Saturday, February 7, 2009

Learning Assessment: From Theory to Practice

This article is the first part of a condensed series of discussions on Seminar-Workshop in Ethical and Legal Issues behind Students Assessment presented for Seminar in Ethics and Legal Issues in Education class at St. Theresa Inti College- Bangkok Campus.

The seminar-workshop aims to provide better understanding towards learning assessment – its definition and purpose/s, the transition from traditional to modern assessment methods, the teachers’ roles in assessment for students’ learning. Built upon the foundation on understanding the basic theories and practices in students assessment, case studies on ethical and legal issues teachers’ prejudices in providing authentic assessment among the students will be presented and analyzed.

What is Assessment?
In this context, assessment is primarily regarded as gathering relevant information concerning the learners (e.g. learning styles, needs for improvement, learning difficulties encountered, and students’ progress) in order to evaluate their existing knowledge and assist them in impending learning endeavors .

To define learning assessment in the general context of education, I adopted the definition of The UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (2000) in its Code of Practice as cited by Harvey (2004-8) which states:

Assessment is a generic term for a set of processes that measure the outcomes of students’ learning, in terms of knowledge acquired, understanding developed, and skills gained. It serves many purposes. Assessment provides the means by which students are graded, passed or fail. It provides the basis for decisions on whether a student is ready to proceed, to qualify for an award or to demonstrate competence to practise. It enables students to obtain feedback on their learning and helps them improve their performance. It enables staff to evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching.
The abovementioned definition of assessment attempts to discuss the three kinds of assessment happening in the classroom level which will be discussed in the following section of this article.

Kinds of Assessment and their Purpose
As cited by the Government of British Columbia (2007), there are three current approaches, as literature suggests, to classroom-based assessment that can be used in conjunction with each other to support student achievement.

1. Assessment FOR learning refers to formative assessment through which teachers collect information about student achievement and use this information to plan follow-up classroom activities.

2. Assessment AS learning refers to the active involvement of students in assessment of their own learning. Assessment as learning assists students in understanding what they might need to improve upon in order to successfully meet learning outcomes.

3. Assessment OF learning refers to assessment practices that take place at the end of a lesson or unit so that student achievement can be reported.

The three approaches to classroom-based assessment stated above are the two general types of assessment referred to as formative assessment (numbers 1 & 2) and summative assessment (number 3). Formative assessment, as defined by Tan (2008), is the one designed to provide direction for improvement and/or adjustment to a program for individual students or for a whole class. Formative assessment generally takes place during the discussion of the subject matter in order to provide learners with immediate feedback on their progress and inform development.

For instance, in my Mathematics class with young English as Second Language (ESL) learners, I give students worksheets and other activities to work on wherein I give immediate feedbacks and provide support (scaffolding) to those who are showing difficulty in doing the activity. Before presenting the activity (worksheet), I communicate with my students the expected output and encourage them to do the activity by their own and ask for my assistance if ever they will encounter any problem in doing so. I always assure them that such activities are given in order to help them understand the lesson better so they have nothing to worry if they get high or low marks. When students submit their works, I observe for possible errors and give them time to go over their work for correction in which they are happy about especially when they are able to correct their own mistakes.

The second type of assessment is a very common one and is not difficult to understand. Summative assessments are given after finishing a certain chapter and/or a course/subject. The purpose of which is, primarily, to provide information on how much the students have learned and/or how well the subject matter was taught.

Traditional vs. Authentic Assessment

Traditionally, assessment which is typically done in a form of test or quiz provides negative notion among the students. More often than usual, traditional assessment methods merely expects the students to recall knowledge through multiple choice tests, enumeration, identification, and others. Such method of assessment usually causes anxiety among the students which hinders them from giving accurate response as to what they have really learned – thus, hampering valid formative assessment and feedback.

On the other hand, authentic assessment or alternative assessment usually entails tasks in which the students will be involved and an accompanying rubric which will be used in evaluating their performance on the specified tasks. Wiggins (1993) as cited by Mueller (2008) defined authentic assessment as engaging and worthy problems or questions of importance, in which students must use knowledge to fashion performances effectively and creatively. The tasks are either replicas of or analogous to the kinds of problems faced by adult citizens and consumers or professionals in the field.

In other words, authentic assessment is the provision of direct application of knowledge learned through practical tasks designed to evaluate the students’ ability to apply learning (transfer of learning). According to Mueller (2008), authentic assessments, on the other hand, offer more direct evidence of application and construction of knowledge compared to traditional assessment. Going back to my Mathematics class with young ESL learners as concrete example, along with mastery in the fundamental mathematical operations the students are also expected to develop their listening, speaking, reading and writing skills while studying Mathematics. When I taught “Money and Budget” among the learners, I assessed their ability to solve problems related to money and their ability to integrate the four language skills by asking them to look for a practical problem which involves money. I asked my students to write them down in paragraph form, interpret and express them in mathematical symbols, and then present their problems and solution in class. I developed a rubric to evaluate their works (oral and written) and communicated it with them beforehand. That way, I was able to provide authentic assessment among my students for their presentations have reflected how much they have learned and my feedback (which was based on the rubric) was clear with them beforehand, thus, learning what needs to be improved next time.


Harvey, L. (2004–8). Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International. Retrieved, February 7, 2009 from

Mueller, J. (2008). What is Authentic Assessment?, Authentic Assessment Toolbox. Retrieved, February 7, 2009 from

Province of British Columbia (2007). Classroom Assessment, British Columbia: The Best Place in Earth. Retrieved, February 7, 2009 from

Tan, H. (2008). 7 Ways to Assess Effectively FOR Learning, Teaching English Literacy: A TEFL Blog by Hedda Tan. Retrieved, February 1, 2009 from

1 comment:

Mr. Nice Guy said...

Thank you, Ive recently been looking for information about this subject matter for ages and yours is the best I've found so far.

Bruce Bent II