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Classroom Evaluation
Testing & Evaluation > Classroom Evaluation

Table of Contents
Classroom evaluation is a crucial part of the learning process as
Abstract it is used to measure and improve student learning as well as the
quality of classroom instruction. Classroom evaluation encom-
Keywords passes the procedures used by teachers to determine if, and to
what degree, their students can demonstrate a skill, behavior, or
Overview body of knowledge. Over the past century, the number of assess-
ment methods have grow exponentially; teachers today can avail
themselves of a variety of traditional and alternative assessment
Accountability methods to evaluate and improve the quantity and quality of stu-
dents’ skills and knowledge.

Figure 1. The Role of Assessment within
the Instructional Process
The Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evalua-
Applications tion defines evaluation as “the systematic investigation of the
worth or merit of a student’s performance in relation to a set
Traditional vs. Alternative Assessment
of learner expectations or standards of performance” (2003, p.
Table 1: Classification of Different 228). Teacher evaluations measure student achievement by scor-
ing students on a set of explicit expectations and then placing
Methods of Assessment
their scores on a scale which differentiates the degrees to which
Quantitative vs. Qualitative Assessments students demonstrate a skill, body of knowledge, or behavior.
Evaluations can measure cognitive outcomes (of demonstrated
Locally Developed Assessments knowledge) as well as affective outcomes (higher-order connec-
Figure 2. Product & Performance Tic-Tac- tions) (McMillan, 2001; Marzano, 2001; Popham, 2001). The
feedback evaluations provide to instructors plays a prominent
Toe role in every facet and at every level of curricular development
Viewpoints (Beane, Toepfer, & Alessi, 1986).
Assessment methods are the techniques and strategies teachers
use to collect significant information about students’ skills, body
Disadvantages of knowledge, or behavior in order to perform their evaluations.
Like evaluation, the process of assessment is central to instruc-
Terms & Concepts tion. Twenty-first century curricula demand that teachers be adept
at using a variety of classroom assessment methods (American
Bibliography Association for the Advancement of Science, 2000; Joint Com-
mittee on Standards for Educational Evaluation, 2003; Littke &
Suggested Reading Grabelle, 2004; Marzano, 2001; Wiggins, 1998).

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Classroom Evaluation Essay by R.D. Merritt, Ph.D.

Keywords assessing multiple aspects, the multiform assessments derived
a fuller picture of individuals’ physical, mental, and emotional
Alternative Assessments abilities and, thereby, their allover suitability for espionage
(Office of Strategic Services, 1948; Wiggins, 1993).
Analytic Rubrics
The 1950s brought Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educa-
Assessment Methods tional Objectives, one of the most widely used tools for teachers’
classroom evaluation of student learning. This book provided
Authentic Assessments teachers with multiple sets of behavioral verbs, helping them
write performance descriptions, expectations or desired perfor-
Diagnostic Assessments
mance outcomes, and higher-level reasoning tasks for students
Evaluation (Bloom, 1956).

Formative Assessments Accountability
Emerging in the late 1960s through the early 1970s and increasing
Inferences in intensity, accountability-movement pressures began to dominate
evaluation and assessment. After A Nation at Risk was published,
Measurement the 1980s brought more rigorous requirements so as to improve
students’ test scores and performances at college (National Com-
Multiform Assessments
mission on Excellence in Education, 1983; Schubert, 1986). The
Nontraditional Assessments report sounded the call for accountability in education and exposed
the failures of the U.S. educational system.
Performance Assessments Evaluation for accountability purposes became the watch-
Portfolios words of the 1980s and 1990s. The accountability movement
has extended right up to the present day, culminating with the
Qualitative Assessments current standards-based assessments and the large-scale, high-
stakes, standardized state testing programs. Regardless of the
Quantitative Assessments dominance of accountability and standardized testing, recent
years have also brought an expansion in the types of evaluation
Summative Assessments data that are considered valid for assessments. The influence and
use of technology in authentic, contextual learning environments
Traditional Assessments has led to dissatisfaction with existing classroom evaluation
methodologies, spurring the development of innovative new
methodologies (Kovalik & Dalton, 1997; Marzano, 2001).
Curriculum evaluation moved through a number of stages during Purposes
the late 19th century and throughout the 20th- century. The sci- Assessments used in classroom evaluation need to focus not
entific experimentation and measurement movement with its only on methods and techniques, but also on purposes. The
emphasis on grading, marking and judging dominated the late type of classroom assessment used needs to be matched with
1800s and early 1900s. The measurement movement grew its purpose(s). Classroom evaluations are certainly used to
steadily throughout the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. Evaluation document what students have learned and to produce informa-
expanded beyond measurement with the so-called “Eight-Year tion about student progress, but classroom evaluations are also
Study” (1933-1941). However, the grading-marking-judging needed to provide teachers with information for making instruc-
approach to classroom evaluation has guided educators through- tional decisions (Popham, 2001). The student-performance data
out the history of education and is still widespread in the early emanating from classroom evaluations provide teachers with
21st-century (Schubert, 1986). feedback on the effectiveness of their teaching procedures, help-
ing them improve instruction and student learning. The daily
A shift came during the 1940s when the U.S. Office of Strategic
classroom cycle of performance and feedback produces most
Services began using a multiform, holistic system of assess-
student learning and most of the improvement in schools (Lewis
ment to identify the military personnel best suited for espionage
& Doorlag, 1987; Wiggins, 1998).
behind enemy lines. The system was described in the agency’s
report Assessment of Men: Selection of Personnel for the Office A schematic developed and illustrated in Popham’s 2001 book,
of Strategic Services. These assessments used an assortment of The Truth About Testing: An Educator’s Call to Action, modified
procedures and tests to evaluate not only individuals’ capabilities and reproduced here as Figure 1, shows the ideal relationships
and skills, but also personal characteristics and attitudes. And by among assessment, instruction, content, inferences and decisions.

