What are “Assessment” and “Evaluation?”

After my first ECS 410 class about assessment and evaluation, I can safely say that everything I thought I knew about those two terms is incorrect. I thought that the terms “assessment” and “evaluation” stood for the same thing – figuring out what a student knows and assigning a grade to student work. I guess that is in part correct, but now I know that the terms are not synonymous. From this first class I have learned that evaluation = how will students demonstrate their knowledge and skills they have learned. Evaluation occurs when a teacher decides if a student has learned what he or she was supposed to learn, and how well they have learned it. Assessment is the gathering of information about student learning that can alter our teaching because of the data collected and help students learn more. Assessment is done for a number of reasons, including for learning, as learning, and of learning.

Our class did a brainstorm of the ideas that come to mind when we think about the word assessment, and this is what we came up with:

  • criteria
  • feedback
  • timely
  • different forms
  • check-ins
  • samples
  • differentiated
  • unbiased
  • post-assessment
  • student involvement; and
  • consistently and continually

We also did a brainstorm of the strategies we could use for assessment and evaluation:

  • informal observation
  • anecdotal records
  • observation check lists
  • rating scales
  • checklists
  • scoring guides
  • performance assessment rubrics
  • tests and quizzes
  • daily work
  • student conferences
  • portfolios
  • concept webs
  • pre-assessments

The brainstorms helped me to understand that assessment was informal and evaluation was formal. Most of the methods that we had gathered together were ideas that I had already connected with evaluation and assessment. Perhaps I knew more about this topic than I initially thought. Perhaps the “incorrect” knowledge will stem from not understanding the different terminology. I have a lot to learn from this class in only a few months.

Before we ended the first class, our Professor led us towards a controversial topic. She simply asked: who is in favour of late marks? This was something I strongly agreed with. Many teachers in my high school and university careers follow this “rule.” It made sense to me. Taking marks off for late homework should motivate students to hand in their work on time. After reading the article “Keep Behaviour in Report Cards” from the Saskatoon Star Pheonix (issue: Monday, October 4, 2010), I began to see what I had failed to see. The article described how schools in Saskatoon would now only report on whether the course work was completed, and to what degree it was successful (given a grade), and not include issues of attendance, late assignments or plagiarism. The article points out the issue from both sides – stating that on one hand it will reflect a more accurate mark, while at the same time it doesn’t show the behaviour transgressions made by students. Is it fair that a student who hands in work late be given the same, or better, mark than a student who is punctual? But is it fair that a student who hands in extremely good work, albeit late, is docked marks for not handing it on time? I’m currently not sure where I stand on this issue. My mind has been blown with the idea that taking marks off for being late is more cause for failure to hand in an assignment than motivation to hand it in on time. This is because I was a “good” student. I handed my projects in on time and felt guilty if I ever had to hand it in late and get marks taken off. But for students who already struggle to complete homework on time, and know that a penalty awaits them, does it hinder them or help them? Apparently the research shows it is more of a hindrance. Now, after hearing this side, it makes total sense to me. Isn’t it weird how strongly you can feel about a topic when you have little to no research on it? I had previously thought I would be firm and take off 10% the first day it was late, and an additional 1-2% for each day after it was still late. If my students handed in something 10 days late that would mean the most they could possibly get was about 70%. That’s without even marking the assignment. So in order to get a 70% they would actually need to achieve 100% before I took off marks. Now that I thought about it in this way, it doesn’t seem right at all. I do not want to take marks off for being late; instead, I will have to come up with a different method of reward or punishment for late homework that doesn’t affect the overall mark of the student. I know that there will always be students who prefer to take a zero than put the effort in to complete work, but I don’t like the way the math showed me the error of my belief.

On the other hand, I do NOT believe that a student caught cheating or plagiarizing should not have that reflected in the grade. I would like to see more research on how plagiarism should be addressed if not by making students redo “their” work.

As I mentioned previously, this is a controversial subject. I’m not sure I am fully equipped to make any life-lasting beliefs at the moment, but I do know that I can be wrong and I shouldn’t be offended to be wrong.

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