Assessment, Student Confidence and School Success

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In this review it will be revealed problems connected with the relationship between assessment, student confidence and motivation, and school success. Through the years

educational reformers and teachers are constantly trying to cope with the problem of student's

correct assessment. That assessment which can be lead to better learning and school

improvement. In other words it's about how the right and correct assessment influence

the student motivation in positive direction or how the incorrect assessment leads to

failure and students' lack of desire to learn. Therefore some main points will be emphasized -

the correct use of assessment of every teacher, its influence on student's motivation and the

influence of the low grade on the students' behaviour.

As it defined in the Wikipedia " the term assessment is generally used to refer to all

activities teachers use to help students learn and to gauge student progress. For the sake of

convenience assessment is often divided into the following categories: formative and

summative, objective and subjective, referencing, informal and formal."

Summative assessment is generally carried out at the end of a course or project, whereas

the formative is used to diagnose students achievements throughout a course or a project.

It's more diagnostic and isn't used for grading purposes as it's summative which is used

to assign students a course grade. The difference between objective and subjective assessment

is in the form of questioning. Objective question types include true/false answers, multiple-

response, and matching questions and has a single correct answer. As for the subjective

questions, they include extended-response questions and essays and have more than one

correct answer. Assessment can be either formal or informal. The formal one is given a grade

based on students performance, whereas an informal assessment does not contribute to a

student's final grade.

In order to be an effective, every teacher should choose the most appropriate assessment

among the above, so to help his or her students improve their learning and strengthen their

motivation. To be done that, every teacher has to know clearly the purposes of assessment.

The main ones is outlined by Joan Garfiled in his article " Beyond Testing and Grading" .

He states that the primary purpose of any student assessment should be to improve student

learning . As for the secondary purposes they have to provide individual information to

students about their progress in learning the particular topic and where they have difficulty.

The instructor, also has to receive information about how well the class seems to understand

a particular topic or whether it's time to move on to another topic. Assessment can also

provide diagnostic information to instructors about individual students' understandings or

difficulties in understanding new material. It should help students determine their overall

strengths and weaknesses in learning the course material.

It's essential for every teacher how to assess and which assessment is the most

appropriate for his students, but it's more essential how this type of assessment help students

learn more and leads to school improvement. In his article " Making the grade :What benefits

students?" Thomas Guskey noted that " Although the debate over grading and reporting

practices continues, today we know which practices benefit students and encourage learning."

(Guskey,14). He also emphasizes on that "grades have some value as rewards, but no value as

punishments "(Gusk. The existence of grades are important factors in determining how much

efforts students put forth. Most students view high grades as positive recognition of their

success and some work hard to avoid the consequence of low grades. At the same time neither

T. Guskey nor R.Stiggins support the use of low grades as punishment. Instead of prompting

greater effort, low grades usually cause students to withdraw from learning. T.Guskey in his

article offers very wise method for dissatisfaction to be avoided and students to be

encouraged. He noted that "rather attempting to punish students with a low mark, teachers

can better motivate students by regarding their work as incomplete and requiring additional

efforts." ( T.Guskey,p.16)

Richard Stiggins in his article "Assessment, Student Confidence and School Success"

offers an alternative vision in which teachers can use assessment to build student confidence.

It can happen by rethinking the relationship between assessment and effective schooling.

Teachers would rather have to know how to use assessment in pursuit of student success than

how to assess student achievement. He also noted that the assessment tradition is connected

with using standardized tests to enhance the effectiveness of schools. But there is shortage of

relationships between assessment and teacher motivation using these tests. Therefore, here

raised the issues connected with the techniques which teachers use in their work to encourage

students to learn and to strengthen their confidence in their learning ability.

R. Stiggins justified that fact saying that " if teachers seek excellence in education, then the

time has come to invest whatever it takes to ensure that every teacher is gathering dependable

information about student learning day to day and week to week and knows how to use it to

benefit students." ( R.Stiggins,p.193)

R.Stiggins also evaluated school effectiveness claiming that "school cannot be effective

without high-quality and accurate classroom assessment, right diagnosis of students' needs

and with the existence of misunderstandings of how fast or slowly students are learning."

( R.Stiggins, p.193)

So, to achieve an effective school, high-quality standardized tests must be blend with

high-quality classroom assessment in balanced assessment system.

Trying to answer the question ""How do we help our students want to learn?" R.Stiggins

noted the most common and traditional statement that working hard leads to success, high

scores, college, good job and vice versa not working hard and not learning a lot will lead any

student to bad results and failing grades. Using the assessment and evaluation as means of

managing schedules of reward and punishment doesn't always lead to the wanted purpose.

When students decide to deal with potential risk of punishment by studying very hard and

learning a lot, then this system works as desired. Students who respond in this way will

meet the high achievement standards. Unfortunately, sometimes students decide to lead in

exactly the opposite way. Then there appeared the risk to become " chronic failures"

and to lose confidence in themselves. Learners who come to believe that failure is inevitable

develop a sense of futility and hopelessness. Slowly, through the time, they stop trying and

stop caring as well. The motivational model based on the manipulation of rewards and

punishments will not work with these students. Therefore R.Stiggins in his article encourages

teachers to " keep students from losing confidence in themselves as learners and try to

rekindle confidence among those who have lost it." To achive this every teacher has to see

the problem as a classroom assessment problem. Even a small success can lead to strengthen

the confidence that, in turn encourages more trying. If that new trying brings more success,

then students' academic self-concept will begin to change. So there is a vivid relationship

between school success and confidence. With increased confidence comes the belief that

learning might be worth trying.

The fact that students need to renew their faith in themselves must come moment by

moment through continuous classroom assessment. So the teacher plays the central role

in the classroom assessment and he is the main connector between assessment, student

motivation and school effectiveness. From their very early school experiences the students

use the information about their classroom performance provided by the teacher. So, they

decide if they can succeed or not , if it's worth trying or not, if they should have confidence

in themselves and in teachers.

In this sense the relationship between assessment and student motivation is complex

indeed. R.Stiggins in his article advised teachers " not to be so naïve as to believe that can

force students to care merely by manipulating schedules of reinforcement and punishment."

( R. Stiggins, p. 195)

He offers alternative for teachers to search for the most appropriate ways that help students

"Learn to respond to more than external motivation". Teachers has to help them move to

internal control. In other words students should learn to take responsibility for their own

academic success. R. Stiggins clearly noted that" this kind of positively motivating and

constructively energizing assessment environment" can be completed only if teachers have

crystal ideas about the achievement targets that wants the students to hit. To do that teachers

must know how to develop high-quality classroom assessment of various kinds. Also,

teachers must master the craft knowledge of student involvement in the assessment,

record-keeping and communication processes if they want to help them learn how to take

control.

As supplementary strategy, R.Stiggins suggests the creation of a different kind of

connection between assessment and student motivation. In this case we see the assessment

used not as a source of fear, stress and anxiety but as a source of confidence. Through the use

of student-involved classroom assessment, they can feel in control of their own academic

destiny. In this way there is possibility for teachers to keep some of the students from giving

up on themselves and to encourage others who are close to quitting.

As a conclusion I would say that the issue of grading, motivation and effective learning

continue to challenge educators today just as they challenged their colleagues in the past. But

nowadays there exist much more practices that can influence teaching and learning. What's

the most important for teachers is to have clear thinking, careful planning and good concern

for the well performance of students. Combining these skills with the knowledge on effective

practice will surely result in more efficient recording and grading and more effective student

motivation for learning.

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