Student assessment is a fundamental link between effective learning and teaching. Student assessment is a measurement instrument of student outcomes. The assessment process can be more than an evaluation that leads to a grade in a course or on an assignment. It should however be noted that student evaluation is the end result of successful learning and teaching assessment.
Two educational entities web sites that describe their student assessment process
The two websites visited include; The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and Instructional Assessment Resources (IAR). The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the biggest national representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and perform in various subject areas. NAEP conducts assessment periodically in Mathematics, Reading, Science, Writing, Arts, Civics, Economics, Geography and U.S History (NAEP, 2011). NAEP assessments are carried out uniformly using the same sets of test booklets across the country. NAEP assessment results are used to serve a common metric for all states and selected urban districts (NAEP, 2011).
NAEP assesses students based on the subject on the matter achievement, instructional experiences. The assessment results of NAEP are dependent on representative samples of students at grades 4, 8 and 12 for the main assessments (Beatty, 1994). NAEP also uses samples of students at ages 9, 13, or 17 years for the long-term trend assessments. The ages and grades are considered because they represent important stages in student’s academic achievement (NAEP, 2011). NAEP conducts both national and state assessments. The national assessments cover a broad range of subjects such as Reading, Mathematics, Science, Writing, Arts, Civics, Economics, Geography, and U.S History. NAEP (2011) indicated that “these assessments follow the frameworks developed by the National Assessment Governing Board. For national assessments, students in public and private schools are assessed but at state level, NAEP conducts assessment in public schools only”.
According to Instructional Assessment Resources (IAR) student’s assessment involves data collection from accepted analysis methods in order to monitor, draw conclusions, make recommendations and improve student learning (IAR, 2011). The Instructional Assessment Resources (IAR) follows three main steps which include planning, gathering data and reporting results. IAR first considers the subject area, difficulty, constraints, expected student results and other features of the course or activity which sets the frame of reference for all subsequent planning decisions in a student assessment (IAR, 2011).
It is important to determine whether the process will use the assessment to informally monitor student work, provide feedback, document progress and to formally evaluate student knowledge. IAR (2011) publication mentioned that it is important to decide how often the assessment process will be conducted. An assessment plan is significant because it details how to implement the assessment. The plan includes the course learning objectives, assessment points, the assessment methods and the performance criteria for each method (IAR, 2011).
During the IAR student assessment process, data gathering focuses on the best way to implement the various assessment methods (IAR, 2011). The process should put emphasis on the processes and methods to assess student learning, performance criteria for all approaches used and ethical or grading concerns (IAR, 2011). Using the IAR student assessment process, at the start and end of the semester, students complete assessments that are used to determine their strengths and opportunities for improvement in areas of strategic learning. IAR publication notifies that the results of this assessment do not affect their final grade in the course (IAR, 2011).
NAEP student assessment process intends students answer questions based on a variety of age appropriate reading materials such as stories, poems reports and advertisements. According to NAEP (2008) publication “Trends in Academic Progress” the assessment process is designed to measure student’s ability to locate specific information in the text provided, make inferences based on information in two or more parts of the text and identify the main idea in the text. The publication continues to say that “students reading skills were assessed using multiple-choice questions and some constructed response questions” (NAEP, 2008, p. 8).
The NAEP (2008) publication also stated that “the skills and abilities shown by students performing at different points on the reading scale help to provide additional context for understanding changes in students performance over time” (p. 12). Using the NAEP student assessment processes, the results obtained are in terms of average scale scores, percentiles and five performance levels. The assessment results are described by race, gender and type of school (Beatty, 1994).
Identify the goals and assumptions inherent in these processes and assessment instruments.
The goal of student assessment is to show reliable evidence that learning relative to course goals has occurred (Siebert & McIntosh, 2001). The assessment is congruent with this role because they put more emphasis on the measurement of learning outcomes over more course completion. Apart from measuring the outcomes, assessment can be used to inform instruction. Siebert & McIntosh (2001) says that through studying the students in the class and collecting data that inform about the progress hence establish the effectiveness of the teaching practice. Siebert & McIntosh (2001) also noted that “a well designed assessment can be used as a learning tool by students hence assessments provide students with feedback on the efficacy of their study habits and therefore allow students to assess their own learning” (p. 57).
Another goal of assessment is that they help students to provide information only on what students know and do not know based on that assessment, taken on that day (Psencik, 2009). Student’s assessment measures their perceptions of their teacher’s practices in the same domains and allows comparisons of the discrepancies between each student and their teachers perceptions of classroom practices in each domain of classroom practice McCombs & Miller (2008). In addition, Psencik (2009) says that through student assessment, teams involved establishment a commitment to mapping as one of several tools they will develop together for their learning as well as their students learning. Assessment results are used to determine the retention or promotion of students, rating of schools based on single test data, or differentiated pay for staff whose students score high.
Student assessment can be part of every instructional opportunity and experience. Avery (2003) mentioned that “the data gathered during the assessment process serves to improve the instruction and ensure student learning” (p. 20). They are used to measure student learning outcomes, and the process is iterative, cyclical and leads to action. In addition, Avery (2003) also says that an effective assessment plan will produce data to show that students are learning and we are accountable and to depict the integral value of librarians to the educational process.
