Assessment in education is the process of evaluating and documenting learning, knowledge, and skills. It is a critical step in the learning process; it determines whether or not the learning outcomes have been met. This paper draws on my personal philosophy on assessment as a pre-service teacher and the knowledge I gained throughout my study journey to describe my teacher identity in relation to assessment. It explains the concept of assessment, its benefits and its relation to teaching and learning from my perspective. It also explores the principles, approaches and documenting methods used to implement assessment. Results of a self-assessment task used to indicate my level of understanding and proficiency against Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (AITSL) Standard 5 are provided at the end of the report followed by suggestions for improved understanding about the standard.
Teaching, Learning, and Assessment
- What do I understand about the relationship of assessment to teaching and learning?
I believe that the relationship of assessment to teaching and learning lies in the heart of learning theories. My view is that assessment practices need to reflect knowledge and skills based on understandings of learning theories, therefore, I believe that learning theories underpin assessment practices as some of these practices can be less effective than other practices in promoting expected learning outcomes. For example, Readman & Allen (2013) point out that while collaborative tasks are seen as effective tools to assess students’ learning from the social constructivist perspective, micro- and macro -level tasks are from the associative perspective where learners build associations between different concepts.
In the light of my understanding of the relationship of assessment to teaching and learning, I agree that assessment is used to collect evidence about students’ performance using the teaching and learning cycle as the following:
‘The teaching and learning cycle’ Adapted from the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (2014)
- What do I believe is the goal of assessment?
Assessment practices and tools provide measures for teachers to diagnose teaching and evaluate the effectiveness of teaching programs, monitor learning process and students’ achievements, as well as grade students and predict future achievements (Marsh, 2010) and (Woolfolks and Margetts, 2013). On the other hand, assessment not only helps teachers to track students’ development but also help students themselves. When students are given the opportunity to see their performance against learning objectives, they become more capable of evaluating their own learning and aware of their learning needs, and further, motivated to learn (Readman and Allen, 2013).
Principles of Assessment and Ethical Considerations
- What principles or values will I follow in my development as a teacher and in relation to assessment?
I believe that assessment should include criteria to clarify learning standards and provide students with opportunities to demonstrate their learning against these standards and use feedback and reflect on their learning. Assessment activities should also be reliable and based on clear syllable outcomes, inclusive and accessible for all students and free from bias (NSW Education Standards Authority, n. d.). Readman and Allen (2013) argue the importance of fairness in assessment in developing a healthy attitude to assessment among students, that is, students’ engagement with, respond to, dealing with and learning form assessment. I strongly agree with Flint’s and Johnson’s views on students’ perceptions of fairness in assessment that addresses student involvement, emotional support, teacher availability, clear explanation of the assessment practice, and engagement in self-reflection are some of the best few ways that ensure assessment fairness from students’ perspectives, in addition to justified examinations with the least risk of plagiarism (Readman and Allen, 2013).
- What am I trying to achieve in my approach to assessment and evaluation?
Assessment shouldn’t be limited in the form of standardised tests which mainly assess random facts and concepts and result in some students being at a disadvantage. Fair assessment will be one of my high priorities in my assessment practices and it will characterise my approach to assessment and evaluation. I believe that students should be well-prepared for assessment and that is one of my responsibilities towards students. In my future classroom, I will ensure that my students know what, how and when I am going to assess them. Readman and Allen (2013) address the importance of fairness in assessment in helping students to develop a healthy attitude to assessment where students feel that any assessment is an opportunity for them to learn from and show their best performance. I believe that this can be developed by encouraging students to view assessment as a tool for self-improvement rather than merely a task of ‘documenting’ grades, or a competition between students.
- What are the ethical decisions and implications of my decisions in relation to assessment? Or in other words, how can assessment harm students and what can you do to eliminate/minimise that harm?
Because assessment tasks can produce unsatisfactory results, disappointment and discouragement are expected in the classroom. In this situation, I believe that teachers and parents/carers should be constructive rather than punitive. Being cognizant of feedback comments such as avoiding humiliating or negative comments like “I am disappointed” or “you did not do the right thing” as students may interpret these as an attempt to humiliate or control them. In my perspective, providing personalised constructive comments will minimise the negative effects of failed or unsatisfactory results. Readman and Allen (2013) suggest that students’ self-theories, which refer to their views of themselves, play a key role in how students respond to failure because what one student considers a failure may be another’s success. Understanding students’ self-theories and individual differences can positively affect assessment practices and enhance its effectiveness.
Assessment for Learning
- How can assessment help a student to learn?
Assessment provides teachers with continuous information about the progress of students’ learning and results can be used to show students what they are working at in terms of achievement. Based on this view, I believe that assessment is considered a great tool to motivate students to learn and I strongly agree with Readman and Allen (2013) as they propound the view that assessment enhances students’ engagement with learning and I assume that this can be a result of ‘assessment as learning’ where students are encouraged to monitor, evaluate and self-regulate their learning (Woolfolk and Margetts, 2013).
Assessment for learning, on the other hand, is used to before or during teaching to guide teacher instruction using inferences of students’ learning to inform future learning (Woolfolk and Margetts, 2013). It should guide students to develop creative, critical thinking and decision-making skills which are valuable into becoming productive individuals. In my previous practicum experiences, I found that ‘assessment for learning’ or the formative use of assessment is the most important in teaching as it has proved to be effective in helping me to identify students’ learning needs and plan for learning. I am not alone in my view as Woolfolk and Margetts (2013) suggest that this approach to assessment is usually used to adjust instruction to improve students’ learning. (NSW Education Standards Authority, n. d.).
- Describe an assessment approach that illustrates how assessment can help a student?
As mentioned earlier, assessment for learning is one of the most effective tools in assessment and it can be used before and during a lesson. For example, in a Year 1 science class about living things, the teacher recognises, using thoughtful and strategic questions (Readman and Allen, 2013), that one of the students confuses water for living things and that another student does not believe that plants need water to survive. Questions like ‘how to distinguish living things from non-living things?’ and ‘what are the non-living things that animals need to survive?” confused some students that the teacher decided to act immediately. The teacher decided to adjust instruction and turned the lesson conversation toward these topics to address misunderstandings and clarify related ideas. This adjustment was a result of frequent and interactive assessment for learning that is used to identify learning needs and adjust teaching appropriately. In this example, the teacher used questioning results to inform next steps in teaching and learning.
- What feedback do students need, and when and how should they receive it?
I believe that feedback should address the student’s level of achievement, effort, and overall learning performance. Detailed constructive feedback works best in motivating students and avoid counterproductive effects of giving corrective or negative feedback. I strongly agree with Readman and Allen (2013) in that feedback should be provided to students as the learning process takes place, in a process called ‘feed forward’ where information is given to students early enough to inform future learning.
Methods of maintaining records include anecdotal records, checklists, students’ record keeping, and reporting to parents and caregivers (Whitton, Barker, Nosworthy, Humphries & Sinclair, 2016, pp. 203-206). As a student-teacher, I can relate to some of these methods as I passively encountered situations and tasks where giving oral or written feedback to students were part of day-to-day routines and marking student’s portfolios was considered as a type record keeping.