Classroom teachers can learn much about how students learn and how they respond to particular teaching approaches through close observation of students in the process of learning, through the collection of frequent feedback on students’ learning, and through the design and use of modest classroom experiments. Classroom assessment can help individual instructors obtain useful feedback on what, how much, and how well their students are learning. Faculty can then use this information to refocus their teaching to help students make their learning more efficient and more effective.
Characteristics of Classroom Assessment: Classroom assessment is an approach designed to help teachers find out what students are learning in the classroom and how well they are learning it. This approach is:
- Learner-Centered: Classroom assessment focuses the attention of teachers and students on observing and improving learning, rather than on observing and improving teaching.
- Teacher-Directed: No one can provide teachers with rules that will tell them what to do from moment to moment in the dynamic learning environment of a college classroom. Classroom assessment respects the autonomy, academic freedom, and professional judgment of college faculty.
- Mutually Beneficial: Because it is focused on learning, classroom assessment requires the active participation of students. By cooperating in assessment, students reinforce their grasp of the course content and strengthen their own evaluation skills.
- Formative: Classroom assessment is a formative rather than a summative approach to assessment. Its purpose is to improve the quality of student learning, not to provide evidence for evaluating or grading students. Its aim is to provide faculty with information on what, how much, and how well students are learning, in order to help them better prepare to succeed – both on the subsequent graded evaluations and in the world beyond the classroom.
- Context-Specific: To be most useful, classroom assessments have to respond to the particular needs and characteristics of the teachers, students, and disciplines to which they are applied. Each class has its own particular dynamic, its own collective personality, its own “chemistry.” This is true even for different sections of the same course.
- Ongoing: Classroom assessment is an ongoing process, perhaps best thought of as the creation and maintenance of a classroom “feedback look.” By employing a number of simple classroom assessment techniques that are quick and easy to use, teachers get feedback from students on their learning.
- Rooted in Good Teaching Practice: Most college teachers already collect some feedback on their students’ learning and use that feedback to inform their teaching. Classroom assessment is an attempt to build on existing good practice by making it more systematic, more flexible, and more effective.