Assessment plays a crucial role in the education system as it is a process of evaluating or appraising a piece of work in order to determine where a child is at, and what further teaching needs to be delivered. It is about making a judgment and identifying strengths and weaknesses. As assessment involves making a judgment it will almost inevitably include an element of subjectivity by the assessor. However, we should strive to make assessment as objective, fair, reliable and relevant as possible, (Darr, 2005a & 2005b).
Assessment of writing needs to focus on particular aspects, as set out in the success criteria, and needs to address the writing itself rather than the author, (Smith & Elley, 1997). We assess for different purposes, some of which include motivation to learn, creating learning opportunities, to give feedback to both students and staff, to grade, and as a quality assurance mechanism for both internal and external purposes. Assessment can be defined in two categories; being formative assessment and summative assessment.
Formative assessment is a range of formal and informal assessment procedures used by teachers during the learning process that help them to modify teaching and learning activities to order improve student achievement. This typically involves quality feedback rather than grades, and focuses on the details of content and performance. Summative assessment determines the achievement of learners at a particular time and is usually delivered at the end of a unit of work. A test may be given that aims to summarize learning up to that point.
The results of this test may also be used to identify any weaknesses and then build on that using formative assessment, (Clarke, Timperley & Hattie, 2003). One form of assessment that is commonly used in classrooms today is the use of a rubric or checklist. Rubrics can be holistic or analytical, general or task specific. Analytical rubrics identify and assess components of a finished product, whereas holistic rubrics assess student work as a whole. Rubrics allow teachers to be more objective in grading complex student performances.
Rubrics also help students understand more clearly just what is expected of them in an assignment or activity. Rubrics give a reference point and language for raising expectations. Rubrics are a formative type of assessment because they become an ongoing part of the whole teaching and learning process. Students themselves should be involved in the design of such rubrics, and in the assessment process through both peer and self-assessment. This involvement empowers the students and as a result, their learning becomes more focused and self-directed.
Many experts believe that rubrics improve students’ end products and therefore increase learning. When teachers evaluate papers or projects, they know implicitly what makes a good final product and why. When students receive rubrics beforehand, they understand how they will be evaluated and can prepare accordingly. Rubrics can also help students become better judges of the quality of their own work and can help the assessment to be more objective and consistent by forcing the teacher to clarify their criteria in specific terms.
Rubrics provide useful feedback to the teacher regarding the effectiveness of the instruction, and also provide students with more informative feedback about their strengths and areas in need of improvement. If set out correctly, rubrics are easy to explain and follow. Arter and McTighe (2000) recommend holistic rubrics for simple products or performances, particularly ones with only one important criterion to assess. They also note that holistic rubrics are useful for “getting a quick snapshot of overall quality or achievement” No detailed analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of a product or performance.
So, they’re not as useful diagnostically to help plan instruction. Nor do they provide students with detailed feedback to guide their improvement” (Arter & McTighe, 2000, p. 21). Some teachers suggest that it is more difficult to construct analytical rubrics for all tasks. Creating the rubric, they may find the task of developing, testing, evaluating, and updating time consuming. Often teachers find it difficult to ascertain the correct set of criteria to define performance expectations, and using the correct language to express expectations can often be difficult.
There can also be lower consistency amongst different teachers as they have different ideas about what constitutes acceptable criteria. The extra detail in the analytical rubric will help multiple grades emphasize the same criteria. As there is less detail to analyse in the holistic rubric, younger students may be able to integrate it into their schema better than the analytical rubric. Rubrics can also restrict the students thinking in that they may complete the assignment strictly to the rubric instead of taking the initiative to explore their learning.
Also if the criteria that is in the rubric is too complex, students may feel overwhelmed with the assignment. Rubrics can provide both formative and summative information if used in the appropriate settings and manner. The ARBs, or Assessment Resource Banks are another form of assessment that is widely used in New Zealand Schools. Teaching and learning need to be an interactive journey between both the student and the teacher. Teachers need to know about their students’ progress and any difficulties they have so that they may adapt their teaching programme accordingly.
These needs are often unpredictable and vary from one student to the next; therefore a variety of assessment procedures need to be used within the classroom environment in order to determine and meet the needs of all students, (Black and William, 1998). REFERENCES Arter, J. & McTighe, J. (2000). Scoring Rubrics in the Classroom: Using Performance Criteria for Assessing and Improving Student Performance. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press. Black, P. & William, D. (1998b). Inside the black box: raising standards through classroom assessment.
London: King’s College School of Education. Clarke, S. , Timperley, H. , & Hattie, J. (2003). Unlocking Formative Assessment: Practical strategies for enhancing student’s learning in the primary and intermediate classroom. (1st NZ ed. ). New Zealand: Hodder Education. Darr, C. (2005a). A Hitchhiker’s guide to validity. Set: Research Information for Teachers, 2, 55-56. Darr, C. (2005b). A Hitchhiker’s guide to reliability. Set: Research Information for Teachers, 3, 59-60. Smith, J. , & Elley, W. (1997). How children learn to write, (pp. 126-138). New Zealand: Addison Wesley Longman.