IntelAssessing Projects : Using Assessment to Improve Teaching and Learning
Assessment throughout the Learning Cycle


Assessment after Teaching and Learning
At the end of a project, learners need to show what they have learned and teachers need to know what learners have learned and what they will take with them from one section of work to the next. These assessments ask learners to demonstrate understanding and skill.  

Low-level knowledge about a topic can be assessed through a quiz or test, but assessing deeper understanding requires different kinds of tasks. When learners plan and carry out performance tasks, they show how well they can apply what they have learned to authentic situations. These tasks must be carefully designed in order to elicit the learners’ level of understanding and to provide them with opportunities to demonstrate their learning. Tasks such as reports, essays, presentations, artistic performances, and demonstrations, allow learners to show what they have learned about content, about working with others, about thinking, and about their own learning processes.

Other kinds of long-term assessments, such as portfolios and ongoing dialogue, provide teachers and learners with the opportunity to make connections among parts of the curriculum, even different subject / learning areas, and individual goals. They help learners assess their own learning over a period of time and give teachers and schools important information for long-term planning.  

Creating a Classroom Culture of Learning
Often teachers plan a unit of study thinking of what they are going to do, the lessons they will give, the activities they will plan, and the tests they will create and mark. When formative assessment is a daily occurrence, teachers begin to think more in terms of what their learners are doing than in terms of what teachers are doing. Instead of thinking, “I’m going to explain simple machines to my Grade 3 learners using a video and a demonstration,” a teacher asks, “What kind of activity can I ask my learners to do that will show me what they understand about simple machines?” Then after gauging learners’ preliminary understanding, the teacher thinks of ways to help learners build their understanding, continually monitoring how they are learning. Teacher behaviours, in this kind of classroom, are only instructional as a means to an end, learning.  

In many classrooms, learners often attend class every day with only one thought: “What will be on the test?” Assessment in these classes becomes a guessing game. The teacher wants learners to learn what will be on the test without telling learners exactly what will be there since the test items are merely a sample of the knowledge learners are expected to learn. Learners want to find out exactly what will be tested so they can do well and not have to learn any “unnecessary” information. A final mark on a test may be a total surprise and may not reflect accurately a learner’s understanding of a topic, thus perpetuating the idea that doing well on the test is about playing a complicated game with the teacher, not about learning.

When learners receive frequent information about their progress, however, they focus more on learning. They know exactly how they will be assessed since the assessments reflect authentic work in the discipline. As they move through the subject matter of the project, they receive information about how they are doing, what goals they are meeting, and what they can do to improve. When the time comes at the end of the project for them to show what they can do, they have had multiple opportunities to build their understanding and skill, and they are not surprised by the outcome.  

In classrooms where learners, parents, and teachers work together to continually assess learners’ progress toward learning goals, the classroom environment becomes more focused on learning. Learners feel more control and take a more proactive approach to their learning while teachers’ focus is “less on teaching and more on the learning in the classroom” (Black, et al., 2003, p. 80).   

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