Assessments For Learning

As teachers in the 21st century, much of our job is collecting data that can be used to understand effectiveness in learning styles and student understanding. This data can be collected in a number of different ways. The most popular method being standardized tests, which have received much scrutiny as of late. Most say that these tests are daunting, and promote stress and anxiety among students. The biggest problem with standardized tests is that they do not assess for learning, but rather after learning. This means that they do not allow teachers to “understand or apply the strategies that have been proven to increase student learning”(Stiggins 4).

Teachers prefer to utilize formative assessments to assess student understanding in the classroom. Formative assessments are not standardized and take place multiple times throughout the semester, this way they can assess learning over different subjects. These assessments can be a number of different types, including quizzes, projects, or even a simple exit ticket that takes five minutes to complete.

Teachers often use objectives to guide both their lessons and formative assessments. Objectives are important because they “apply to the class as a whole, and to each individual within”(Zevin 170). This means that they cover both the class and individual learning. They also make it easier on the instructor to craft formative assessments, as they have a guide to any questions they may create. Formative assessments are not limited to only the classroom, which is also important to 21st century education.

Now that some learn through online courses, formative assessments need to adapt, because even online students need to have their understanding assessed. Like standardized tests, formative assessments have their problems. These assessments can often be “distorted by problems concerning validity and reliability”(Zevin 172). This means that some assessments inaccurately assess student learning. This could be from a variety of different reasons. It could be that the students collaborated or cheated on their answers, meaning the instructor can not accurately assess whether they learned or not.

Formative assessments allow the instructor to assess student learning throughout the course and on specific topics. Standardized assessments however only assess how the student understands the entirety of the course, all in one go, which is not effective.