Assessment: Towards a New Frontier

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Assessment is a monumental part of any classroom, and it must be done accurately and frequently. Knowledge acquired, especially in the field of literacy, can often be quite difficult to gauge. That is why some of the greatest tools in a teacher’s arsenal, at least when it comes to assessment, are rubrics. Rubrics break down the specific qualities and attributes that a student’s work must demonstrate in order to achieve at the highest level. They take some of the guess work out of grading and allow a student to put some solid meaning behind the scores on a page. Having a rubric allows a student to see specifically why they lost points and where their strengths and weakness lie for any given assignment or topic. It is fair in that, when distributed to young learners, rubrics ensure that they and their parents can see just what is expected of them prior to beginning an exam, paper, or project.
Not all assessment is summative. That is, not everything a teacher looks for in a student can be explicitly quantified as in state tests, data from acuities, and graded papers. Much of the kind of assessment a teacher does is formative and involves the monitoring of such things as exhibited behaviors and daily activities. It is important to pay attention to student displays including body language, neatness, and peer interaction in order to maximize a child’s capacity to learn. These tendencies indicate whether a student may need special accommodations in order to better acclimate her to the educational setting. For instance, a child who has difficulty concentrating and spends more time gazing out of a window than paying attention may have an underlying cognitive challenge or disability such as ADHD. This child may need extra resources to facilitate learning or have a more strategic seat within a classroom such that she is situated away from any potential distraction. Alternatively, the child may feel bored and must be given new, challenging material.
Though assessments in the form of state tests and acuities are necessary for evaluating a child’s (and to a larger extent- a school’s) progress, it is important not to pigeonhole a student based on such a limited and often mediocre type of appraisal. There may be flaws generated by human error during the grading process and the test itself is often a poor measurement of any kind of fluency. Many tests exhibit face validity on the most superficial level, but far more are lacking in construct validity. That is, they do not always measure the quality they are intended to measure and they require students to express knowledge through superficial means (i.e. multiple-choice items). More thorough questioning is needed to assess the student’s critical analysis and evaluation capacities. Children learn best when they are required to relate new knowledge to their own experiences and to the world around them, and when they are encouraged to connect different ideas that, at first blush, seem unrelated. This can be accomplished through essay questions that prompt the student to synthesize material from a book or video into a comprehensive essay and by using oral exams in which students must discuss the subject at hand one on one with their teacher.

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