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Classroom Evaluation Essay by R.D. Merritt, Ph.D.

Figure 1. The Role of Assessment within the Instructional Process Applications
(Modified after Popham, 2001).
Traditional vs. Alternative Assessment
Educational evaluation includes a broad array of assessment
approaches including both traditional and nontraditional tech-
niques. Traditional assessments measure student learning with
paper-and-pencil tests, while alternative assessments seek to
measure learning along with students’ ability to reason and think
DECISIONS critically. Both types of assessments can use objective, selected-
Regarding INSTRUCTION response items and subjective, constructed-response items.
Instruction Selected-response items limit the range of student responses
through, for example, traditional multiple choice problems, or
alternative self-assessment. Constructed-response items allow
students to create their own responses to assessment prompts
and can include traditional essays and alternative performance
assessments (see Table 1).

Regarding Skills, and/or Table 1: Classification of Different Methods of Assessment
Instruction Affect (Modified from McMillan, 2001).

Type of Response Type of Assessment
Traditonal Alternative
That Represents
the Content

Selected-response: Multiple-choice Student
Objective-type True-false
assessments in
which responses
or answers are Binary-choice
chosen from those
provided. Structured
Teachers use assessments to sample students’ knowledge and
skills. Sampling the larger body of content, teachers are able to Structured
use assessments to evaluate the degree to which students have interview
mastered the body of content as a whole. They then rely on Surveys
these evaluations to make decisions on how best to teach stu-
dents (Popham, 2001).
Sentence Performance
Instruction can move forward when classroom evaluations, based completion assessment
on the use of assessments, show that students have learned what Constructed-
response: Short answer Authentic
they should (Gage & Berliner, 1988). For example, if a class-
room teacher requires students to write two persuasive essays Subjective-type Essay
on a final exam and they perform well on both essays, then the assessments in Portfolio
teacher can reasonably infer that students are capable writers which responses observation assessment
of persuasive essays (Popham, 2001). Remedial instruction is or answers are
supplied or Unstructured Exhibitions
required if classroom evaluation reveals that some or all of the constructed. interview
students have not acquired the skills that were taught. In some
cases, evaluation indicates that the entire instructional sequence Student
must be started anew. This requires rethinking educational Reports self-assessment
objectives, student characteristics, teaching strategies, and the
learning process (Gage & Berliner, 1988).

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Classroom Evaluation Essay by R.D. Merritt, Ph.D.

