The whole educational scene, world over, is in the throes of change. This has been brought about by the huge advances in information technology.
The old system of equating a child’s worth with academic performance is out.
True, the child needs a certain score to get promoted to different levels of education, but more and more, emphasis is being placed on diagnosing a child’s ability levels, and guiding and assisting the child to fulfill their potential.
In the classroom, the two types of assessments commonly used are the summative and formative patterns of evaluation.
Summative assessments evaluate specific learning needs of the child. These are in the form of tests at the end of a particular unit or module, or chapter, and semester examinations. In effect, the student is tested on what he has learned over a certain period of time. It thus evaluates his acquisition of knowledge, and is used to get the final grade of the student. This helps educators in making changes in the curriculum if necessary. The drawback in this kind of assessment is that it since it evaluates knowledge acquisition after the period of instruction is over, fine tuning of teaching methods cannot be done during the term. All changes that are made are for the next academic year.
Formative assessment, on the other hand, is very much a part of the teaching-learning process as it happens every day. Since testing is of various kinds, such as essay type, multiple choice, true-false statements, and short answers, or a combination of these to be used as the educator thinks fit, everyone can tackle the test at his or her level. Thus, adjustments, if needed, are made by the educator as the lesson progresses, and the specific learning needs of the students are taken into account. The teaching-learning process is more stimulating and the educator can raise standards as the lesson progresses. Children who need special attention are given it immediately and within the context, so that they actually benefit from the evaluation. The parameters that the educator operates in, i.e., amount of material to be taught in terms of quality and quantity can be tackled with this kind of assessment.
Summative assessments have their own uses, though it is actually the formative assessment that helps the child in everyday lessons. An involved educator will be able to assess when and how these two types of assessments are to be used for the child’s benefit.
Other kinds of evaluation that can be used are:
• Observations – where the educator observes the student’s performance during specific activities, such as debates, science experiments, and projects.
• Portfolios – where students maintain a record of all their work. This actually documents their growth, and helps educators plan and design special lessons for them. It also becomes a forum for educators to discuss the growth of the child and ways of stimulating his growth.
These help evaluate the students’ ability to gain knowledge, recall that knowledge, and use it. Thus, the skills being evaluated are thinking & reasoning skills such as the ability to analyze, interpret, weigh, assess, and use.
These are in the form of quizzes, open-book tests, end-of-unit/chapter tests, and standardized tests. Standardized tests validate the child’s learning, as well as the efficacy of the educator. These standardized tests are high-stake tests. The negative fall-outs of failing in these tests are a risk that all stakeholders in the child’s life have to take. The SATs or Standardized Achievement Test and ACTs or American College Testing are examples of standardized tests, the reward being that you get admission to a college of your choice.
Assessment is also evaluative when evaluation procedures assess the school to see if it is being true to its vision and mission, and is delivering all that it set out to do.
District evaluation of students is important to validate successful practices used for student achievement, since that is, after all, the ultimate aim. Student performances in various classes in the different schools in the district are compared and analyzed. Student technology proficiency is gauged across schools. Naturally, this goes back to the educator, hence there are educator evaluation systems as well.
The evaluation activities would include interviews with the educators, creating a rubric for lesson plans which could serve as an example, curriculum analysis and analysis of instructional material used, and an analysis of workshops that educators could attend. District evaluations also bring in the parents into its gambit. There are interviews with the parents, and community-based technology training for everyone involved in the child’s life.Thus, there are certain minimum expectations of an educator, and there are provisions for individual as well as collective professional growth and continuous improvement. Education is thus seen as a collective responsibility for each child.