The primary purpose of assessment in the classroom is to improve student achievement. Educators need to keep this in mind when developing high quality assessment tools. An effective assessment tool should clearly communicate students expectations, enable students to reflect on their work, and not be repeatedly used. Let us examine each of these ideas further.
When creating an assessment tool, teachers should ensure that they use student-friendly language. After all, if students do not understand what the success criteria for the task is, how are they to fulfill them. Consider the following example of a rubric used to assess a Grade 4 task of making inferences from a text:
Level 4: Student uses processing skills with a high degree of effectiveness.
Level 3: Student uses processing skills with considerable effectiveness.
Level 2: Student uses processing skills with some effectiveness.
Level 1: Student uses processing skills with limited effectiveness.
The student who sees this rubric would have no idea of what needs to be done to get a level 4. Instead, the student would be better served by a rewording of the success criteria in simpler, and more specific terms.
Level 4: Student makes inferences using stated and implied ideas from the text as evidence with a high degree of effectiveness.
Level 3: Student makes inferences using stated and implied ideas from the text as evidence with considerable effectiveness.
Level 2: Student makes inferences using stated and implied ideas from the text as evidence with some effectiveness.
Level 1: Student makes inferences using stated and implied ideas from the text as evidence with limited effectiveness.
Now, the student understands that he is to come up with inferences from a text, and he needs to explain how he came up with them citing ideas from the text. With a clearer understanding of the requirements of the task, we can expect higher student achievement as a result. If the role of teachers is to facilitate learning rather than being the source of knowledge, then we need to involve students in the assessment process.
When assessments are done, it is important to provide opportunities for self-reflection and peer assessment to develop student metacognition skills. Such skills are essential for students in identifying their strengths and areas of need, and will help them become better learners.
Also, it is important that teachers do not fall in love with any one assessment tool – they all have their advantages and disadvantages. For example, a checklist can be a quick and simple way of assessing student achievement of certain learning goals, but it does not provide much information on the degree of achievement. Observational notes provide teachers with a lot of qualitative data on student performance, but can be biased and can miss important information. Therefore, it is essential that teachers employ a variety of assessment tools in the classroom.
The following link includes handy printouts of assessment tools that teachers can use.