A variety of traditional and nontraditional assessment methods, are often not used to evaluate individual students, some students
techniques and formats are currently being used in K-12 class- are not motivated to demonstrate their learning. This can lead
rooms to garner evaluative information and sources of evidence. to lower test scores and inaccurate data (Brookhart, Walsh, &
Some are used more in certain subject areas than in others, but Zientarski, 2006).
they can, for the most part, be used multidisciplinarily. These
approaches include homework assignments; teacher-developed, Locally Developed Assessments
paper-and-pencil quizzes and tests; teacher observations; jour- Locally-developed assessments include grade-level tests, depart-
nals; lab notebooks; and essays and writing samples (American ment tests, district-wide assessments and teacher-made tests.
Association for the Advancement of Science, 2000; Joint Com- Departmental tests are developed by teachers at a single school
mittee on Standards for Educational Evaluation, 2003; Marzano, to standardized curriculum goals throughout a subject area. Dis-
2003; National Research Council, 2000; Wiggins, 1993). The trict-wide tests are developed by teachers in collaboration with
specific assessment option(s) selected and implemented in a curriculum specialists to measure course and grade-level con-
given circumstance should be the one(s) that will provide the best tent goals (Tucker & Stronge, 2005). Teachers can use their own,
source(s) of evidence (American Association for the Advance- non-standardized assessments for a variety of purposes.
ment of Science, 2000; McMillan, 2001; Popham, 2001).
Diagnostic assessments, also known as pre-assessments or pre-
Quantitative vs. Qualitative Assessments tests, establish students’ performance baseline. Taken prior to
beginning new units of study, these assessments gauge students’
A second classification scheme subdivides assessment methods
starting points and readiness for learning. Diagnostic assessments
into two major types:
can also provide insight into students’ interests and preferred
• Quantitative assessments— those using measurement, routes to learning. Among the many types of diagnostic assess-
and ments are quizzes, concept maps, checklists, and journal entries
(Lewis & Doorlag, 1987; Tomlinson & McTighe, 2006).
• Qualitative assessments--those using non-numerical
descriptions Formative assessments are short-term, teacher-constructed
tests used throughout instruction to promote and improve stu-
Quantitative assessments evaluate student learning as either a dent learning and test performance. Teachers use them to guide
raw score or a standard score. Raw scores are determined from learning and inform any adjustments in their instruction. They
the number or percentage of test items a student answers cor- insure the consistent delivery of viable curriculum and have a
rectly. Standard scores are determined by comparing a student’s strong impact on learning outcomes (National Research Council,
raw score to those of other students and assigning a percentile 2000; Schmoker, 2006).
rank (McMillan, 2001). Both standardized tests and the tests and
quizzes developed by teachers are quantitative assessments. Summative assessments present conclusions about the merit or
worth of student performances. These traditional, teacher-made
Standardized assessments include norm-referenced tests, which tests determine if, and to what degree, students have mastered
compare the test taker to a sample of his or her peers to derive a set of skills or body of knowledge. Major tests like midterm
a standard score, and criterion-referenced tests, which use a raw exams, final exams, six-week or eight-week exams, and unit
score to measure the degree to which the test taker possesses a exams are all summative assessments. They should be reliable,
trait or skill (Popham, 1975, cited in Measurement and Evalua- replicable, equitable for all students, systemic, interpretable,
tion). Criterion-referenced standardized assessments thoroughly and comparable across classes and schools (Joint Committee on
measure specific skills and knowledge – like geometry or Ameri- Standards for Educational Evaluation, 2003; National Research
can literature – while norm-referenced standardized assessments Council, 2000; Popham, 2001; Tucker & Stronge, 2005).
are designed to measure a broader variety of skills, such as read-
ing comprehension or overall mathematical ability. Qualitative assessments are subjective classroom evaluations
which verbally describe the quality of student learning and
Although standardized tests are easily compared across schools, behavior (McMillan, 2001). These assessments make use of
districts, and states, the data they yield isn’t very significant for teacher observations, graphic organizers, multisensory tools,
individual classrooms. By focusing on evaluating general skills checklists, and narratives. Teacher observations can be based in
and knowledge, these tests overlook specific learning as well as casual, day-to-day interactions, or in formal, systemic assess-
other important qualities of student works such as creativity and ments. They are particularly useful for assessing students’ ability
individuality. The tests should not be used to evaluate the quality to work in groups. Graphic organizers and multisensory tools use
of classroom instruction, since test scores can be influenced by an organizational principal, such as chronology, to demonstrate
a number of variables not related to actual student ability (e.g. relationships among ideas to elicit understanding from students.
socioeconomic status, curriculum exposure, or inherent aca- Teachers can also use checklists to evaluate student achieve-
demic aptitude) (Tucker & Stronge, 2005). ment of lesson objectives, and narratives to constructed detailed
Varying degrees of student motivation can also hinder the accu- reports evaluating students’ progress and elaborate on any gaps
racy of large-scale assessments. Because standardized test results in their learning (Lewis & Doorlag, 1987; Littke & Grabelle,
2004; National Research Council, 2000; O’Shea, 2005).

