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There are currently two major divisions of assessment in the educational system. The formal assessment (generally known as the standardized test) comes with previously gathered data and about other students who have taken the assessment and is looking to derive additional data. It is written by professional test writers, is measured with percentiles (or other statistical numbers) which compare students to peers who have been given the same test under the same testing conditions. Formal assessments are given according to specific procedures which are followed exactly by the all test givers and test takers. The instructions are often scripted to ensure uniformity in test
Formal assessment is broken down into two further types of assessment; normed or criterion based. Assessment is considered to be normed or norm referenced after the same questions have been filtered throughout various testing levels over time. They are intended to be as unbiased as possible with regard to any group by age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic conditions and others so that the results are consistent. They are strictly administered as mentioned above because it is a comparison test. In addition, they are generally scored by a machine. Typically the tests are scheduled to be given on specific dates or in certain cycles of years (grade 3, 5, 7 and 10 is one testing cycle). Others may be grades 3-8 and one high school grade in reading and math. Schools use the information gathered to help teachers find areas they need to re-teach, and students to find areas where they need to relearn as well as pointing out which lessons and instruction were the most effective for students. One use of the standardized test is to determine if a child is reading at grade level. Because they are so strictly monitored, they are actually easy to administer. Identical materials are prepared and handed out piecemeal to test givers.
Formal criterion based assessments compare students to a standard rather than to other students. This is a more individualized test because it essentially "tracks" students' progress toward mastery of specific skills. The results for students are very clear as to whether or not a student has mastered a desired skill. Criterion based tests are also specific in what they are testing rather than general knowledge. Students know what they will be tested on prior to the testing. Theoretically, they should be fully prepared for the test. Not only are the students aware of the topics, but the teachers are as well, and as such, have no doubt instructed the students in every topic that will be covered.
Informal tests are another form of available testing with their own goals and specific environmental conditions. Informal tests produce immediate feedback for teachers. The goal, however is not to derive data or compare the students to data, but rather to assess content and how well a student performs in showing their knowledge of that content. There are varying types of assessments that are considered informal. Informal testing is further broken down into summative and formative assessments. Formative assessments are the assessment of how a child is forming. It is the gauge for the teacher to see what needs to be re-taught, which students are exceeding expectations and which students need more individual attention. Formative tests allow for observation by the teacher. The summative assessments help teachers when they need to report grades to parents, district, county, and state agencies. In opposition to formal testing, the informal testing can be scheduled at a teacher's convenience. Informal testing allow for grading rubrics to be followed both before the test (what is expected) and after (teacher guide).
A common informal test sometimes given to students at the beginning of the year and then as an exiting exam is writing samples. Writing samples reflect the actual learning of techniques that are taught in various classrooms. With a writing sample, the student doesn't need to worry about "what the teacher wants", as they have a prompt and can be freer and more natural in responding to the prompt. Multiple concepts can be incorporated into a writing sample. Overall progress can be gauged rather than a specific topic or lesson.
Teachers also consider homework to be an informal assessment tool. Homework provides review of recent lessons. It is easy to grade and discuss in a classroom. Other informal assessments can be classroom debates and performances which allow the student to fully explain their comprehension through alternative assessment means. Experiments can also be defined as informal assessments. They allow students to be more holistic in their approach to demonstrating knowledge and offer kinesthetic advantages to the students. Application of knowledge is best shown with carefully designed experiments.
A. Define at least two formal (conventional) assessment types.
Two formal assessment types are the norm-referenced and the criterion referenced.
Assessment is considered to be normed or norm referenced after the same questions have been filtered throughout various testing levels over time. They are intended to be as unbiased as possible with regard to any group by age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic conditions and others so that the results are consistent. Formal criterion based assessments compare students to a standard rather than to other students.
1. Describe at least two advantages of each formal (conventional) assessment type identified.
Norm-referenced assessments are easy to administer since they are strictly monitored. Identical materials are handed out, identical times are given for completion and the same instructions are read to every student taking the assessment. Secondly, they are machine scored eliminating any possibility of human bias in scoring.
Criterion-based assessments are individualized allowing students to know where they stand in their progress toward completing learning goals. Secondly, they test specific topics, thus allows the student to know "what is on the test".
2. Describe at least two disadvantages of each formal (conventional) assessment type identified.
A disadvantage of norm-referenced assessments is that they don't test higher order thinking. Secondly, they are built upon multiply choice questions thus robbing the student of finding an answer themselves. And, if they do have an answer, and it isn't on the choices, they assume that they are wrong.
A disadvantage of criterion-based assessments is that they are very stressful for students. They know that others will clearly know how well they are doing. These are high stakes tests which may result in failing a grade. Secondly, the tests are unwieldy. Any desired changed to the questions take a great deal of time before they are issued. It is conceivable that a concept would be missed due to the inability to get new questions on the concept on the test.
B. Define at least four informal (alternative) assessment types.
Homework is an informal assessment which is defined as tasks that need to be completed outside class to provide feedback on mastery of a daily concept. A second informal assessment are writing samples which are student opinions of a concept that has been taught in class. A third informal assessment can be experiments which are explorations of topics done in class or concepts taught in class. A fourth type of informal assessment might be classroom debates which provides a concept and allows student to voice their knowledge of the topic to an opposition opinion from other students.
1. Describe at least two advantages of each informal (alternative) assessment type identified.
Not to be too obvious, but homework can be done at home, thus taking some of the pressure to perform off students. A second advantage is that homework allows students to review their notes and see what topics they might need clarification on.
An advantage of using experiments is that they allow students the freedom to get up and move around the classroom. A second advantage of experiments is that students can be as detailed or as loose as they want to be with the topic, and still be recognized for gaining knowledge.
An advantage to informally assessing writing samples is the use of the information at the beginning of the year as well as appreciating the growth when given the same writing prompt at the end of the ear. Secondly, both students and teachers can go over the writing prompts and map out a plan of action for a student.
Debate is a fourth method for informal assessment. They provide a public speaking forum allowing students to organize their thoughts into proper presentation mode when seeking approval for ideas. In addition to organizational skills, debate allows students to build confidence around their leaning and expressing of ideas.
2. Describe at least two disadvantages of each informal (alternative) assessment type identified.
One disadvantage to assessing homework, is that the teacher may be assessing the same student's work repeated 10-20 times as the other students struggle to grab the grade associated with homework. A second disadvantage is that a harried teacher may not have the time to fully explore what the assessment of the homework means as she speeds toward completing the curriculum.
A disadvantage for using experiments is cost for the equipment and the amount of time required to complete the experiments. A second disadvantage to using experiments as assessment is that many times experiments are not "connected" to the learning that is done, but rather stand alone as something a student needs to complete for a grade.
A disadvantage to using writing samples is that students see this as another assignment rather than the assessment tool it is and therefore do not feel as liberated to express their ideas as the assessment has intended. A second disadvantage to writing samples is that the student's ideas may not be well developed enough to assess and the assessment becomes a grammatical expose for the teacher to try to get through rather than assess the ideas.
Lastly, a disadvantage to debates is that student's are not always evenly paired or matched and the stronger voice will win the day. This makes the assessment of a student who is in defensive mode a little more difficult to evaluate since it might bring in emotional properties. A second disadvantage is that debates are not always convenient for the classroom, require a reasonable amount of preparation and are gone in an instant making the assessment hard to pin down