EBS 316: Topic 5: Assessing Student Learning



Unit Outline

Session 1: Concept of Assessment

Session 2: Principles and Purposes of Assessment

Session 3: Qualities of a Good Test

Session 4: Conduct Various Form of Test


Hello Student! Welcome to another yet interesting unit that enlighten the teacher trainee to understand the assessment. Assessment is an integral part of instruction, as it determines whether or not the goals of education are being met. A teacher will be able to teach well if he has understanding of how to administer and conduct assessment. Student will be able to learn best if they have knowledge about their performance and scores after a test or any other form of assessment. Assessment affects decisions about grades, placement, advancement, instructional needs, curriculum, and, in some cases, funding. Assessment inspires us to ask these hard questions: “Are we teaching what we think we are teaching?” “Are students learning what they are supposed to be learning?” “Is there a way to teach the subject better, thereby promoting better learning?


Unit Objectives

By the end of this unit, you should be able to:

Define assessment

Explain the purposes of assessment

Explain at least four reasons why we assess

Differentiate between the types of assessment

List five ways of assessing learning

Explain factors that inhibit assessment

Explain at least four forms of test




Welcome to your first session of unit 5. I hope you have prepared very well in order to enjoy this lesson. You have learnt something about lesson preparation and presentation and how important it is in teaching. Gird up and be ready for this lesson.



By the end of this session, you should be able to:

  1. Explain the term assessment
  2. Describe the purposes of assessment
  3. State reasons teachers need to assess
  4. Explain the types of assessment

Assessment is the systemic, methodical collection, review, and use of information about educational programs undertaken for the purpose of improving student learning and development. — (Palomba & Banta, 1999). Assessment is the process of gathering and interpreting evidence to make judgements about student learning. Assessment is used by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are at in their learning, where they need to go, and how best to get there. Assessment is at the heart of student learning (Brown and Knight, 1994). Assessment is a systematic process of gathering, interpreting, and acting upon data related to student learning and experience for the purpose of developing a deep understanding of what students know, understand, and can do with their knowledge as a result of their educational experience; the process culminates when assessment results are used to improve subsequent learning. (Huba and Freed, 2000.) Assessment in education is the process of gathering, interpreting, recording, and using information about pupils’ responses to an educational task. (Harlen, Gipps, Broadfoot, Nuttal,1992)



  • Why do we assess?

To find out what students are learning. An important reason to assess student learning is to find out how well students are learning what we say we are teaching—to what degree are they accomplishing the learning outcomes we hold for them. Information from assessments can tell instructors, programs, and institutions if they need to make changes in what they teach or how they teach it.

To talk about what is important to learn. The process of developing assessment plans, assessment tasks, and scoring rubrics also provides an opportunity for discussion among faculty, staff, and students about what is important to learn. When there is so much that could be highlighted, how do instructors and programs decide what is worthy of their limited time with students? How do students become aware of the skills they are developing across their experiences at an institution? Increased awareness of the intended learning outcomes can help faculty, staff, and students be more intentional and systematic in their teaching and learning—which has a positive impact on student learning.

To improve, improve, improve. Ongoing assessment of student learning allows us to engage in continuous quality improvement of our programs. Even when our evidence shows that students are doing well and achieving the desired learning outcomes, we can always do better. We are always seeking to foster student success and support continued learning and development—assessment of student learning gives us useful information helps us continue to improve in our efforts.

To demonstrate accountability. We assess student learning because we are often required to provide evidence that students are gaining value from the experiences we provide. Parents, governing boards, lawmakers and students themselves increasingly want to know what students learn from our programs. Accreditation bodies also require that we provide evidence about what we want students to learn, that we gather evidence to help us understand our students’ learning, and that we use the information we gather to improve our programs.

Assessments are the cornerstone of learning. Assessments give learners and instructors signposts and directions to learn better, and are needed for effective and efficient learning.

Define standards. By requiring a certification or entrance exam or other assessment criteria, we define standards for what people need to learn and do, and if these standards are strong, they encourage good behaviour.

