Assessment and its role in learning
Assessment is an integral part of teaching and learning. It plays a key role in students’ learning. It helps teachers identify the underlying difficulties of students and make decisions for further improvement. It also provides teachers an opportunity to think on their way of teaching. This piece of writing includes the broader concept of assessment, its certain types and its role in students’ and teachers’ learning.
The word assessment is derived from a Latin word ‘assidere’ which means to ‘sit with’ or ‘sit beside’. In the field of education assessment has the same meaning as, to sit with the child to assist him or her in the process of learning. It is considered to be a continuous course of action where a teacher frequently checks the learning of a child. Therefore, in broader terms it has been defined as an ongoing process of collecting, synthesizing and interpreting information in order to make better decisions (Aggrawal, 1999). Though this statement seems to be simple and easy, but when it comes to actual classroom scenario it becomes quite challenging for the teachers. Because it involves a number of interconnected steps which range from decisions regarding diagnosing the difficulties of a child to planning for improvement in that specific identified area and implementing that plan in the process of teaching and learning.
In this connection when we look at the ways of diagnosis or assessing the performance of a child we can come up with a number of techniques that can be used for this purpose. The most frequently used ways of classrooms assessments are ‘formative’ and ‘summative’. The former is ongoing and occurs during the process of teaching and learning to check students’ performance, while the latter is periodical and it happens at the end of a semester or academic year. These both have their own importance in order to bring change in learning of the students. For example, formative assessment helps the teacher to check the understanding of learners during the lesson taught or the whole academic session. It assists the teacher to find out the immediate needs of the learners and provide facilitation accordingly. The main purpose of this type of assessment is to cater the misconceptions and enhance learning that could be used to solve problems from daily life. Therefore, this type of assessment is also called as ‘assessment for learning’. On the other hand, summative assessment occurs at the end of an academic year to judge the overall learning of the students hence, it is called ‘assessment of learning’.
These both types of assessment can be done by using various tools like, paper and pencil test, oral questioning techniques, observations during and after teaching and practical demonstrations of the acquired learning. Besides, these formal and informal discussions inside and outside the classroom can also be helpful for the teachers to assess students’ understanding about certain concepts.
The process of assessment not only benefits the students to improve their learning but also, helps the teacher in a number of ways. Firstly, it gives the teacher an opportunity to reflect on his or her own way of teaching. This reflective approach helps the teacher to modify his or her way of teaching. To meet the requirements of the learners the teacher can use some more comprehensive strategies which ultimately contribute to his or her professional development. Secondly, it compels the teachers to keep them abreast from new knowledge and research, so, that they can cope with the challenges in their classrooms. Lastly, it can add to their professional skills by providing them with the opportunity to share their best practices with the learning communities in the school contexts.
On the whole it can be said, that the process of assessment is an integral part of teaching and learning. It plays significant roles in the improvements of teaching and learning. It is helpful both for the teachers and the learners if used in a proper way.
Nasima Shah Qasim MA, M.ed, is a science teacher in a public school in Gilgit-Baltistan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org