The fact is, there’s no single method teachers should be using all the time. As one American professor of education, Walt Haney, said: ‘Using one assessment for a multitude of purposes is like using a hammer for everything from brain surgery to pile driving’.
All assessment techniques have their pros and cons, and the right assessment method depends on what you are trying to assess in terms of skills, knowledge or understanding.
Here are five assessment methods you need to know about.
What is it? A collection of work that shows the student's efforts, progress and achievements in one or more areas over time.
Why use it? A portfolio is not the easiest type of assessment to implement, but it can be very effective, especially when used in combination with a quick oral assessment or presentation. It offers valuable data about student improvement over time. Portfolios also offer students the opportunity to self-reflect, as they are reviewing their own learning while selecting the portfolio contents.
What is it? A test designed by the teacher to see students’ competency levels in applying what they are learning. It is typically completed under timed conditions.
Why use it? Teacher-written tests are great for demonstrating knowledge and understanding, while also helping develop skills in time management. The challenge as a teacher is to ensure you ask the right questions in the right way, to reflect your learning objectives. Will it be essay questions, problem sets or multiple-choice? For example, a multiple-choice test can be useful for demonstrating recall but, to see independent analysis, you may need to design open-ended problem-solving questions.
What is it? An essay is an extended written response, anywhere from a concise 300 words to 3000 words and beyond. The task requires students to collate, organise and integrate information on a particular topic.
Why use it? Essays are a great opportunity for students to show communication skills and higher-level thinking. Rather than simply showing understanding and recall, essays require students to form a structured and coherent argument, using evidence to support it. They also allow for individual expression.
What is it? A presentation is typically the process of showing and explaining the content of a topic to an audience. This may be in the form of a poem, debate, speech or story, for example, given by an individual or group. It is commonly supported by visual aids such as slides or handouts.
Why use it? Presentations encourage oral communication. When question-and-answer sessions are incorporated, they also help develop important skills like improvisation. A great advantage to classroom presentations is that students can learn from their own and from everyone else’s presentations. A natural disadvantage is that they cannot be anonymous.
PROFESSIONALLY DESIGNED TEST
What is it? A professionally designed test is one developed by external assessment experts, like ACER. We are a recognised leader in developing assessment tools for schools, universities, TAFEs and more. Australia participates in standardised national tests like NAPLAN, as well as international standardised tests like PISA, TIMSS and PIRLS.
Why use it? One of the biggest advantages of professionally designed tests is that they allow students and teachers to see where they are in relation to larger groups, whether across the state, nationally or internationally. Teachers and school leaders can use standardised test data to guide school improvement, while educational agencies can use it to drive system improvement.