Match Assessments to the Purposes for Assessment
Sound assessment begins when you define the content of the
assessment (the student standards or goals to be assessed) and
the purpose for the assessment. Below are examples of how purpose
can affect assessment design:
- A single multiple-choice or short answer multiplication
test may be perfectly acceptable to determine whether or
not third graders have learned their multiplication
facts, but would not be appropriate for making a decision
about the overall quality of the third grade mathematics
- A short answer or multiple-choice assessment designed to
measure student knowledge of specific scientific
principles might be useful for partially determining a
student's grade. However, inferring that this assessment
sufficiently measures the student's ability to perform
scientific tasks would be a mistake; instead, measuring
the student's understanding of these principles would
require observing the student applying that scientific
knowledge in a laboratory setting.
- Some assessments are used mostly to gather information
about students in order to make decisions about them -
for example, grading or certifying competence. Other
assessments are designed to involve students more fully
in their own assessment and thus serve an instructional
function. This distinction between assessment to
"monitor" and assessment to "teach"
has implications for assessment design.
- Herman, Aschbacher, and Winters (1992) describe two basic
monitoring purposes for assessment. Different kinds of
assessment are most appropriate for each purpose:
- The first purpose is to determine whether or not
students have acquired specific knowledge or
skills. The assessment should focus on the
products of student learning using selected
answer tests (such as multiple choice) and direct
assessment of projects and student products.
- The second purpose is to diagnose student
strengths and weaknesses and plan appropriate
instruction. Because we are interested in
understanding where the student is going wrong,
we need to assess the process as well as the
product. Interviews, documented observations,
student learning logs and/or self- evaluations,
behavioral checklists, and student think-alouds
are useful assessment strategies for assessing
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