Purpose of Assessment
In modern pedagogy, assessment is an essential component of the learning process. As previously mentioned, assessment is the systematic collection and analysis of information to gain information related to student and teacher performance. Assessment may be used to inform many aspects of the learning process and includes teacher planning and instruction, identification of children who may be at risk, program quality, and policy development.
Assessment guides teacher planning. Knowledge of development across the grade levels typically guides teacher planning; however, skills and abilities from students from one year to the next may vary and require teachers to modify their practices. As such, information about student performance may be used to identify student strengths and weaknesses, which in turn can be used to inform instructional design and set SMART goals for students. Specifically, SMART goals are Specific, Aleasureable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time- bound. Assessment results can be used to help the classroom teacher identify patterns in academic performance across students. For example, a teacher may give a reading assessment and identify students who may need to focus on decoding skills while other students need to focus on reading fluency. The teacher can use this information to divide the classroom into small groups, some that focus on providing evidence-based instruction for decoding and some that focus on fluency. In this manner, assessment can also be used to help select evidence-based strategies and curriculums that are specific to the needs of students. Selecting evidence-based curriculums is only effective if the child’s needs are accurately identified, which is challenging to do without assessment. Finally, a component of instruction that may be overlooked is student interest and engagement. Children demonstrate more motivation and engagement when lessons incorporate student interests. Assessment can also be used to gather information related to student interests. For example, a kindergarten teacher may read aloud stories about dinosaurs during storytime after most children have expressed an interest in the topic in a graph completed during a morning meeting.
Assessment helps identify children at risk or with delays. For many parents, educators are the first professionals who provide them with expert feedback on their child’s development. This is inclusive of positive statements related to acquisition of developmental milestones and acquisition of grade-level content, but may also include sentiments of concern for developmental delays and learning problems. Educators do not want to worry parents unnecessarily and often express concerns for delays only when they have sufficient evidence, such as continuous progress monitoring data. Assessment serves to inform educator decisions about whether a child may be at risk. There are a variety of assessment methods, which will be discussed later in this chapter, that may be employed to understand a child’s strengths and weaknesses. When children are identified as at-risk, they may be referred for additional assessment to determine whether delays are due to a disability and whether they may be eligible for special education services. Generally, the school professional completing these diagnostic assessments is the school psychologist. A school psychologist is an educational professional with expertise in developmental and behavioral disabilities and psychoeducational assessment. Additionally, a school psychologist is able to implement social-emotional, behavioral, and academic interventions.
Assessment helps inform program quality and policy. Assessment may also serve to promote program quality and inform policies relevant to child development and education. A school administrator working at a school that recently adopted a new math curriculum may want to know whether teachers were provided with sufficient training to appropriately implement the curriculum or whether they may need additional professional development support. Assessment tools may be used to help this administrator answer their question. As such, the administrator collects data related to curriculum fidelity to determine whether teachers are implementing the curriculum as designed. Results of the assessment may be used to determine whether additional training or consultation is needed. Similarly, schools may conduct assessments to determine the school climate in order to gain information related to staff, teacher, and student attitudes toward school.
Data collected on a large scale, such as school-wide or district-wide data, can be helpful in identifying strengths and weaknesses within systems. Consistent data patterns may be used to inform policy at various levels. For example, several parents in a school district complain that their children are not receiving enough physical activity. As such, the school administrator for the district leads an effort to collect data that measures the relationship between the amount of recess and physical education and the academic grades for children in elementary schools within the district. Results suggest that in schools where more time is allotted to physical activity, students perform better in reading and math. These results help inform the school administrator’s decision to have all schools within the district allocate a minimum amount of time for physical activity.