Guiding Principles in the Assessment of Learning

The teaching cycle is not complete without the assessment of learning. This Chapter will be devoted to a discussion of the guiding principles in the assessment of learning and on assessment tools in the three phases of instruction. The discussion and presentation will not be very detailed. Here are some guiding principles in the assessment of learning.

1. Assessment of learning is an integral part teaching—learning process.

We teach with a certain objective to attain. After we have taught, then it is logical that we find out how well we have attained our lesson objective, thus we engage ourselves in the process of assessment. Assessment obviously is a sine qua non of teaching. What we do after we have taught is determined by the assessment results that we get after teaching. Shall we do corrective measures like remedial instruction? Or shall we proceed to teach the next competency? The answers to these questions depend on assessment results. If our lesson objective has been attained then we proceed to teach the next competency. If not, then we find out why it has not been attained then resort to a corrective measure after which we assess learning once again. The process is an integral part of teaching. The formative evaluation must be done frequently to determine learning that early for us to be able to make adjustments to our lesson in accordance with information gathered.

If assessment or evaluation is built into the teaching-learning process, students’ allergy to tests may be cured because it becomes very common and natural to them. Students are made to understand that the purpose of assessment is to check on learning.

2. Assessment tool should match with performance objective.

Which assessment tool to use, which test to formulate must be based on our performance objective. If our assessment tool is aligned with our performance objective, we can claim our assessment tool to be valid. In the concrete, this means that if we want to teach our students how to dance the cha-cha, and we want find out in the end if they are now able to dance the cha-cha, we simply play the music and see them dance it. Our performance test is aligned with our performance objective, therefore, it is valid. If, however, we make use, of a written test and ask our students to write down the steps of cha-cha from the first to the last step to’ measure their ability to dance it as explicitly stated in our performance objective, our evaluation tool is far from being valid. To write down the steps of cha-cha in order is one thing. To dance it is another thing.

Many a time we want to teach the skills of critical and creative thinking to our students. How noble an objective! But we lament the observation that in practice most of our assessment tools, say a written test, measure only simple recall and comprehension.

Other than written and performance tests as assessment methodologies, is “product assessment “classified into written and physical. (Danielson, 2002) Danielson gives examples of written products — term papers, short play, laboratory report, newspaper articles, and letters to public officials… Physical products are dioramas, sculptures, or photographs (Danielson, 2002)

3. The results of assessment must be fed back to the learners.

If the main purpose of assessment is to find out how well the leaner has attained a particular learning objective, it goes without saying that the assessment process serves its purpose only when we return corrected quizzes, tests, seat works, assignments, and evaluated projects at the soonest time possible. How else will our pupils/students know whether they are progressing towards the benchmark set at the beginning of the class by way of our performance objective? How pathetic is the plight of students who are subjected to quizzes, tests, assignments and seat works who never get to know at the end how well they have performed in such assessment activities!

4. Teachers must consider learners’ learning styles and multiple intelligences.

In assessing learning, teachers must consider learners’ learning styles and multiple intelligences and so must come up with a variety of ways of assessing learning. It is unfortunate that, except for some performance tests conducted in the Physical Education and Science laboratory classes, most tests are written. With our written tests, our “language smart” students are always at an advantage. However, that would be at the disadvantage of the kinesthetically intelligent, the musically intelligent the spatially intelligent. (Howard Gardner’s MI theory and Silver’s and Hanson’s learning styles are discussed in Unit I, Chapter L)

These learning styles and multiple intelligences are considered in our assessment activities if they are integrated in our assessment ak9vities themselves. We may not be able to integrate all learning styles and multiple intelligences in one assessment activity but what we can do is to strive to take into consideration as many learning styles and multiple intelligences as possible. The traditional assessment practice of giving writ-ten test is quite inadequate. We need to introduce other techniques like portfolio assessment and other authentic assessment tools.

The MI Assessment Contexts of Thomas Armstrong (1994) may give us creative ideas in our attempt to come up with a variety of assessment or evaluation techniques. (Take note that in the table, Armstrong presented only 7 intelligences then.) There are now an eight and a ninth intelligence, the naturalist intelligence and existentialist intelligence, respectively.