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Classroom Evaluation Essay by R.D. Merritt, Ph.D.

Alternative assessments follow a constructivist-research phi- Student portfolios document and illustrate student learning,
losophy which contends that a good education develops students’ performance, and progress. They typically include multiple
critical thinking and reasoning skills alongside their mastery of instances of student performance (e.g. essay drafts, project note-
content (McMillan, 2001). Some of these alternative assess- books, drawings, research papers, learning plans, or problem
ments are solutions). Portfolios – or process-folios, as they are sometimes
called in the arts – can be used in almost any subject area to
• Authentic assessments
display not only finished works but also preliminary works that
• Performance assessments led up to the final piece (Gardner, 1991; Littke & Grabelle, 2004;
McMillan, 2001; National Research Council, 2000).
• Portfolios
Exhibitions are authentic performances of a skill or body of
• Exhibitions knowledge in a ‘natural’ manner. Oral presentations, which dem-
Curriculum-based authentic assessments are constructed to be onstrate students’ knowledge and their public speaking skills, are
consistent with scenarios naturally occurring outside the class- an example of an exhibition. These assessments put students in
room. Authentic assessments are ‘self-referenced’: they allow the midst of their learning, and emphasize the process of learn-
teachers to compare separate instances of an individual stu- ing as well as the end product. Students are also able to publicly
dent’s performance to determine how he or she has improved demonstrate what they know, and involve teachers as well as
in a subject area over time. Authentic assessment tools include students, parents, and community members in students’ learning
performance-based assessments, student portfolio entries, and (Littke & Grabelle, 2004; McMillan, 2001; Sizer, 1984; Tucker
writing samples. Authentic writing assessments are developed & Stronge, 2005).
in response to writing prompts and are generally holistically
scored using analytic rubrics. Analytic rubrics are more power-
ful evaluation tools than checklists because they can be used to Viewpoints
identify gradations in the quality of students’ work (McMillan,
2001; O’Shea, 2005; Tucker & Stronge, 2005). Advantages
Classroom evaluation is a critical step in the educational pro-
Performance assessments require students demonstrate a pro-
cess as it helps students learn and educators determine program
ficiency or skill by creating a product or performing a task.
improvements (Beane, Toepfer, & Alessi, 1986).
These assessments allow students to demonstrate learning in
an individualized manner by focusing students’ individual tal- An efficacious assessment system facilitates better teaching
ents (Macmillan, 2001; Tucker & Stronge, 2005). For example, and is educative and easy for students to use (Wiggins, 1998).
the performance assessment format developed by Tomlinson Research has shown that assessment strategies should mea-
and McTighe (2006) gives students structured choices for their sure the full range of students’ learning experience to provide
product or performance while keeping in mind the end goal of a composite picture which includes both the learning process
demonstrating learning. Two versions—A and B—are shown in and learning outcomes. The New Standards Project of the late
Figure 2. Based on the given genre or genres teachers would like 1990s, for example, recommended an assessment system of three
students to use – written, visual or oral – they assign students an interrelated components—performance standards, examinations
option from one or more of the columns. In the “free” blocks of and portfolios. Finally, to be fair and equitable, teachers must
version B, for each genre students have the freedom to propose an subject students to the same evaluations comprised of sets of
alternative source of evidence suiting their personal strengths. equally difficult and representative tasks (American Association
Figure 2. Product & Performance Tic-Tac-Toe.
This is a format that enables teachers to structure product-and-perfor-
mance assessment options from various genres while giving students
some choice. (modified from Tomlinson & McTighe, 2006).


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Classroom Evaluation Essay by R.D. Merritt, Ph.D.

