The Classroom Assessment KnowledgeBase

Task 3: Be Knowledgeable About the Multiple Forms of Assessment

Guideline: Knowledgeable practitioners of classroom assessment understand its place within the overall context of assessment. As such, they are able to determine the purposes of assessment, understand what they want their students to know and be able to do, and choose instruments to help accomplish their objectives. Universal screening, diagnostic testing, progress monitoring, and formative assessment are forms of assessment tools available to the teacher. They are defined as follows:

Universal Screening is a quick and simple assessment of key indicators of performance in a particular domain considered to be predictive of more complex performance in that domain. The purposes of screening are to identify students quickly who may not be meeting benchmarks (risk factors) and to provide information to help analyze the overall effectiveness of core curriculum.

Diagnostic testing is an in-depth study of individual student strengths and weaknesses to identify areas where additional assistance is needed. Diagnostic measures can be administered any time over the course of the school year and may be administered by someone other than the teacher.

Progress monitoring is a frequent comparison of current to desired performance over a specified period of time and is designed to estimate rates of student improvement; identify students who are not demonstrating adequate progress; compare the efficacy of different forms of instruction; and design more effective, individualized instructional programs for students experiencing learning problems.

Formative assessment is a less formal tool for teachers to guide their instruction on a daily and weekly basis. The ongoing feedback provided to students enables them to comprehend more fully their grasp of the subject matter being taught. In turn, teachers and students are able to make adjustments, as necessary, in their part of the instructional process.

As a set of teacher tools, screening, progress monitoring, diagnostics, and formative assessment work together as follows:

  • Universal Screening assessments usually occur at the beginning of a school year or instructional cycle. Like a health assessment at the beginning of the school year, they provide a quick look at key instructional factors.
  • Diagnostics are applied to identify what is happening if the student is not progressing as expected.
  • Progress monitoring gauges a student's growth in understanding the subject matter over a period of time.
  • Formative assessment enables teachers to determine if what they are doing is helping students be successful in their classes.

Selecting Assessments for Your School

From the American Federation of Teachers, this article gives an overview of the screening tools and the kind of information they provide.

The National Center on Student Progress Monitoring

This link is to the Research Institute on Progress Monitoring (RIPM) funded by the OESP (Office of Special Education Programs).

Element 1: Determine the Goals of the Formative Assessment

Purpose: Developing effective formative assessments begins with an understanding of the fundamentals. These include being knowledgeable about the basic concepts, being able to define "formative," and establishing goals and objectives for formative assessments. Element 1 outlines these tasks and offers resources for the classroom teacher to gain such understanding.

Activity 1: Understand the Basic Concepts of Formative Assessment

Activity 2: Define Formative Assessment

Activity 3: Determine the Objectives for the Assessment

Element 2: Design or Select the Assessment

Purpose: Assessments used in the classroom can be designed locally by teachers or selected from any number of commercial or other professional sources. Regardless of an assessment's origin, teachers must first plan what they intend to accomplish with the assessment. Upon doing so, they can determine whether a pre-existing or new assessment will best meet their needs.

Activity 1: Plan the Assessment

Activity 2: Evaluate Pre-existing Assessments

Activity 3: Develop Own Assessment

Element 3: Administer the Assessment

Purpose: Administering assessments includes conducting and scoring. Conducting the assessment addresses the when, where, and how of doing so. Scoring the assessment focuses on the scoring rubric, determining individual scores, and analyzing the results. Both are essential parts of administering the assessment.

Activity 1: Conduct the Assessment

Activity 2: Score the Assessment

Element 4: Understand and Interpret the Assessment Results

Purpose: When used properly, assessment results enhance instruction. It is incumbent upon teachers to understand, know how to interpret, and explain the results effectively to their students, parents, and other district and school staff members.

Activity 1: Produce and Review Assessment Results

Activity 2: Inform and Collect Feedback from Constituencies

Element 5: Make Adjustments in Instruction and Assessment

Purpose: Good assessments provide the basis for making adjustments in instruction as well as future assessments. Assessment results show teachers where changes need to be made in instructional approaches for groups of students or individual students. The assessment outcomes also show students what they need to do to improve their learning. Changes to instruction based on assessment results complete the learning cycle.

Activity 1: Make Adjustments to Instruction

Activity 2: Make Adjustments to the Assessment