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Assessment is a process of gathering and documenting information about the achievement, skills, abilities, and personality variables of an individual.
Assessment is used in both an educational and psychological setting by teachers, psychologists, and counselors to accomplish a range of objectives. These include the following:
In the early 2000s standardized tests are increasingly used to evaluate performance in U.S. schools. Faced with declining test scores by American students when compared to others around the world, state governments and the federal government have sought ways to measure the performance of schools and bring a measurable accountability to the educational process. Thus, states and the federal government have adopted standardized tests for evaluating knowledge and skills on the assumption that testing is an effective way to measure outcomes of education. One prominent program has been the No Child Left Behind Act that requires schools to meet certain performance standards annually, for their students as a group and also for individual ethnic and racial subgroups. The use of this type of standardized tests is controversial. Many educators feel that it limits the creativity and effectiveness of the classroom teacher and produces an environment of "teaching to the test."
The choice of an assessment tool depends on the purpose or goal of the assessment. Assessments might be made to establish rankings among individual students, to determine the amount of information students have retained, to provide feedback to students on their levels of achievement, to motivate students by recognizing and rewarding good performances, to assess the need for remedial education, and to evaluate students for class placement or ability grouping. The goal of the assessment should be understood by all stakeholders in the process: students, parents, teachers, counselors, and outside experts. An assessment tool that is appropriate for one goal is often inappropriate for another, leading to misuse of data.
Assessment tools fall broadly into two groups. Traditional assessments rely on specific, structured procedures and instructions given to all test-takers by the test administrator (or to be read by the test-takers themselves). These tests are either norm-referenced or criterion-referenced tests. Standardized tests allow researchers to compare data from large numbers of students or subgroups of students. Alternative assessments are often handled on an individual basis and offer students the opportunity to be more closely involved with the recognition of their progress and to discover what steps they can take to improve.
NORM-REFERENCED ASSESSMENTS In norm-referenced assessments, one person's performance is interpreted in relation to the performance of others. A norm-referenced test is designed to discriminate among individuals in the area being measured and to give each individual a rank or relative measure regarding how he or she performs compared to others of the same age, grade, or other subgroup. Often the mean, or average score, is the reference point, and individuals are scored on how much above or below the average they fall. These tests are usually timed. Norm-referenced tests are often used to tell how a school or school district is doing in comparison to others in the state or nation.
CRITERION-REFERENCED ASSESSMENTS A criterion-referenced assessment allows interpretation of a test-taker's score in relation to a specific standard or criterion. Criterion-referenced tests are designed to help evaluate whether a child has met a specific level of performance. The individual's score is based not on how he or she does in comparison to how others perform, but on how the individual does in relation to absolute expectations about what he or she is supposed to know. An example of a criterion-referenced test is a timed arithmetic test that is scored for the number of problems answered correctly. Criterion-referenced tests measure what information an individual has retained and they give teachers feedback on the effectiveness of their teaching particular concepts.
PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT Performance assessment can be used to evaluate any learning that is skill-based or behavioral. Performance assessment requires the test-taker to perform a complex task that has to do with producing a certain product or performing a specific task. Performance assessments can be either individual or group-oriented and may involve application of real-life or workplace skills (for example, making a piece of furniture in wood shop).
AUTHENTIC ASSESSMENT Authentic assessment derives its name from the idea that it tests students in skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the real world. Authentic assessment focuses on student task performance and is often used to improve learning in practical areas. An advantage of authentic assessment is that students may be able to see how they would perform in a practical, non-educational setting and thus may be motivated to work to improve.
PORTFOLIO ASSESSMENT Portfolio assessment uses a collection of examples of the actual student's work. It is designed to advance through each grade of school with the student, providing a way for teachers and others to evaluate progress. One of the hallmarks of portfolio assessment is that the student is responsible for selecting examples of his or her own work to be placed in the portfolio. The portfolio may be used by an individual classroom teacher as a repository for work in progress or for accomplishments. Portfolios allow the teacher to evaluate each student in relation to his or her own abilities and learning style. The student controls the assessment samples, helping to reinforce the idea that he or she is responsible for learning and should have a role in choosing the data upon which he or she is judged. Portfolios are often shared by the student and teacher with parents during parent-teacher conferences.
INTERVIEW ASSESSMENT The assessment interview involves a one-on-one or small group discussion between the teacher and student, who may be joined by parents or other teachers. Standardized tests reveal little about the test-taker's thought process during testing. An interview allows the teacher or other administrator to gain an understanding of how the test-taker reached his or her answer. Individual interviews require a much greater time commitment on the part of the teacher than the administration of a standardized test to the entire class at one time. Thus, interviews are most effective when used to evaluate the achievements and needs of specific students. To be successful, interviews require both the teacher and the student to be motivated, open to discussion, and focused on the purpose of the assessment.
JOURNALS Journals have been used as part of the English curriculum since at least the 1980s. In assessment, the journal allows the student to share his or her thoughts on the learning process. A journal may substitute for or supplement a portfolio in providing a student-directed assessment of achievement and goals.
ATTITUDE INVENTORY Attitude is one component of academic success that is rarely measured objectively. An attitude inventory is designed to reveal both positive and negative (or productive and unproductive) aspects of a student's outlook toward school and learning. However, this type of assessment may be of limited use if the student's negative attitude makes him or her unwilling to actively participate in the assessment. By demonstrating a sincere interest in addressing student concerns that affect attitude, a school can improve the effectiveness of attitude inventory assessments.
COMPUTER-AIDED ASSESSMENT Computer-aided assessment is increasingly employed as a supplement to other forms of assessment. A key advantage in the use of computers is the capability of an interactive assessment to provide immediate feedback on responses. Students must be comfortable with computers and reading on a computer screen for these assessments to be successful.
Author Info: Tish Davidson A.M., Thomson Gale, Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health, 2006This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your healthcare provider. Please consult a healthcare professional with any health concerns you may have.
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