for the Advancement of Science, 2000; Kovalik & Dalton, 1997; Terms & Concepts
National Center on Education and the Economy, 1997; National
Research Council, 2000). Alternative Assessments: Nontraditional or unconventional
assessments; include a variety of types such as authentic assess-
Each type of assessment has its own strengths and weaknesses,
ments, performance assessments, portfolios and exhibitions.
so assessments should be used to complement one another. To
insure consistency across classrooms, groups of teachers can Analytic Rubrics: Evaluation tools used to identify grada-
work together to determine which assessments they will use, tions in the quality of students’ work and to assign a subjective
and create samples of each type (American Association for the and holistic score—that is, no score, 1, 2, 3, or 4, for example.
Advancement of Science, 2000; McMillan, 2001; Popham, 2006;
Tucker & Stronge, 2005). Assessment Methods: The techniques or strategies that
teachers use to acquire evaluation information from students.
Students’ study habits are thought to be influenced by the types
of assessments used (Crooks, 1988; Fleming, Ross, Tollefson, Authentic Assessments: Assessments constructed such that
& Green, 1998). Different types of assessments measure for dif- they are compatible and consistent with what people do in situ-
ferent types of knowledge (Marzano, 2001). Assessments that ations occurring naturally outside the classroom; examples are
emphasize rote memorization will encourage students to adopt portfolio entries and writing samples.
a surface approach to studying, while assessments that empha- Diagnostic Assessments: Pre-assessments or pre-tests used
size complex analysis will push them towards deep, integrative by teachers to establish a performance baseline, gauge learners’
study. Students who expect more complex items on exams, such starting points and readiness prior to beginning new instruc-
as short essays rather than multiple choice, will adjust their study tional units.
habits accordingly. Therefore, classroom evaluation, students’
study strategies and the development of critical-thinking skills Evaluation: “The systematic investigation of the worth or
are believed to be interrelated (Crooks, 1988; Fleming, Ross, merit of a student’s performance in relation to a set of learner
Tollefson, & Green, 1998). expectations or standards of performance” (Joint Committee on
Standards for Educational Evaluation, 2003, p. 228).
Exhibitions: Authentic performances, demonstrations or oral
Classroom evaluation is a difficult process. Done incorrectly, it presentations of knowledge and/or skill in a ‘natural manner’
can lack integrity, substance, and worth. Evaluations need to be that allow students to show publicly what they have learned.
written carefully so that they don’t contain trick questions, use
unrealistic or irrelevant norms, produce ambiguous observational Formative Assessments: Assessments which teachers use
data or assessment information, or give students an overwhelm- to promote growth and improvement in students’ performance,
ing amount of feedback (Beane, Toepfer, & Alessi, 1986). to guide learning and to inform productive adjustments in
Teachers should be skilled in using a variety of different methods
for evaluating student learning. They need to know how to cor- Inferences: Conclusions drawn by teachers based on assess-
rectly interpret the results of multiple types of assessment, and ments regarding students’ content status —knowledge, attitudes
be able to discern which types of assessment are appropriate for and interests—and achievement in learning educational objec-
which classroom scenarios. tives.
Teacher should also be aware that individual tests cannot fully Measurement: The process of assigning alphanumeric grades,
measure what students have learned, but only provide a fair scores or marks to assessments based on an explicit set of rules.
sampling of that domain. To get a clear picture of students’ per-
formance, evaluations must go beyond traditional tests. A variety Multiform Assessments: Holistic, organismic assessments
of types of assessment best allows teachers to develop a summary which use a large number of procedures and various tests to
profile of students’ knowledge, skills and achievement. evaluate personal characteristics, attitudes, capabilities and
skills and to derive a whole picture of personality (Office of
It takes time to develop and use multiple types of assessments Strategic Services, 1948; Wiggins, 1993).
as well as document students’ achievement through multiple
sources of evidence. A substantial amount of class time needs Nontraditional Assessments: Also unconventional assess-
to be devoted to activities which allow teachers to evaluate ments or alternative assessments; include a variety of types
students’ products or behavior. Additionally, high-quality class- such as performance assessments, authentic assessments, port-
room assessments require continual development. However, folios and exhibitions.
the quality of classroom assessments are in question and better Performance Assessments: Assessments in which students
assessments—rather than better testing, or more testing—are demonstrate a proficiency or skill by producing, creating or
needed (American Association for the Advancement of Science, doing something.
2000; Crooks, 1988; Wiggins, 1993).

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Classroom Evaluation Essay by R.D. Merritt, Ph.D.

Portfolios: Assessments which include exhibits of students’ Dossett, D., & Munoz, M. A. (2003). Classroom account-
work products and records of performance that document their ability: A value-added methodology. Washington,
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or verbal descriptions; examples are teacher observations, nar- Fleming, K., Ross, M., Tollefson, N., & Green, S. B. (1998).
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Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation.
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(2003). The student evaluation standards: How to
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Classroom Evaluation Essay by R.D. Merritt, Ph.D.

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Essay by R.D. Merritt, Ph.D.
Roy Merritt holds a Doctorate in Education/Curriculum & Instruction (1994) with a specialization in Science Education from New
Mexico State University, Las Cruces. He has multiple degrees in both Education and Science and he has worked professionally in
both fields. In addition to serving as an Educational Consultant, he is also a freelance and contract writer and is the author of numerous
publications including refereed journal articles and resource books.

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