Knowing What Students Know: A Free Executive Summary on Classroom (read "Ensemble") Assessment

This is a very intersting summary from:

Committee on the Foundations of Assessment, James W. Pellegrino, Naomi Chudowsky, and Robert Glaser, editors, Board on Testing and Assessment, Center for Education, National Research Council (2001)

A few very interesting excerpts:

With the movement over the past two decades toward setting challenging academic standards and measuring students’ progress in meeting those standards, educational assessment is playing a greater role in decision making than ever before. In turn, education stakeholders are questioning whether current large-scale assessment practices are yielding the most useful kinds of information for informing and improving education. Meanwhile, classroom assessments, which have the potential to enhance instruction and learning, are not being used to their fullest potential. 

Students will learn more if instruction and assessment are integrally related. In the classroom, providing students with information about particular qualities of their work and about what they can do to improve is crucial for maximizing learning. It is in the context of classroom assessment that theories of cognition and learning can be particularly helpful by providing a picture of intermediary states of student understanding on the pathway from novice to competent performer in a subject domain

For classroom or large-scale assessment to be effective, students must understand and share the goals for learning. Students learn more when they understand (and even participate in developing) the criteria by which their work will be evaluated, and when they engage in peer and self-assessment during which they apply those criteria. These practices develop students’ metacognitive abilities, which, as emphasized above, are necessary for effective learning. 

Note this particular recommendation:

Recommendation 11: The balance of mandates and resources should be shifted from an emphasis on external forms of assessment to an increased emphasis on classroom formative assessment designed to assist learning

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