The ability to assess and evaluate student learning is a necessary part of being a successful teacher. The key to successful assessment and evaluation is planning and practice. The William and Mary School of Education has afforded me the opportunity to learn about various forms of assessments. I have learned to not only develop formative and summative assessments, but to evaluate their results as well. The tools and techniques used to report student learning are ineffective without the ability to make informed judgments. These judgments go beyond ascribing a number or letter to represent a student's learning; they are judgments of my instruction to support learning.

The College of William and Mary identifies three teacher competencies under Assessment and Evaluation.
  • Creates and selects appropriate assessments for learning
  • Implements assessments for learning
  • Interprets/uses assessment results to make instructional decisions

Creates and selects appropriate assessments for learning

When developing assessments I begin by identifying my Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs). These ILOs are objectives that outline the specific content I plan to teach at the appropriate cognitive level. Next I develop a table of specifications, a blue print for assessment, that highlights the content and cognitive level of my ILOs. The table enables me to dig deep within my objectives, rank them by importance, and determine emphasis for my instruction and assessment. The clear outline also helps me to brainstorm the best forms of assessment, either formative or summative, to identify whether or not my students have acquired the Intended Learning Outcome.

My assessments come in a variety of forms. Verbal assessments in the form of questioning and discussion are most common. When the objective is to evaluate and analyze a text or document, then it is not uncommon for my students to participate in a Socratic seminar. Another informal assessment technique that I use is journaling. It allows students to organize their thoughts, and share their opinions, while providing me with a visual representation of their learning or lack there off.

More formal assessments include quizzes, tests, and essays. In order to create assessments that report both valid and reliable representations of student learning, it is important to create a table of specifications. The table ensures I am measuring my intended objectives at the intended cognitive levels. It also provides a visual representation of content or sampling validity. It shows if the content I emphasized in my instruction is also emphasized in my assessments. To ensure reliability I follow guidelines for writing tests that produce questions free of grammatical errors, typos, clues, confusion, and answers. Reliability is further strengthened by my reflection on the cultural and academic backgrounds of my students, as well as my own background in an attempt to eliminate bias. Overall, my assessments distinguish between students that have acquired intended learning outcomes, and those who have not.


Implements Assessments for Learning

The purpose of assessment is to foster learning. A student may have learned everything I expected them to, but if their ability to read or write impedes their ability to demonstrate learning, then my assessments have failed. For that reason, I use a variety assessments to provide multiple ways of informing myself about what students have learned. At the same time students are provided with multiple opportunities to be successful. Journaling, quizzes, tests, seminars, and creative projects all report what a student has learned. Using a variety of assessments strengthens reliability and reduces random error that a student may struggle with multiple choice, or with an essay.

Effective teaching does not stop when an assessment is administered. Feedback is required for learning. When providing feedback I make sure it is honest, timely, specific, accurate, and constructive. I am honest with my students. I do not tell a student their work is great if it is mediocre, any more than I want to shatter a student-teacher relationship by giving them an overly negative comment. Feedback must also be timely. It should be given as soon as possible otherwise its impact will not take effect. It should be specific and offer concrete direction. Accuracy is just as important. My feedback relates back to Intended Learning Outcomes that include local, state, and national standards. Finally, feedback must always be constructive. The purpose is to foster learning and improve upon mistakes, not to diminish motivation.


Interprets/uses assessment results to make instructional decisions

Evaluating student work is essential. Making judgments about student learning is the only way to improve areas in which students have not succeeded. It is a good strategy to save student work, identify where they are struggling, and develop a plan of action. Over time both the student and teacher can spot persistent weaknesses and build upon strengths.

Interpreting assessment results requires that teachers also learn from their mistakes. Assessments provide educators with areas that students may not have learned well enough. Teachers forget to cover information from time to time, but the problem may go deeper than that. Perhaps students are not learning because of the activity used to teach it. It may be that they are visual learners, but information was presented orally. It may also be possible that the assessment was not valid or reliable, and that it asked students to do something that was neither intended nor taught. Either way, successful teachers are always striving to be better. Therefore we must use evaluations to identify weak spots in our instruction that with further reflection can be repaired and strengthened.

During a Socratic seminar on the Enlightenment students were required to read Rousseau's Social Contract. Afterward we had a discussion about some of the major ideas. I assessed students informally by monitoring and observing their discussion and participation. To understand if students truly understood the Social Contract and Rousseau's idea of the General Will, I required students to complete an exit ticket that assessed them on content while providing me with an idea what students understood and what I needed to reteach or explain the next class. Because it was the first seminar I conducted I obtained student feedback on participation form classmates and me, the facilitator. Based on how students judged my moderating skills, I took notes and improved for the next seminar based on their suggestions.