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According to the glossary in the class textbook assessment is, “the process of gathering information related to how much students have learned.” (Parkay and Stanford, 1998 p.477) The most commonly used form of assessment is the written test. Many variations of the written test exist. Some examples include the multiple-choice test, a.k.a. the multiple-guess test, the short response or “fill-in-the-blank” test and the essay test. While I feel that all of these methods can be useful, there is a dangerous tendency to rely on written tests alone or, even worse, on only one type of written test. In order to gain the most comprehensive picture of the amount of learning occurring for a given student, a number of additional factors should be taken into consideration.
These include observation of classroom participation, verbal communication, and “hands-on” performance when applicable. It is by broadening the basis for assessment that we can hope to avoid the error of wrongly evaluating a student.
Since assessment is only one step in a cycle of teaching and learning, changes made in the assessment process will also affect the other stages in the process. Decisions as to the nature of the instruction regarding whether to use lecture, demonstration, discussion, or debate will be changed in part due to the type of assessment to be used. Also, the results of assessments will be important in deciding on the next steps to be taken. In many instances, mastery of one skill is a prerequisite for learning the next. Thus, a new extension of a subject may be delayed while an earlier lesson is reviewed so that the student will have the tools necessary for the next stage.
One concrete example of assessment from my own past experience involved testing of students at the Pathfinder school in Ft. Benning GA. The assigned task was to assist a lost aircraft in locating itself. The assessment consisted of having the student communicate via r...
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