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Teachers' Assessment Tools

Teachers' assessment tools are an important part of judging the capabilities, progress and development of students. Assessment tools help teachers judge how much a student knows at the beginning of a school year, semester or subject. Assessment tools also help track progress and inform the teacher when the subject matter has been adequately learned by the students. Teachers' assessment tools come in various forms, including homework, tests, interviews, oral reports, papers and instructor observation. Teachers' assessment tools can be formative, summative, objective and subjective. Summative Assessment Summative assessment tools are used to gauge the outcome of the learning process. They focus on the curriculum presented during the learning unit and are used to find out whether or not a student was effectively taught a particular subject. A graded test, final exam, quiz, thesis paper and midterm exam are all examples of summative teachers' assessment tools. Summative tools should be designed to reflect the information given in the course. Unlike formative tools, they are designed to reveal what already has been learned during the course of a particular educational unit. Only summative assessment tools should be graded. Objective Assessment Teacher's assessment tools, whether formative or summative, can be further divided into two other categories: objective and subjective. Objective assessment tools have a clearly defined right and wrong answer. They are used to assess a student's knowledge of particular facts and figures that are universal. Examples of objective assessment tools are true/false and multiple-choice questions. Math problems are almost always objective assessment tools, as they leave little room for interpretation. Objective assessment tools are the easiest to design and grade and, therefore, are the more common type of assessment tool. Subjective Assessment Subjective assessment tools require a little more creativity and opinion on the part of the student. These are questions, papers or tests that rely on the presentation of arguable material. Essay questions, research papers and argumentative speeches are examples of subjective assessment tools. They can often reveal more than an objective assessment tool because they allow for more than just memorization on the part of the student. The student's tastes, personality and approach to education can more effectively be observed with subjective assessment tools. Objective and subjective teachers' assessment tools often are used in conjunction, such as a test that has a section of true/false questions and then an essay question at the end.

Conventional Types of Assessment Tools

Conventional, more traditional, assessment tools evaluate what skills students can perform with success. They are generally knowledge-based, versus hands-on or performance-based. They include traditional types of tests like multiple-choice, short answer essays or constructed responses, and standardized tests such as those districts administer to all students. Multiple-Choice Tests Multiple-choice tests are popular tests that require students to recognize correct answers from among several choices, usually three to four with all but one choice wrong. They're easy to score, but not as easy to create because answer choices must carefully balance one correct answer, one close-to-correct answer, with the remaining wrong. Some students consider multiple-choice tests easier than essay tests, and others consider them to be a greater challenge. If a student is fairly good at strategy, he or she is likely to be successful with multiplechoice tests, since points can be scored with a close guess through a process of elimination. But because the answers are somewhat simpler to determine, they cause for a much broader knowledge-base and this makes them more challenging to prepare for. Some students can compensate for a lack of this broader knowledge-base through good test-taking strategy. Short-Answer Essay Tests Educators design short-answer essay tests to evaluate what can't be articulated through multiple-choice questions. The tests generally require a deeper, more detailed analysis of content that requires higher-order thinking. For this reason, many students find essay responses to be more of a challenge. Question prompts are used to elicit students responses, and can often involve application of complicated concepts, synthesis and problem-solving through the making of comparisons, identification of similarities and differences, and cause and effect relationships. Questions typically use language like "explain," "how would" "describe" and "assess." in missing spaces rather than from among several pre-prepared choices. They're much easier to create than multiple choice, and can retain control over guessing. For this reason they're more difficult to score, and usually require manual scoring with each response read and evaluated on its merits. When used as part of a comprehensive standardized test, they tend not to be weighted as heavily as other questions for ease of scoring. Standardized Tests Schools use standardized tests widely on a national level, and they are part of every school district's accountability design. Many are considered "high stakes" because they're taken by large populations of students, and if they do not perform well, districts could lose valuable federal and state funding. Standardized tests need to be easily scored for this reason, and are therefore designed using a typical combination of multiple-choice, short answer, document-based questions and constructed responses.

Alternative Assessment
Alternative assessment is a non-traditional approach to judging performance. It is frequently used in the education industry to evaluate students based on objectives uniquely tailored to their individual needs. In contrast, traditional assessments are machine-graded, multiple-choice exams that estimate a person's progress in content knowledge against other exam takers. As the sole criterion of improvement and/or competence, traditional testing used alone has been found to create faulty comparisons and to overlook achievements.

Authentic Assessment In contrast to traditional testing methods, alternative assessments are generally performance-based reviews that focus on real-world tasks to demonstrate ability. Students are evaluated based on observing performance of realworld activities that demonstrate essential skills or knowledge. For example, an elementary math assessment may evaluate the ability of a student to identify geometric patterns using real objects. Relying on direct observation using checklists and rubrics, authentic assessment is a more individual evaluation approach that replicates the real world of testers. An evaluator is able to avoid communication problems that arise in traditional paper-and-pencil testing modes.

Portfolio Process The portfolio process reviews a body of a student's work to evaluate performance over time. This is a qualitative assessment tool used to identify progress and development during the time frame represented by the portfolio. English as a second language, or ESL, studies have found the portfolio process more advantageous than traditional assessments because of its emphasis on students' strengths as opposed to their weaknesses. Traditional quantitative testing methods have been criticized as a sole criteria for evaluating performance. The portfolio process is considered a more holistic and equitable approach that promotes multicultural awareness and encourages self-esteem.

Student Involvement Alternative assessment methods generally require the active involvement of students in the evaluation process. This translates into greater interaction between students and teachers. It also means that students become more engaged in the educational process and develop a more intimate understanding of the specific skills and critical knowledge being evaluated. By participating in the assessment process, students are also able to gain a greater understanding of their individual strengths and weakness by virtue of participating in the performance review.