Students do not all learn in the same way; therefore, teachers should use more than one way to evaluate them. Assessments come in a variety of modes, but all can be classified as either formative or summative depending on when the assessment takes place and what its purpose is.
Formative assessment is a term for any type of assessment used to gather student feedback and improve instruction. Formative assessments occur during the learning process, often while students are engaged in other activities. Anecdotal records, periodic quizzes or essays, diagnostic tests and in-class or homework assignments are all types of formative assessment because they provide information about a student's progress.
Summative assessment occurs at the end of a unit of study in order to measure the amount of information the students have learned. Most traditional assessment types are considered summative. Summative assessments reflect students' learning and the teacher's ability to communicate information effectively.
Observational assessment is the most common form of formative assessment. Teachers can circulate the room to monitor students' progress. If students are working independently or in groups, teachers should intervene when the students are not understanding the material. Teachers can also take note of students' comments and participation levels during class discussions to gauge their learning.
Selected response assessments are any type of objective exam where there is only one correct answer for each question. Multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, matching and true/false questions are all types of selected response assessments. This type of assessment allows the teacher to score exams quickly and with a large degree of reliability in scoring from one exam to another.
Constructed response assessments require students to generate their own response rather than selecting a single response from several possible ones. These exams are much more subjective as there is not a single correct answer. Instead, teachers must grade either with a rubric or holistically to maintain a fair degree of reliability.
Performance assessments require students to perform as a means of showing they understand class material. The types of performances can include actual performing, as in a class debate, or performance by creating, as in making a brochure or TV ad. These assessments evaluate complex cognitive processes as well as attitude and social skills, and students often find them engaging.
Portfolio assessments evaluate a student's progress over the course of the semester. It is more than a one-time picture of what a learner has accomplished. Portfolios include all of a student's work in a particular area. For example, a student in an English class could have a portfolio for a research paper that includes note cards, outlines, rough drafts, revisions and a final draft. The teacher would evaluate the portfolio as a whole, not just the final draft, to see how the student has grown.
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