MI Assessment Contexts

Linguistic TaskLogical-Mathematical TaskSpatial TaskMusical TaskBodily-Kinesthetic TaskInterpersonal TaskIntrapersonal Task
Linguistic AssessmentRead a book, then write a response.Examine a statistical chart, then write a response.Watch a movie, then write a response.Listen to a piece of music, then write a response.Go on a field trip, then write a response.Play a cooperative game, then write a response.Think about a personal experience, then write a response.
Logical-Mathematical AssessmentRead a book, then develop a hypothesis.Examine a statistical chart, then develop a hypothesis.Watch a movie, then develop a hypothesis.Listen to a piece of music, then develop a hypothesis.Go on a field trip, then develop a hypothesis.Play a cooperative game, then develop a hypothesis.Think about a personal experience, then develop a hypothesis.
Spatial AssessmentRead a book, then draw a picture.Examine a statistical chart, then draw a picture.Watch a movie, then draw a picture.Listen to a piece of music, then draw a picture.Go on a field trip, then draw a picture.Play a cooperative game, then draw a picture.Think about a personal experience, then draw a picture.
Musical AssessmentRead a book, then create a song.Examine a statistical chart, then create a song.Watch a movie, then create a song.Listen to a piece of music, then create a song.Go on a field trip, then create a song.Play a cooperative game, then create a song.Think about a personal experience, then create a song.
Bodily-Kinesthetic AssessmentRead a book, then build a model.Examine a statistical chart, then build a model.Watch a movie, then build a model.Listen to a piece of music, then build a model.Go on a field trip, then build a model.Play a cooperative game, then build a model.Think about a personal experience, then build a model.
Interpersonal AssessmentRead a book, then share with a friend.Examine a statistical chart, then share with a friend.Watch a movie, then share with a friend.Listen to a piece of music, then share with a friend.Go on a field trip, then share with a friend.Play a cooperative game, then share with a friend.Think about a personal experience, then share with a friend.
Intrapersonal AssessmentRead a book, then design your own response.Examine a statistical chart, then design your own response.Watch a movie, then design your own response.Listen to a piece of music, then design your own response.Go on a field trip, then design your own response.Play a cooperative game, then design your own response.Think about a personal experience, then design your own response.
Source: Thomas Armstrong, Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom. Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curricular Development, 1994, p. 126.

5. To contribute to the building of the culture of success in the school.

To contribute to the building of the culture of success in the school, it is pedagogically sound that in our assessment techniques we give some positive feedback along with not so good ones. Comments like “nicely put,” “well done, “fine idea” “good point” on students’ papers boost their ego and add to their level of confidence. Starting our critical evaluation of performance or project by accentuating on positive points and giving in the form of suggestions those not-so-good points that definitely need improvement will cushion the impact of our critical evaluation. When we critically evaluate in this manner, we make the student feel that we are not subjecting his presentation or project to critical evaluation when, in fact, we have already done so without his/her knowing.

6. Emphasize on self-assessment.

If our pupils/students make learning objectives their own, it is but fitting and proper that in the assessment stage they do their self-assessment against the standard or criterion of success established at the beginning of the class in the performance objective. Furthermore, if learning is a personal process, then the pupil or student is in the best position’ to measure his/her own progress against the benchmark. Our students’ self-assessment coupled with our objective assessment may give a more complete and adequate picture of how far or close they are to the established criterion of success. If ever assessment results are used for comparison it is a comparison against one’s past performance and against one’s standard and never against another’s performance or standard. Danielson asserts: “Assessments should not force students to compete against one another; any com-petition should be between students and their own prior performance”. (Danielson, 2002)

7. Abandon the bell curve mentality.

If we believe that our task as teachers is to teach all pupils/students, and that it is possible that all students, even those from limited backgrounds, will have access to opportunities and therefore can achieve, then the bell curve mentality must be abandoned. (Danielson, 2002) If we insist on the bell curve mentality we will be made to think that it is normal and is expected if some fail. This thinking may make us complacent. If some pupils/students fail, we have a ready excuse. “It is normal anyway. Some are really expected to fail.” Remember, we wish to build the culture of success in the classroom because success breeds success. Concentrate on the thought that all can learn.

8. Assessment of learning should never be used as punishment or as a disciplinary measure.

We hear of teachers who give an unscheduled quiz because the class is noisy or teachers who give a very difficult test in order to punish students who do not study. When we resort to this sort of practice, we veer away from the true purpose of assessment, i.e. to validate learning. We also contribute in a sense to the development of students who frown on any form of learning assessment for this gets identified with punishment.

9. Results of learning assessment must be communicated regularly and clearly to parents.

Parents are keenly interested in the -progress of their children in school. They like to know how their children are doing in school and how they can help their children learn. Besides, parents are also our customers and more than that our partners in the education of the young.

10. Emphasize on real-world application that favors realistic performances over out-of-context drill items.

… “Such assessments require students to generate rather than choose a response, and to actively accomplish complex tasks while bringing to bear prior knowledge new learning and relevant skills.”

The evaluation or assessment of learning is an integral part of a lesson plan and that this can be done while we are still in the process of teaching or at the end of our teaching. There are many ways of assessing learning. The choice is ours in consideration of our instructional objective, nature of our topic and intelligences and learning styles of our pupils/students.