Assessment has become a bad word in education. I have to admit when I heard the word in the early 2000’s, my skin would crawl. I taught diagnostic assessment. Yes, indeed. I knew the importance of assessment in the classroom/school/program/for students. I knew I should promote it and I did the best I could. Most of us felt like it was just something else we all “had to do.”  The report, oh, the dreaded report on the assessments given in classes. For public school teachers, the results are sent and you have to justify why Johnny who moved into the classroom a month ago is not showing progress. For university faculty, it is another stinking report that you are sure now one is going to read or cares about. This is the lens we first use, when we think about assessment, regardless of those lovely bullets above.


We know that when we are mandated to do something, it makes the task less pleasurable and less likely to get done. We’re at the stage of accepting the fact that we are going to assess student learning. Let us take a different approach if we can, put on new set of glasses with new lenses. That means change the lens in our perspective and start thinking about assessment from the perspective that it will make us better instructors. So, let’s set up some assumptions about assessment, what is assessment?

Assessment is:

  • Assessment is happening in your class all of the time.
  • A part of effective planning (e.g., programs, courses, classes)
  • Design is the second step in planning how to teach (the first step is deciding what needs to be taught)
  • Focuses on how students learn
  • Assessment is for learning and of learning.
  • Used for marketing your program. It is a way to show what your students are learning to anyone who might be interested (e.g., your students, parents of students, future students, your chair, your dean, the “Board of Visitors” for your college, the school board, the Board of Trustees for your university, any accrediting body, etc.)


Assessment is Happening in Your Class All of the Time

As an effective instructor, you are “checking in” with your students to see if they understand what you are teaching. You can “check in” with your students with a quick observation of the students’ behaviors or you may choose one of the many classroom assessment tools that Instructors Learn More can help you develop. Most of these classroom assessments never get reported to anyone or put in a report. These assessments give you enough information to know whether your students understand or need a review and they do not produce a grade or points. That is okay!


Assessment is a Part of Effective Planning

Planning curriculum and instruction takes on a whole new meaning when we decide we must concretely plan what we want students to know by the end of a unit, chapter, marking period, or semester. It helps us as instructors to focus on student learning, rather than what happens to pop up in discussions.


Assessment Design is the Second Step in Planning How to Teach

Once we have decided what the goals of our course will be, we have to determine what steps the students will take to meet the goals, these are objectives. Lesson plan objectives are designed to determine the order and hierarchy of the subtasks of the concept. Once the goals and objectives are written, then we have to determine how we will know if the students have met those goals and objectives. This is assessment. Designing assessment is as important as designing how we will teach the objective/concept in class. The assessment informs us whether the students need more instruction, more pre-requisite information, or more enhanced learning at a higher level of thinking.


Focuses on How Students Learn

Assessment helps us determine how our students learn best. We know that active engagement is imperative for students in class these days. We also know that students need to read and get the foundation of each concept through reading and understanding the vocabulary, particularly Tier 3 words that are discipline specific (i.e., science vocabulary, music vocabulary, etc.)


Assessment is FOR Learning and OF Learning

Assessment can be used to help you give students feedback to assist them in learning or can be for finding out what students have learned.


Some assessments you do “for learning.”  These include assessments that you write to your students some comments and give them feedback, so that the next assignment they submit to you is done better, in other words they have learned.


Assessment of learning is what you do to evaluate learning. These are the assessments that typically lead to a grade that is reported back to the students. These may also be helpful in producing data for you to use to “show off” what your students have learned in your program. These data may be used to find out how to improve your course or your program as well, which may certainly meet the requirements of any accrediting body.


Assessment Can Be Used as a Marketing Tool for Your Program

I dislike the idea of marketing and education in the same sentence more than anyone. However, in this day and age, we need to focus on sharing with others what a fabulous job we are doing teaching our students. Educators have been maligned for too long. To push back against this movement, a tool we can use is assessment. Let’s show off our students’ accomplishments. Yes, only their parents want to really know and some students don’t have much to share. Overall, we have enough data to show what students have learned cognitively, socially, emotionally and physically. Not to mention those skills we don’t formally assess like inter and intrapersonal communication, affective skills.


As educators and researchers, we have an extraordinary ability to analyze data and figure out how to solve problems and/or how to continue a certain method to replicate success. Interpreting and analyzing your assessments in your classes or for your programs is simply research. Figuring out what we expect to find, identifying a way to find it, collecting the data, analyzing the data and developing conclusions based on that data. It really is just that simple.


As educators, we are always looking for ways to find solutions to problems and teach those problem-solving skills to our students. Assessments are just a tool to use to improve our teaching, our courses, our programs and most importantly, a way to “show off” what our students are accomplishing in our programs.

Dodi Hodges, PhD, Instructors Learn More LLC

At Instructors Learn More, we are always looking for new assessments we can share with you in the PK-12 classroom, the university classroom or in corporate training labs. We would like to hear from you. Contact us with your responses (please copy and paste the question prior to your response) to any or all of the following questions:

  • How and when do you use assessment?
  • What tools do you use?
  • What is your favorite or go to assessment to check on student learning?
  • What information do you share with parents/companies to demonstrate your students’ success?

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