The best way to measure knowledge, skills and attitudes. Assessments are the best way of quantifying what goes on inside our heads. As the scientist Lord Kelvin famously said: “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it”.

Give objective data. By using results from surveys and other assessments, we can avoid subjective decisions, and gather objective information to make sound data-driven decisions, which use resources wisely.

  • Types of assessment

Assessment can be both a diagnostic, formative and summative process. A diagnostic assessment is a form of pre-assessment where teachers can evaluate students’ strengths, weaknesses, knowledge and skills before their instruction. Formative assessment is used to provide feedback to students and teachers to promote further learning. Summative assessment contributes to the judgement of student learning for reporting and certification purposes.


Diagnostic assessment 

Diagnostic assessment is a teacher getting to know their student’s strengths, weaknesses and the skills and knowledge they possess before taking the instruction. Diagnostic assessment is a form of pre-assessment that allows a teacher to determine students’ individual strengths, weaknesses, knowledge, and skills prior to instruction. It is primarily used to diagnose student difficulties and to guide lesson and curriculum planning. This assessment is used to collect data on what students already know about the topic. Diagnostic assessments are sets of written questions (multiple choice or short answer) that assess a learner’s current knowledge base or current views on a topic/issue to be studied in the course. The goal is to get a snapshot of where students currently stand – intellectually or emotionally – allowing the instructor to make sound instructional choices as to how to teach the new course content and what teaching approach to use.

Diagnostic assessment offers indicative, problem-identification and problem-solving opportunities to gather information about many issues relevant to the teaching and learning process. Examples of such issues include: individual and collective student growth; effectiveness of teaching practices and programs; projections of whether a student or class is on track to achieve competency benchmarks; and the unique instructional needs of diverse students.  The main purpose is to detect remedial and enhancement opportunities to build on areas of strength and to scaffold or develop areas of weakness.

Formative assessment

A process used by teachers and students during instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning to help students improve their achievement of intended instructional outcomes. It is used at the beginning of an instructional period and during the process of instruction as teachers check for student understanding. The information gained guides teachers’ decisions in how to enhance teaching and learning.


Formative assessment enables students to learn through the process of feedback and opportunities to practice and improve. As students reflect on and monitor their progress this process effectively becomes assessment as learning and contributes to students planning future learning goals. Formative assessment is provided during learning, telling students how well they are doing and what might need improving. In formative assessment, the results are used for feedback during learning.  Students and teachers both need to know how learning is proceeding.  Formative feedback may operate to both improve the learning of individual students and to improve the teaching itself. It has a strong, positive, and long-lasting effect on learning. This assessment improves learning.  It is a type of assessment provided during the teaching process. It is strongly linked to processes of evaluating own teaching. Formative assessment refers to assessment  specifically  intended  to improve and accelerate learning. Feedback provides insight to facilitators on how to improve their teaching to ensure more effective learning environments and to enable  them  to  recognize  excellence  as  well  as  areas  where  students  are struggling.   Feedback   to   students   should   include   suggestions   for   remedial activities (if necessary), provide personal insight into the students’ own progress and  performance,  strengths  and  weaknesses,  and  enable  both  student  and facilitator to target areas that may need additional work


Key elements of formative assessment (Black & Wiliam, 1998)


  1. The identification by teachers & learners of learning goals, intentions or outcomes and criteria for achieving these.
  2. Rich conversations between teachers & students that continually build and go deeper.
  3. The provision of effective, timely feedback to enable students to advance their learning.
  4. The active involvement of students in their own learning.
  5. Teachers responding to identified learning needs and strengths by modifying their teaching approach(es).


Summative assessment

Summative assessment measures students’  learning  at  the  completion  of  an instructional unit, the end of a course, or after some defined period. A tool used after instruction to measure student achievement which provides evidence of student competence or program effectiveness. It is used towards and at the end of the instruction period. Teachers document the culmination of students’ learning achievements through tasks that invite students to demonstrate their mastery and knowledge of the course content. Summative assessment data provides teachers with information about how effective teaching strategies have been, time needed for instruction and how to improve teaching for future students. After learning, informing how well students have learned what they were supposed to learn. In summative assessment, the results are used to grade students at the end of a course or to accredit at the end of a programme. Summative assessment is carried out after a teaching episode has concluded. That result, the grade, is final. It has a weak, fleeting effect on learning. The  overall  intent  of  summative  assessment  is  to  evaluate learning at  the  end  of  an  instructional  unit  by  comparing  it  against  a  pre-determined,  appropriate  standard  or  benchmark.  Thus, summative assessments remain crucial for certification and establishing reasonable levels of competency.

