The question of assessment in the “school system, individual schools, and teachers has evoked strong and sometimes violent emotions from the educational community, the general public and their legislative representatives”(Brown & Knight, 1994).
Assessment based on standardized tests has been looked at very closely over the recent years, and some people have even mentioned that they be eliminated completely. Those who feel traditional methods should be replaced by alternative methods. These people feel that demonstration, exhibition, investigation, oral response, portfolio, and written response’s are all examples of alternative assessments and should be incorporated in the classroom.
They also feel that peer assessment should be incorporated because students learn a great deal from each other, and with large student numbers, “the importance of student feedback increases as the availability of tutor feedback decreases”(Brown ; Knight, 1994).G.I Maeroff wrote the first article I read he feels that assessment of student’s achievement is changing, largely because today’s students face a world that will demand new knowledge and abilities. “In the global economy of the 21st century, students will not only need to understand the basics, but also to think critically, to analyze, and to make inferences” (Maeroff, 1991). The author clearly identifies that we often believe that what get assessed is what get taught and that the format of assessment influences the format of instruction. Contrary to our understanding of how students learn, “many assessments test facts and skills in isolation, seldom requiring students to apply what they already know and can do it in real life situations”(Maeroff, 1991).
He feels the problem with standardized tests is that they do not match the emerging content standards, and over reliance on this type of assessment often leads to instruction that “stresses the basic knowledge and skills” (Maeroff, 1991). The article reassures that rather than changes in instruction toward the engaged learning that will prepare students for the future, these test will encourage instruction of less important skills and passive learning. “Although the basic skills may be important goals of education, they are often over emphasized in an effort to raise standardized test scores”(Maeroff, 1991). Maeroff feels that there are many weaknesses of standardized exams. The students get no feedback about their performance in the exams. The exams do not do much to increase students motivation in their want to learn.
The exams usually force the students into surface learning, with the students clearing their minds of one subject as they prepare for exams in the next subject. How students perform in traditional tests depends on so many factors than can grasp on the subject being tested. Lastly the examination scripts are usually marked far too quickly; therefore the assessment is not reliable.The second article I read indicates that standardization is of little importance if the results of assessment are to be used in isolation from all other factors.
“If the purpose is simply to learn about the state of a single subject, a unique assessment might be devised to furnish the information desired. However, if the assessment is to be used for the purpose of comparison, generalization, or decision-making, standardization is essential”(Linn, Baker, Dunbar, 1991). Standardized testing achieves standardization by norming practices, machine scoring of multiple choice questions, precise instructions for administration, and standard formats for tests and recording responses. These results can compare individual results to an established standard. Another benefit to standardized tests is that in these days with shrinking budgets, the cost of nationally standardized tests is cheap. “They can, in effect, get accountability for pennies a pupil.
The alternatives are far more expensive. Even while defending their programs as well worth the investment, such pioneers as in authentic assessment measures as Dale Carlson, director of the California Assessment Program, will concede that the cost differential can be as much as five times per pupil”(Linn, Baker, Dunbar, 1991)I feel that standardized testing gives us viable, inexpensive, reliable, and valid indicators of students learning and achievement. Standardized testing is already in place in most states of the union, so the data are readily available. Standardization makes it possible to generalize and to make conclusions about the data and its implications. Alternative forms of assessment are also viable tools for the assessment of student’s progress, so long as care is taken to assure their validity and reliability as I have learned in my math classes here at Canisius College.
Alternative assessment is expensive and difficult to develop, administer and score, which makes their usefulness for large-scale assessment questionable. If these alternative models achieve comparable reliability and validity, wouldn’t they in effect have become standardized as well? The issue is not whether or not one form of assessment is better than another; no assessment model is suited for every purpose. The real issue is choosing appropriately among the variables that apply the most suitable model for the students. It is necessary to determine what information is sufficient to each purpose before you decide what format that you are going to teach. The best way to do our students justice is to use as wide as possible a mixture of all the assessment methods; this will allow all the students to show their strengths and weaknesses. BibliographyBrown, S and Knight, P (1994). Assessing Learners in Higher Education.
Kogan Page, London.Linn, R.L., Baker, ; S. B. Dunbar.
(1991). Complex, Performance-Based Assessment: Expectations and Validation Criteria. Educational Researcher, 20 (8), pp. 15-21.
Maeroff, G.I. (1991). Assessing Alternative Assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 73 (4), pp. 273-281).