Essay about Assessment for Learning - 1782 Words

Minimizing construct-irrelevant factors does not lessen the rigor of an assessment but instead gives a more accurate picture of what learners are actually learning in terms of the knowledge, skills, and abilities identified in the course goals. Having an accurate picture of student learning is particularly important for formative assessments, where results can be used to revise instruction as a course progresses. Minimizing construct-irrelevant factors helps to focus in on where students are actually struggling with content, skills, or abilities that the assessment is meant to measure.

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Traditional assessments might include multiple choice, true/false, and matching. Alternative assessments take the form of short answer questions, essays, electronic or paper-based portfolios, journal writing, oral presentations, demonstrations, creation of a product, student self-assessment and reflections, and performance tasks that are assessed by predetermined criteria noted within rubrics. Self and peer assessments can be both formative and summative in nature, and help students to take responsibility for and to become critical of their own work.


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Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam (1998) stated from the TIMSS video study, "A focus on standards and accountability that ignores the processes of teaching and learning in classrooms will not provide the direction that teachers need in their quest to improve" (para. 2). Those processes involve teachers making assessment decisions, which Popham (2003) indicated can be made based on the structure of the tests themselves or on students' performance on those tests. Teachers can make decisions about the nature and purpose of the curriculum, about students' prior knowledge, about how long to teach something, and about the effectiveness of instruction (Chapter 1, What Sorts of Teaching Decisions Can Tests Help? section).


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Choices, again, can be helpful. For example, an assignment on identifying barriers to economic expansion in post-World War II Europe could include the options of an essay, PowerPoint presentation, video, or infographic to achieve the same goal. Demonstrating understanding of text can be expressed by students choosing keepers (items from the text the learner finds important and relevant) and generating queries (questions created by the learner to be answered later) about the content. These can be expressed in written or verbal form, in a group or alone.

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When applying UDL principles to assessment, it can be helpful to consider first where there might be barriers that would impact the performance of some learners. Below are examples of barriers and some options for minimizing them. Keep in mind that constructs can be assessed in many ways, and the goal is to minimize factors that are construct irrelevant.

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Ongoing assessment is an essential part of any course. Learners vary in the ways in which they learn and can demonstrate what they are learning. Because of this variability, construct-irrelevant features in assessments can create barriers that prevent some learners from accurately demonstrating what they have learned. The principles of universal design for learning (UDL) can be applied to help identify and address construct-irrelevant barriers in assessments.