The Personal Beliefs on Assessment
To describe this author’s personal beliefs about assessment, a clear understanding of what assessment entails, is warranted for clarity. Assessment is defined as, to estimate or determine the significance, importance, or value of something, (Webster’s, 2005, p.85). With this definition, as the basis for personal observations, this author will present several personal opinions as to what assessments are, how they are used today, and best practice results forwarded from personal experience.
One of the subsections to this assignment is to identify a positive personal experience with the usage of assessments in the pedagogical arena. This is an obvious choice for this author, as assessment of teaching style and engagement with students in his charge, has led to a refinement of the presentation of classes being given at North Idaho College.
In the spring, 2006 semester, this author was presented with less than desirable results from his attempt to disseminate traditional curricula to his students. The material, in question, is over 500 years old and written in such a way, as to present little latitude to modification of the materials being studied. The issue was, student successful retention wasn’t meeting the author’s expectations traditionally. The traditional presentation historically, gleaned about a 60% successful promotion rate. The actual promotion rate realized was only a 39.6% successful promotion to the next level of proficiency. Assessment of student learning style preferences revealed a misalignment of presentational methodology and desired student outcomes. Once realized, through assessment, presentational methodologies were aligned to more precisely match the student population’s preferred learning styles. The results in the following fall, 2006 semester, provided a 95%+ promotion rate. The positive outcome was the obvious positive to this discussion of assessment outcomes.
Negative outcomes appear in several distinct venues, in this author’s opinion. Stress is the number one concern for this proctor. Some students do poorly when subjected to the rigors of testing. Many just don’t function, as they should, when confronted by educational attempts, to assess student understanding of lessons taught. This author has personally observed the interactive dynamic, which is midterm and finals weeks, at the college. Students are on educational overload, as they try to study the subjects in question, for testable understanding to the required materials. Students stress levels are driven to a peak, at these times, in their pedagogical pursuits. This microcosm of high risk testing produces many negative factors to student assimilation attempts and serves little in the way of assessment, except to the extent subject materials are assessed for student understanding and participation. These types of tests, to this author, represent administrative attempts to assure student compliance with required assignment participation. This is no way to conduct business with our youth, in this opinion.
This writer’s belief system, forwards the following with regard to assessments. Personally, assessment represents our attempt to monitor our students for growth, in their knowledge bases, due to the interactions of our teaching best practices. Used as an assessment, means to unobtrusively interact, in such a way, as to disguise what is attempted with our pupils. High profile/high stakes testing has no place in the pedagogical arena, in this opinion. If students are approached with stealth, with our assessments, they most often respond with truthful indications of how they are doing with the programming. Little reasons exist for the high visibility which midterms and finals represent. Assessments can and should be of as little impact as is possible and not played on the front burner of the educational experience, in this opinion.
This is the conundrum, to this author’s way of doing business. The value for refining our presentational methodology is obvious. Having an indicator with our pupils is paramount to student successful outcomes. To align and modify for clarity is what teaching is all about. Assessment is necessary as a means to monitor, but this is not what students see when time comes for testing. This author has been asked many times, just why professors deem it necessary to employ such intrusive indicators as tests. In response, the reply most given is, to assure students understand of the materials necessary to complete successfully the program they are enrolled in. So for educators, assessments provide feedback as to the effectiveness of their tutelage. For the student, however, the opposite, many times, is realized instead.
Assessments Employed Today
The assessments employed today, can be viewed, thus far, in two distinct settings. The first setting, which is used pre-college, is the high stakes assessments which power the NCLB act. These assessments are out of control, in this opinion. “Teaching to the test,” is the mantra most teachers use in describing state mandated testing. This assessment is a travesty for education, in that teachers are individualistically stymied in their attempts at innovations pedagogically and a ceiling of programming is realized, dissuading growth beyond the mandate. There appears no encouragement with personal design. Proctors are left to the preprogrammed formatting of the federal government and have little latitude, to be creative, with their engagement of their students. I find this to be unacceptable, that the federal government and by proxy states, are allowed to dictate what we teach, how we teach it, and the goals we must foster in the process. Teachers are extremely creative in their attempts at instruction and are very driven by the educational calling they hear. Why would an overseeing agency want to slow the educational evolution of our teachers in this way?
The second assessment parameter is as an indicator to presentational excellence. Using assessments provides detailed inferences as to the effectiveness of our teaching. For this purpose, assessments occupy a valuable niche in the educational endeavor educators engage. Value, it would seem, is a commodity that has little following by the administration teachers must work hand in hand with, but remains the desired outcome to the educational endeavor student/teacher exchange presents.
In summation, assessments are a valuable tool for refinement and understanding of our attempts to educate. They offer valuable insight into our effectiveness, pedagogically. They can be used to indicate necessary modifications, in our presentations, which may not be visible otherwise. This author does feel, however, there must be ways to approach assessment, which can provide minimal impact in the process. Assessments are visible to all involved. There needs to be a way to present assessment without the negative impact testing implies.
Webster’s New World Dictionary, 2005. College Dictionary Fourth edition. Wiley Publishing, Inc., Cleveland, Ohio, p.85.