Assessment Is The Answer

There are three main types of assessment you can use to increase the ability of your students, and to demonstrate progress to those parents with high expectations.

But my baby has been coming here for one month and he is still unable to recite Shakespeare at home!”

Let’s face it, we have all been there, especially teachers of young children. Unrealistic expectations from parents who, in many circumstances, are paying a lot of money for their children to learn English. They start wondering why their child is not able to speak English freely at home. This month I will write about another strategy that teachers should be employing, not just to prove to parents that their children are actually retaining what is being taught, but also to aid teachers in keeping track of the level their students are achieving at. This strategy is assessment.

Not only will your teaching become much more effective, but you will also be able to provide the proof that your students’ parents require.

Assessment is more than just standardized testing for all the students in your class. It is a process of gathering information about a child, reviewing the information, and then using this to plan educational activities that are at a level the child can understand and is able to learn from. In other words, assessment of children should be an on-going process done throughout the school year, and not solely done mid-term or at the end of the term.

The first thing a teacher should conduct when starting a new unit of work is a pre-assessment of the students’ knowledge of that unit. You may find that the levels of each student may vary, sometimes greatly, so if the teacher already knows this before starting the unit, it would help to plan individualized instruction for a student or for a group of students that have the same level of knowledge. Pre-assessment can be conducted informally (via games and observation during class) or formally (usually pencil and paper exams). A teacher can record the results of a pre-assessment if they plan to use it as a point of comparison to show growth and development, if the same pre-assessment is given at a later date. These records can prove to be invaluable as evidence to parents and teachers.

Pre-assessment is just one of three main types of assessment. The other two are formative assessment and summative assessment.

While pre-assessment is used to collect information about students’ prior knowledge of a unit, formative assessment gathers information about students’ learning as a lesson or unit progresses. Formative assessments are said to be for learning as they help teachers evaluate students’ understanding, their learning needs and to aid in guiding their instruction. Examples of formative assessment types for children are recording students’ language used, drawing or roleplaying, reciprocal teaching (where the student becomes the teacher), portfolios of the work your students have produced, etc.

An example I will use to show the importance of formative assessment includes a 14-year old child in my class. Now, I work at a behavior school in Australia, so the kids in my class have become quite disengaged from mainstream schooling. Prior to coming to my class, this student’s pre-assessment showed that he was only at a 7-8-year old’s level in Literacy and Numeracy. As the days went on, I conducted formative assessments in both of these key learning areas and noticed that he was at a higher level than what his pre-assessment showed, so I started giving him learning material that was more suitable to his actual level. As time went on and I built a rapport with him, I asked him why he had pre-assessed so low, to which his response was that he didn’t care about the testing and just wrote “whatever.” Now, this is an extreme case, but if I had not conducted formative assessment throughout my classes, I would still be giving him learning material that is far too easy for him, risking further disengagement.

The third main type is summative assessment. Summative assessment is known as an assessment of learning, as it shows what students have learned, provides evidence of this and is conducted at the end of a unit. These include usual pen and paper exams, or end of unit/semester/year exams.

If you are a teacher and you employ all three kinds of assessment, not only will your teaching become much more effective, but you will also be able to provide the proof that your students’ parents require in order to see the progress their children are making in your class.