Sunday, 23 June 2013

What are Assessment and Evaluation?

NOTE:  This post is the first in a miniseries on Assessment and Evaluation in the classroom, aimed at providing support both to my teacher colleagues and to parents of school children.  
I think probably every parent of a school-aged child has wondered at one time or another just how teachers take a whole lot of class work and assignments and projects and stuff and somehow know how and what kids are learning, and then take the next step of turning it all into a grade and a comment on a report card.  I think it’s equally probable that every teacher or teacher candidate has wondered that too at some point in their career.  Teachers often talk about “assessing” and “evaluating” but sometimes it all sounds like a secret language.
This series on “Teachable Moments” aims to demystify current assessment and evaluation practices  for parents and for teachers who are either beginning their teacher practice or who want an opportunity to review and reflect on their teaching practice and perhaps get some new tips and ideas to implement in their classrooms.
Let’s start with what is the difference between assessment and evaluation.

What is Assessment? 
Assessment is the ongoing activity of collecting information and evidence about what a student knows and how they are learning, as well as how they are able to apply that information to other situations.  It includes looking at how a child learns. The teacher uses assessment to determine what a student has learned, needs to work on, and the best way to help them learn based on their learning style.

What is Evaluation?

Evaluation takes place at the end of a segment of learning.  It involves a judging of a student’s skills and demonstration of understanding in a particular area based on an established set of criteria.  In the public school system, the established criteria are the provincial curriculum guidelines for your child’s grade.  (You can see the Ontario curriculum documents and student exemplars on the Ministry of Education website here.)  The evaluation will most often be communicated by a grade on a report card summarizing  student’s achievement in an area of study, accompanied by a written comment on their progress in that area.

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