, 2011).
By doing this, the educator can check progress and determine the overall achievement of the learners and also how effective the academic programs are in a large time frame. We can therefore conclude that all formal assessments can be labeled as summative, but all summative assessments are not formal.
A contrasting feature between formal and summative assessment is that formal assessment can be done once a year or less frequently in a regulated setting. The results and scores of these tests are used to compare learners. Summative assessment on the other hand can be held many times a year and under any setting. These require a lot of content acquisition too. Unit- tests, class tests, end of semester tests are summative but not formal.
Formal assessment is further classified into criterion-referenced tests and norm-referenced tests. Criterion-referencing is assessment based absolute interpretation and is based on how much of the criterion that the test represents is learnt by the student. Norm-referenced interpretation is graded assessment based on interpreting the students' achievement against one another from time to time and those who have previously taken the same examination.
Personally, I prefer criterion referenced test because it makes judgement based on performance rather than people. The logic of criterion-referenced assessment is say what you want students to be able to do (see learning objectives), teach them to do it (through lectures, tutorials, and learning activities), and then see if they can do it. (Biggs (2003), p.144).
Informal Assessment and Evaluation
Informal Assessment, unlike formal is not data driven but rather performance driven. Educators do this through daily spontaneous observation of the students' behavior in class, interaction with peers and classroom performance. While conducting informal assessments, it is not necessary to have a specific agenda in mind, as assessment is done on students as they proceed through the school day naturally.
This kind of assessment thrives on interactive learning where feedback and peer assessment and it allows learning through social processes, not just a demonstration of knowledge. It requires adjusting instruction techniques to suit the students' educational needs and goals.
Formative assessment is a part of informal assessment. It is concerned with providing information to improve teaching and learning through testing.
Some examples of formative assessment are teacher's observation during class, feedback from teachers and peers, self review, peer review, homework, projects and portfolios, and questioning strategies.
Assessment is an important part in the life of a child with special needs. Assessment results may determine what kind of education the child receives, whether the child will go to a normal school or a school for children with special needs. Therefore, it is critical that the method of assessment and evaluation is suitable to the needs of these children.
The dilemma that holds here is if the same techniques and methods of assessment and evaluation that we use for 'normal' children are applicable to those with special needs. This is a main concern for schools adopting inclusive learning. While the children with special needs can attend the same classes and learn the same things as their normal friends do, assessing and evaluating them on the same methods seem a far cry from being fair.
To address this particularly distressing situation, some institutions are formulating separate learning curriculum for the special needs children and testing them on this curriculum while keeping them in the same class as their normal peers. Other institutions use the isolation method where special children study in different classrooms of their own, and have no interaction to their normal schoolmates, at least during class.
Moreover, careful consideration should be taken before deciding if a child needs special attention and separate assessment. "Labeling children too early as having special needs will be detrimental for those children and their ability to reach their potential. There may be a mismatch between the categories used to describe a young child's disability which are also used to describe special needs of older children. This may disadvantage the younger child." Gullo (2005), p. 141.
Standards Based Assessment and Evaluation
Standards based assessment are consistent with the prevailing frameworks on different levels ad standards of achievements in a course, assessment factor, subject, program or area of study and are basically accepted as the general criteria for assessment
This helps the teacher to change perception of their importance in the performance of individual students and the class as a whole and their role in classroom practice.
"The clarity and transparency of assessment standards help teachers provide students with information of what they know and can do and, more importantly, a clear picture of what they need to do to improve so they can take charge of their own learning." (Black & William, 1998).
Educational standards are generally differentiated as:
These are the set of contents that educators choose to be included in the texts. Students are expected to learn them and know by specific grade levels.
These are basically the students' level of achievement and performance at which the educators want the learners to progress. They are assessed on performance and results. Benchmarks are set by the educators for the learners and evaluated on how close they come to achieving the minimum level of proficiency.
Standards are not to be confused with criteria, although the terms are used quite interchangeably. According to Hughes (2011), criteria are usually descriptive while standards are judgemental. Therefore, there is a significance difference between a high criterion and high standard in terms of its interpretation. Criteria can include relations to standards like percentages, grades and marks or omit them as well.
In conclusion, for effective learning to take place in any institution, the teachers need to recognize the importance of assessment and evaluation of the learners. Each of the perspectives stated above are useful and critical in a normal classroom setting. Therefore, to get a clearer understanding of student learning and to help in their improvement, assessment and evaluation is the most important tool. Greater our familiarity with the students' engagement and behavior in the learning process, the better our chances to reform instructional strategies to suit the educational needs of the learners and to make sure that the students perform well and achieve high. That is the best job we can do as teachers!