“Much of what teachers and learners do in the classrooms can be described as assessment. That is, tasks and questions prompt learners to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and skills. What learners say and do is then observed and interpreted, and judgments are made about how learning can be improved. These assessment procedures are an essential part of everyday classroom practice and involve both teachers and learners in reflection, dialogue and decision making.”
How fundamental is assessment to the learning process?
The quote seems to straddle convergent (assessment to find out whether the learner knows) and divergent (assessment to discover what the learner knows) forms of assessment (Torrence and Pryor, 1998). The second sentence seems to support convergent styles as it describes activities as tests which Black (1998:5) asserts often ‘encourage rote and superficial learning’. It does not appear to give weight to the importance of acquiring and developing new skills which arguably is how learning is improved.
The third sentence seems to describe more formative assessment ‘judgements... how learning can be improved’ but falls short of really engaging and including students in classroom assessment as it is the teacher who ‘observes and interprets’. At present my use of thumbs up and down sits here, because although students are involved I do not really engage with them about their specific understanding, instead using their thumbs as a visual indicator for myself about whether we are ready to progress.
The final sentence describes an extremely positive learning environment in which both student and teacher, play an active and reflective role in the learning process. The reality of achieving this in the social construct of today’s classrooms, where issues such as behaviour, often limit the use of assessment opportunities (such as questioning), is debatable.
The quote leads to further thought on ways to successfully involve pupils in this ‘reflection,...