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I’ve noticed a lot of discussion about testing recently. It seems like every day there is a story in the news about parents opting out of standardized assessments, school districts grappling with new test types, or analysts discussing test performance issues. With all of this talk, the true purpose of assessment is often obscured.
Assessment is designing situations in which to obtain evidence about aspects of what students know and can do.
Although they tend to get a bad rap, assessments can be useful for all sorts of things. A high quality assessment can be used by an educator to examine a student’s skill and knowledge mastery. When used effectively, assessments can allow teachers to observe learning progress over time, provide feedback, and even help build confidence and motivation. Families can use assessment results to understand how a student is faring in the classroom. Administrators can use assessments do everything from examining whether a curriculum package is a good fit for students, to determining whether teachers need extra support in the classroom.
Perhaps most interestingly, assessments are an excellent learning tool. A cognitive psychologist at Washington University, Dr. Henry Roediger, found that frequent assessment had significant positive effects on recall and retention of material, even when students did not perform well on those tests. As he states on his faculty webpage “tests not only measure knowledge, but enhance it.”
Our question: Can the positive effects of using assessments as a learning tool be attributed to the type of assessment being administered? Where do we find the right balance and purpose of assessments?
In our next few posts, we’ll be exploring different types of assessment, why they matter, and how games (yes, games!) can be one of the most powerful testing tools of the 21st century.