There is perhaps no more important element of learning than the assessment. Assessments are a great way to gauge student understanding, help teachers discern what went wrong when students don't achieve expected results and help parents understand what is happening in the classroom.
Educators use assessments to design instruction that enables students to increase academic achievement. Education professionals with an advanced degree in teaching with a specialization in elementary education are given the tools to assess student learning with effective strategies and proven tools. In fact, assessing progress has become compulsory, and assessment tools are necessary instruments used in most elementary schools across the county. Experts agree test scores would not be a surprise if all teachers had an assessment toolbox they used in the classroom.
An Educational Check-Up
Assessments are classified according to their specific purpose. Jody Durgin, teacher and education blogger, says there are so many assessments available, including formative, summative, informal, formal, standardized, diagnostic, benchmark and others, it can feel very overwhelming to educators.
In a recent blog post, Durgin writes, "The definition of a formative assessment in the education field is a type of informal assessment that teachers use to quickly and effectively collect student data and use the results to not only track their student's progress but also to inform and drive their instruction."
Formative and summative are two types of commonly used assessments that serve different purposes. Here are some key similarities and differences between the two:
- The goal of formative assessments is to monitor student learning and inform instruction, and summative evaluations aim to evaluate student learning.
- Formative assessments are given during a unit of study, and summative assessments are given at the end of a unit.
- Formative assessments focus on students' performance and needs, and summative assessments normalize students' scores and compare them against a predetermined standard of achievement.
- Formative assessments have little to no impact on a student's grade, but summative assessments significantly impact a student's grade.
Standardized tests like the ACT and the SAT are examples of summative assessments which allow students to show what they have learned. Formative assessments let students show what they are learning.
An Indispensable Tool
Teachers must be discerning when assessing students. A recent report from Edutopia explains that less is more with assessments and keeping it simple is the best approach. The point of a formative assessment is not a grade. Rather, it's an opportunity to get a basic read on progress.
Assessment tools and strategies might include:
- Entry and exit times: Taking advantage of those hidden moments at the minutes top and bottom of the class can provide great opportunities to find out what students remember.
- Polls, quizzes and in-class games work to find out what kids really know.
- Quick checks, or dipsticks, are easy and fast assessments, like checking the oil in a car using a dipstick. Activities like asking students to sketch out a new idea or write a letter to a friend explaining a key concept are effective dipsticks.
- Informal interviews, or casual classroom chats, put students at ease and give teachers a sense of the situation.
- Art as an assessment tool is effective with elementary students. Drawing and creating often helps students synthesize their learning.
- Self-assessment is empowering. Students who are consulted can often spot their own strengths and weakness.
Measuring Student Progress to Inform Teaching
These tools are meant to let teachers see what students know and understand very quickly. Proper, accurate assessments are critical at every level of education as they provide teachers with the necessary data to evaluate students and pinpoint areas of difficulty. A new report from the Center for Effective Reading says teachers must regularly assess student progress to adjust instruction as needed and help ensure that no students fall behind.
Assessment stresses the importance of critical thinking and reasoning. It informs instruction and can help build content mastery by reducing test anxiety, notes The Resilient Educator.
Educators looking to hone their assessment skills while also seeking a pathway to initial teaching licensure might consider the online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching with a Specialization in Elementary Education from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP). Gain the necessary skills to conduct assessments and apply many teaching strategies to today's diverse learners. This online degree will enrich your teaching experience and allow you to achieve full licensure to teach in North Carolina.
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