While carrying out the student assessment process, the assumptions cannot be overlooked. Psencik (2009) noted that the first assumption is that professional learning communities who are most successful engage in rigorous learning through designing aligned, reliable and valid assessment instruments. Psencik thus says that there should be continuous learning of new ways of and for assessing student learning and work to develop powerful instruments (2009).
The second assumption is that the more teachers are involved in the process with the students, the deeper the teachers and students understand the student’s progress and the goals students need to set for themselves (Psencik, 2009). The third assumption is that as teaching teams design and use common assessments of and for learning, they will develop deeper understanding of the concepts and standards for their courses of study. Psencik (2009) also says that “it is assumed that during the assessment process, the teams will begin to visualize what students are actually doing when they are proficient, and explore new and different instructional strategies”(p. 65).
Analyze the instrument's quality and appropriateness.
The design and implementation of an effective assessment tool in a school, school district, or state presents many challenges hence there is a need for a careful assessment of the instruments quality and appropriateness. Doran (2002) says that “an appropriate instrument must use format that enable students to demonstrate what they know and what they can do” (p. 15). An appropriate instrument and tasks must collect relevant data and information that are consistent, informative, reliable and valid to all students (Doran, 2002). In this context, it can be noted that both IAR and NAEP instruments are appropriate because they are flexible, adaptable enough to accommodate a variety of learning styles and language proficiencies, enabling students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in multiple ways.
The assessments must be consistent with the decision they are designed to inform. Siebert & McIntosh (2001) noted that achievement and opportunity to learn science must be assessed. Also the technical quality of the data collected is well matched to the decision and actions taken on the basis of their interpretation. In addition the inferences made from assessments about student achievement and opportunity to learn must be sound (Siebert & McIntosh, 2001). Another important feature of assessment is that it is an ongoing process aimed at understanding and improving student learning. Siebert & McIntosh (2001) indicated that “student assessment involves making our expectations explicit and public, setting the necessary criteria and high standards for learning quality” (p. 58). The assessment process is governed by systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to establish how well performance matched the expectations and standards. Assessment helps key stakeholder to focus on their collective attention, examine their assumptions and create a shared academic culture dedicated to assuring and improving the quality of education (Siebert & McIntosh, 2001).
In her studies, Avery (2003) noted that classroom-level assessment can take relatively simple forms. This assessment process is legitimate and highly informative and implementation and data analysis are easily managed. The classroom assessment techniques (CATs) give continuous feedback and therefore it enables us to be confident students are learning. Avery (2003) further says that CATs also can be used to obtain formative or summative student learning information. Through student assessment process we are able to determine if students have obtained critical thinking skills, the behaviors and the abilities to synthesize crucial concepts and ideas.
National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) student assessment process enables institutions to capture the bigger picture of student information literacy skills. Avery (2003) noted that “information literacy assessment within a classroom setting includes strategies that focus on course syllabus, products for the course and the process by which students create those products” (p. 10). The methodologies used in this assessment process include evaluation of bibliographies, reviews of assignments and underscore the research process and the use of portfolios or journals. In order to make these assessment processes to be effective the goals and objectives of the instruction must be explicit and fully understood by the students as well as the teacher (Avery, 2003).
While carrying out the assessment in Instructional Assessment Resources (IAR), the assessment tools are matched with both the definition or theory being used and the goals of the assessment (Starko, 2009). The first assumption while carrying out this assessment is that no one assessment has sufficient reliability and validity to be the sole determination of student educational opportunities. This implies that it is important to have different sources of information. Starko (2009) indicated that “other sources of student information required in the assessment process include standardized tests, performance assessments, and behavioral observation” (p. 307). In Instructional Assessment Resources (IAR) it is recommended that the multiple sources of student information are examined rather than creating an artificial, summed creativity score.
In addition, Horvat, Block & Kelly (2007) says that most assessment tools are selected based on very practical consideration such as how easy they are or how much time they require to administer. The appropriateness of assessment tools is based on the complexity and subjective nature of many of the behaviors being assessed or if there is ambiguity as to whether a student is consistently demonstrating improvement. Beatty (1994) on the other hand identified that the appropriateness of an assessment tool is dependent on the range of constructed response exercises to stimulate thinking and a wide array of stimuli. IAR assessment exercises were innovative in other respects. Beatty (1994) says that one limitation of this type of assessment is that it frequently presents pieces of information or problems to be solved in isolation. IAR encourages students to consider several different aspects of the subject and have greater opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding.
NAEP assessment tool also encourages students to consider several different aspects of the subject and have greater opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. Beatty (1994) NAEP strategy uses two longer sets of exercises known as theme blocks. This assessment tool gives the students the opportunity to showcase their ability to work with a variety of primary and secondary sources to use several different sources at once and to synthesize a body of information. Beatty (1994) says that NAEP also uses multiple choice questions and the assessment includes both short and extended constructed response questions. The advantage of this instrument is that each constructed response question is scored according to a scoring guide or rubric that gives credit for partially correct answers.
In conclusion, students assessment process plays an important role in measuring the effectiveness of student learning and teaching process. Both Instructional Assessment Resources (IAR) and National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) student assessment processes require a clear definition of goals and objectives of carrying the procedures. The process employed should be flexible, adjustable enough to take care of a variety of learning styles and language proficiencies. This enables students to reveal their knowledge and talents in numerous ways.