What Questions Should Student Assessment Results Answer?

Andrew Passinger
Andrew Passinger
Middle-Senior High School Assistant Principal/Pandemic Coordinator; M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction, Gifted Certification

One of the most significant pieces of the educational puzzle deals with assessing students. Numerous theories exist and philosophical discussions abound among educators at all levels of teaching. It is extremely important to understand how and why assessments are so vital to both the students and the teachers. Whether an educator is measuring a skill according to a standard or simply reviewing results from a classroom exam, student learning depends on teachers comprehending how the results can allow them to move forward in their jobs.

What is a Student Assessment and What is Its Importance?

Student assessment is the process of evaluating students in order to determine their development in learning. Lesson objectives allow educators to measure the effectiveness of learning through student performances. It is an attempt to review empirical data in order to adjust curriculum and refine instruction in order to best improve student learning.

Student assessments can be broken down into multiple categories (diagnostic, formative, interim, and summative) but essentially are either formative or summative. Formative assessments are often informal, give an opportunity to measure an idea, a lesson, or a portion of a unit, and provide feedback for teachers to adjust on the fly. They are only evaluated for learning progression, not as a formal grade.

These formative assessments can range in strategies, from providing exit tickets to a thumbs-up if students understand. They can be given as informal quizzes or determined through the questioning process during a lesson. Teachers can gather input from digital platforms, such as Google Classroom, Seesaw, etc., or by way of journal entries. Formative assessment information can be gathered in unlimited ways.

End-of-unit exams, quizzes throughout the units, and project-based assignments are the more traditional summative approaches that are graded and explain what students have learned. These are considered cumulative. As well, any activities employed by teachers for individual student grades are considered summative.

What Questions Should Assessment Results Answer?

For the professional educator, assessment results are a major component in determining success for students. But there is not necessarily a model by which to compare every student in every classroom. Therefore, teachers must consider how they want to measure success throughout their courses. Beginning with curriculum, teachers must determine objectives for their students concerning the content. Instruction, while it extends from the curriculum, should be focused on unit and lesson objectives, national, state, and local standards, and the demographics of the student population.

Reviewing the results of formative and summative assessments can highlight what students learned, what they did not understand, and then allow the teacher to adjust instruction in order to reteach the unsuccessful portions. This is an integral part of the process. If teachers are not happy with results from formative assessments, such as a failure of a quiz by the majority of the class, then it becomes the challenge for the instructor to determine issues. It may be as simple as an ambiguous item on a test or a poorly worded question(s). If this is not the issue, then it becomes a teacher’s responsibility to change his or her instruction, which may be difficult for teachers to process. Something was not effective during the teaching process, whether it was incorrect strategies, weak examples, or lack of engagement.

Teachers ultimately need to review the results and then adjust accordingly to effectively promote learning and skill development. This should stem from collaboration with other educators, administrators, curriculum instructors, instructional coaches, and, most importantly, students.

How You can Utilize those Results to Improve Achievement

Utilizing these assessment results should not just fall on the instructor in the classroom. A vital way to improve success is to include individual students in the review of their evaluations. Showing students where they performed incorrectly is a beginning step toward enhancing their comprehension. By allowing them to review and correct their answers, teachers can realistically improve upon student goals. Educators can reteach these incorrect aspects and then re-evaluate to strengthen skills.

Another crucial aspect for educators in evaluating test results focuses on differentiation. Based on unique and multiple levels in ability, reviewing assessment results can improve achievement. Students with gifted abilities may not always test well and low-level students may need more repetition and support when it comes to taking assessments. Therefore, differentiating for students can occur both before and after evaluations. If goals are set in collaboration with students and teachers can identify abilities of their students, differentiation is an efficient use of test results to improve learning.

Adding in conversations with students about their standardized test scores—here the reference is to state and national standardized testing—may bring an interest in their academic testing history. Students do not often get the occasion to review testing strategies regarding these types of assessment situations, which could ultimately help improve classroom testing in all courses.

There is no doubt that assessments are a powerful tool in shaping both the student and the teacher. As long as educators don’t simply and traditionally give tests or exams because that is what has always been done, effective learning can transpire. Through collaboration and cooperation, students can become extremely effective learners and teachers will view the full complement of success beyond their classrooms.

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