George Lucas Educational Foundation

Why Is Assessment Important?

Asking students to demonstrate their understanding of the subject matter is critical to the learning process; it is essential to evaluate whether the educational goals and standards of the lessons are being met.
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Assessment is an integral part of instruction, as it determines whether or not the goals of education are being met. Assessment affects decisions about grades, placement, advancement, instructional needs, curriculum, and, in some cases, funding. Assessment inspire us to ask these hard questions: "Are we teaching what we think we are teaching?" "Are students learning what they are supposed to be learning?" "Is there a way to teach the subject better, thereby promoting better learning?"

Today's students need to know not only the basic reading and arithmetic skills, but also skills that will allow them to face a world that is continually changing. They must be able to think critically, to analyze, and to make inferences. Changes in the skills base and knowledge our students need require new learning goals; these new learning goals change the relationship between assessment and instruction. Teachers need to take an active role in making decisions about the purpose of assessment and the content that is being assessed.

Teacher Beverly Hoeltke goes over Key Learning's unconventional progress report -- which includes self-assessment -- with a student and his mother.

Grant Wiggins, a nationally recognized assessment expert, shared his thoughts on performance assessments, standardized tests, and more in an interview. Read his answers to the following questions from the interview and reflect on his ideas:

Do you agree with his statements? Why or why not? Discuss your opinions with your peers.

When assessment works best, it does the following:

Provides diagnostic feedback
  • What is the student's knowledge base?
  • What is the student's performance base?
  • What are the student's needs?
  • What has to be taught?
Helps educators set standards
  • What performance demonstrates understanding?
  • What performance demonstrates knowledge?
  • What performance demonstrates mastery?
Evaluates progress
  • How is the student doing?
  • What teaching methods or approaches are most effective?
  • What changes or modifications to a lesson are needed to help the student?
Relates to a student's progress
  • What has the student learned?
  • Can the student talk about the new knowledge?
  • Can the student demonstrate and use the new skills in other projects?
Motivates performance
For student self-evaluation:
  • Now that I'm in charge of my learning, how am I doing?
  • Now that I know how I'm doing, how can I do better?
  • What else would I like to learn?
For teacher self-evaluation:
  • What is working for the students?
  • What can I do to help the students more?
  • In what direction should we go next?

Continue to the next section of the guide, Types of Assessment.

Comments (5) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Lynn's picture
3rd Grade Teacher

These are some very thought provoking statements on assessments! I am going to share them at our next team meeting. I think the 6 categories are a great way to break up the data and examine all the involved parts.

Alyson's picture

This article summarizes the important reasons why we need to use assessment to plan effective instruction. I am working one-on-one with a fourth grade student. To help me plan instruction, I used a CRI. The CRI helped me to identify the student's strengths and weaknesses in reading. Over a few weeks, the student has improved in reading comprehension. We need to use assessment to help us plan effective and individualized instruction which meets the student's needs.

Marta Perez Virella De Pacheco's picture

I think that it's important that as teacher I consider assessment before I begin planning lessons or projects because it help me to create lessons and activities that it will be beneficial to my students in a timely manner. Time can be use effectively when I teach and focus on what my students needs to practice and master. Not on what they all ready know. Also it give me a clear ideas on the areas that I need my students to work on. Pre-assessments help me and the students to visualize the areas of strength and weakness.

Cyndi Fowler's picture

As teachers, we must begin with the end in mind. We must plan our instruction based on the end result, the students learning the standard we are teaching.

Lani Cook's picture

I agree with you Cyndi! We should always teach with the end in mind. By doing so, we are ensuring that we are teaching our students the appropriate standards. We are also providing a goal for our students. If they know that at the end of the lesson they should be able to explain what addition is or how two characters in a story are alike, they can then guage their personal understanding of the lesson.

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