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What Do We Need to Assess, Why and How?

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The problem of control and assessment of perception and mastering level of the new material by students, maturity of skills and abilities, applications of new knowledge in various situations is a difficult and versatile one. World technologies of knowledge assessment are of great interest. The introduction of different assessment tools has a number of essential advantages as provided objectivity of assessment at profitability of time costs and costs of energy of students and teachers. 

A primary purpose of assessment is to enhance learning. Another purpose is to enable the reporting of students’ achievement. Assessment practices have a powerful impact on learning and teaching. Developing a shared understanding of the outcomes enhances the validity and consistency of judgments about students’ learning.  In turn, this improves learning and teaching by improving the quality of information upon which teachers and students act (Curriculum Council of Western Australia, 2004, p.37). 

According to the Curriculum Council of Western Australia (2004), assessment should be valid (assessment objects should correspond to the project goals); reliable (uniform standards or criteria should be used); fair (different students should have equal possibilities to become successful); developing (it should fix what students can and how to improve the results); timely (supporting developing feedback); and, at last, effective (feasible and not to take away the whole time of teachers and students).

McMillan (2007) defines assessment as “the gathering, interpretation, and use of information to aid teacher decision making”. He emphasizes that a teacher should present 6 stages for the student before the beginning of assessment: knowledge, understanding, application, analysis, synthesis, self-estimation. It is desirable for a teacher to remember that it is not recommended to apply any definite technology, if he does not like it, to choose technology which is aimed only at control, and to apply the same technology constantly at different grade levels and with different teaching materials. (McMillan, 2007, p.5, p.17). 

The role of assessment in teaching and learning presents targets and standards as first steps to determining essentials of high quality classroom assessments. Formative and product assessment is explained with examples illustrating objective, selected response, short answer, and essay items. Performance assessment for deep understanding and reasoning skills includes criteria for rubrics, portfolios, and grading and reporting student progress to various constituents including parents. Also included is a discussion on the scope of a teacher’s professional role and responsibilities for student assessment (McMillan, 2007). 

There are several main criteria for the choice of the assessment tools:

  • Assessment tools should be based on the educational goals; a teacher should pay attention of pupils to the assessment tools in the process of teaching.
  • The ones make the process of the work fulfillment be goal-oriented and assessment-transparent.
  • Assessment tools supposed to be understandable for pupils.
  • These means expected to be chosen together with pupils before the beginning of the process of education.

According to McMillan (2011), new technologies and assessment tools are actively applied at universities of Europe and the USA. They can be figuratively divided into “hidden” and “open”. They have their merits and demerits. The basic advantage of these technologies consists in their variety and orientation more on the training function than on the supervising one. It gives the chance to apply these or those assessment tools depending on the level of students, character of a studied material, purposes and educational goals. 

Of course there is formative assessment (ongoing evaluation of student progress, e.g., quizzes and immediate feedback), summative assessment (after-learning evaluation, e.g., a major test or a grade), criterion-reference tests (CRTs, e.g., measuring how well a student learns a specific knowledge or skill set), standards-based assessment (a CRT based on expectations for a student in a particular grade), performance assessment (show that you know it), authentic assessment (demonstrate real-world application), portfolio assessment (collect evidence to show what you know), and more (Rivero, 2010, p.13). 

Focused Listing represents the “hidden” assessment and can be applied both prior to the beginning of the target theme and after it. In the first case, the level of theme knowledge is determined prior to the beginning of text studying or prior to the beginning of lecture reading comes to light, in the second case, level of understanding and mastering of a new material is determined. It is offered to constitute the list of the concepts connected with a theme or a problem, and to make their determination or interpretation. It is necessary to distinguish some advantages such as immediate feedback, training to causes and effect relationships, logicality, allocation of a main thing, preparation of students for “brain storm”, a teacher has no need to check tests at home. Disadvantages include complications of the individual assessment.

Direct Paraphrasing is used for paraphrasing lectures, chapters, books and texts by own words. The purpose of this method is to establish the degree of understanding of lecture, book, and text, i.e. to receive feedback. The teacher’s task is to select the best answers and to give students examples or samples.

Focused Dialectical Notes concerns the hidden assessment. The list of questions for the student to answer or to comment is given before the lecture, text or literary work. It is desirable to use the text where there are the various points of view for students to get acquainted with the different arguments. The given kind of assessment develops critical thinking, learns to allocate the main thing. However, such a form of work is complicated enough and should be applied often for students to get used to it and have developed skills of search and arguing.

Concept Map represents the hidden, compact type of assessment. Cards illustrate associations of students on the set themes and help to estimate the degree of their understanding of important mutual relations of different components and tasks, their place in a general system. This sort of work is productive for a big theoretical material.

Wall Charts. It is better to use it for estimation of the level of understanding and memorizing of events and facts or main characters from books. The table consists of 3-4 points: Who/that? What is famous for? When? Why? Consequences. The given kind of work can be applied as a competition between two teams or individually. It helps to systematize material, promotes its best memorizing.

Quiz helps the teacher to understand what is difficult or interesting for students. Such way of work should be used spontaneously, without preparation, in groups of 3-4 persons.

Questioning is the semi-hidden or open kind of assessment depending on what type of the questionnaire is chosen. In the anonymous questionnaire, it is openly asked what is clear and what is not; what forms of work are the most interesting, etc.

Portfolio is one of the most widespread new technologies for the assessment of students’ works. It is a collection of student’s works for the certain period (usual for a term or academic year) which is considered either from the view of the student’s progress or from the standpoint of conformity to the training program and training standards. The systematic approach to assessment which facilitates the process of education can be leveled as the advantage. It is possible to see work of the student in dynamics and to estimate various skills and abilities. The given system accustoms students to hand over works in time and, at the same time, allows executing them in feasible rate for them. Among the disadvantages are the following: it is difficult to warrant that the criteria of assessment of works used by the teacher are always applied truly. Nevertheless, this method together with other technologies of assessment shows good results. (McMillan, 2007, chapter 9).

Moreover, a teacher should not forget that correct application of assessment tools – correct interpretation of its results – is only a part of a problem. The main thing is a reception of the positive results and search for ways of improvement of these consequences as assessment is not an end in itself but a diagnostics method. The diversity of assessment tools not only helps to measure achievements of students, but also to promote the development of their creative potential and critical thinking.

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