What is assessment?

Assessment is a process of gathering evidence of student learning to inform instructional decisions (Chappuis, Stiggins, Arter, & Chappuis, 2005). The results of these assessments should be used by all stakeholders including administration, teachers, students, and parents to inform program, staffing, professional development, instructional, financial, and personal decisions. Student assessments include both formative and summative assessments (Iowa Core Curriculum: Iowa Department of Education).

Summative assessments provide a snapshot of how the student is doing at that point in time. They may be periodic quizzes, end of unit tests, probes, interim tests, end-of-course tests, or standardized tests. These are used for formative evaluation of programs and grading (Iowa Core Curriculum: Iowa Department of Education).

Formative assessment is a process used by teachers and students as part of instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning to improve students’ achievement of core content. As assessment for learning, formative assessment practices provide students with clear learning targets, examples, and models of strong and weak work, regular descriptive feedback, and the ability to self-assess, track learning, and set goals (Iowa Core Curriculum: Iowa Department of Education).

Why use assessment?

  • To inform instructional decision making by providing information about how and what students are learning (Stiggins & Chappuis, 2005).
  • To obtain information early enough in the decision making process to influence student learning (Iowa Department of Education).
  • To inform students about their own learning so they can focus their energies where they are likely to be most effective (Stiggins & Chappuis, 2008).
  • To refine instructional programs in ways that enhance student success (Stiggins & Chappuis, 2008).
  • To determine whether student subgroups, public schools, and local education agencies make adequate yearly progress (Iowa Department of Education).

What does the research say about assessment?

  • Assessment involves identifying appropriate standards and criteria and making judgments about quality. Assessment therefore needs to be seen as an indispensable accompaniment to lifelong learning (Boud, 2000).
  • Effective assessments for learning practices have the potential to greatly increase both student achievement and motivation (Black & William, 1998).
  • Studies of formative assessment show an effect size on standardized tests of between 0.4 and 0.7, larger than most known educational interventions (Black & William, 1998).
  • Educators have concluded that testing once a year does not provide sufficient evidence to inform many crucial, more frequently made instructional decisions (Stiggins & Chappuis, 2006).