There are many forms of assessment used in education to measure the skills of students. For testing to be useful it must meet standards of reliability and validity, two concepts that ensure avoidance of bias or distortion. Used correctly, testing can raise standards, increase accountability, and shape curriculum development and teaching for the better.
But there is also disagreement and even criticism about why assessments are given and how the data gathered will be used. How assessment methods are applied and the criticism of those methods are just two approaches to education research paper topics.
The role of assessment
In his book, Test Better, Teach Better: The Instructional Role of Assessment, W. James Popham provided a “crash course” on the basic principles of testing. Popham addressed such questions as: what to test and why, choosing rules for testing, and how to write good test items.
Ultimately a key goal of testing is to improve teaching. It is Popham’s view that how a teacher tests can profoundly affect how well that teacher teaches.
“The connection between one’s teaching and one’s testing is a critical one that, if properly understood, can lead to a substantial increase in instructional effectiveness,” Popham said. “I want you not only to accept the idea that testing can help teaching, but also to act on that idea.”
Other testing and assessment topics at Questia include:
- Portfolio assessment
- Grades and grading
- Bell curve controversy
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Types of assessment
The University of Texas at Austin Faculty Innovation Center has a wealth of information on how to “Assess Learning.” The list included:
- Assess during learning
- Question types
“Assessing learning is not the same as grading. With grading, the instructor simply scores student work. With assessment, the instructor may assign a grade, but the focus is on exploring how to improve student learning,” the writers said.
Formative and summative assessment
Assessment is conducted at various points in the teaching process. Formative assessment techniques are applied before and during instruction while summative assessments are used at the end of an instructional unit or course.
An examination of each method was presented in a report for EdWeek.org, “Understanding Formative Assessment.” The comparison of techniques included:
- Formative learning assessment
- Formative diagnostic assessment
- Benchmark/Interim assessment
- Summative assessment
According to the report, “Definitions of formative assessment vary, but few disagree about its central characteristic; its power to yield information about what students are learning while they’re learning it.”
Formative assessment techniques help both instructor and students to know how well they are learning the material being presented. This understanding can help the instructor to modify as needed in order to help students. For their part, students can examine their own progress toward their learning goals.
Common core controversy
Perhaps no area of education has generated as much controversy as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which were created in an effort to make U.S. students more competitive internationally in math and English language arts/literacy (ELA). The standards define the knowledge and skills students should gain throughout their K-12 education in order to graduate from high school prepared to succeed in entry-level careers, introductory academic college courses, and workforce training programs.
Allie Bidwell discussed, “The History of Common Core State Standards,” in her February 27, 2014, article for USNews.com.
Criticism of CCSS has included concerns that teachers would be spending too much time preparing students for their tests. By far the loudest critics, however, were those who feared government overreach.
According to Bidwell, “While there remains no clear-cut party-line divide on the standards, as both Democrats and Republicans have expressed concern with them, backlash and cries of government overreach bubbled to the surface when the Obama administration slowly pumped up its support for Common Core.
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How do you think that testing methods can be improved? Tell us in the comments.