Other types of assessment


Norm-referenced assessment

This compares a student’s performance against an average norm. This could be the average national norm for the subject History, for example. Other example is when the teacher compares the average grade of his or her students against the average grade of the entire school.


Criterion-referenced assessment

It measures student’s performances against a fixed set of predetermined criteria or learning standards. It checks what students are expected to know and be able to do at a specific stage of their education. Criterion-referenced tests are used to evaluate a specific body of knowledge or skill set, it is a test to evaluate the curriculum taught in a course.


Self-Assessment Questions

Exercise 5.1

  1. Define the term assessment.
  2. Describe the three main purposes of assessment.
  3. State any four reasons teachers need to assess.
  4. Explain the following types of assessment.
  5. Diagnostic
  6. Formative

iii. Summative




Welcome to the second session of unit 5. We have studied the definitions of assessment and the types of assessment. We will delve into principles governing assessment.



By the end of this session, you should be able to:

  1. Explain at least three principles of assessment
  2. Describe the three main purposes of assessment


2.1 Principles of assessment


Principle 1 – Assessment should be valid Validity ensures that assessment tasks and associated criteria effectively measure student attainment of the intended learning outcomes at the appropriate level.

Principle 2 – Assessment should be reliable and consistent There is a need for assessment to be reliable and this requires clear and consistent processes for the setting, marking, grading and moderation of assignments..

Principle 3 – Information about assessment should be explicit, accessible and transparent. Clear, accurate, consistent and timely information on assessment tasks and procedures should be made available to students, staff and other external assessors or examiners. Principle 4 – Assessment should be inclusive and equitable As far as is possible without compromising academic standards, inclusive and equitable assessment should ensure that tasks and procedures do not disadvantage any group or individual.

Principle 5 – Assessment should be an integral part of programme design and should relate directly to the programme aims and learning outcomes. Assessment tasks should primarily reflect the nature of the discipline or subject but should also ensure that students have the opportunity to develop a range of generic skills and capabilities.

Principle 6 – The amount of assessed work should be manageable. The scheduling of assignments and the amount of assessed work required should provide a reliable and valid profile of achievement without overloading staff or students.

Principle 7 – Formative and summative assessment should be included in each programme Formative and summative assessment should be incorporated into programmes to ensure that the purposes of assessment are adequately addressed. Many programmes may also wish to include diagnostic assessment.

Principle 8 – Timely feedback that promotes learning and facilitates improvement should be an integral part of the assessment process. Students are entitled to feedback on submitted formative assessment tasks, and on summative tasks, where appropriate. The nature, extent and timing of feedback for each assessment task should be made clear to students in advance.


2.2 Purposes of assessment

There are three main purposes of assessment. These are:

Assessment for learning (formative)

Definition: It occurs when teachers use inferences about student progress to inform their teaching. It is an ongoing process that monitors student learning in order to help teachers improve their teaching and students to improve their learning. It continuously informs instruction and helps students manage their own learning. The assessment information is used to determine the next teaching steps and learning steps to continuously improve the teaching-learning process.

Purpose: Educational, diagnostic; helping students to learn and improve; helping students to achieve the learning goals.

It’s about: Feedback, diagnosis, motivation, guidance, learning support (doesn’t need a mark)

When: Whenever useful; during teaching process.

Role teacher: Diagnose problems and learning needs; provide feedback; clarify intended outcomes and standards;  advice how to improve; enhance motivation.

It needs: Tools to diagnose; clear expectation what has to be learned and standards; interaction; differentiated teaching strategies fitting the needs

Examples: Concept maps, progress/monitoring reports, checklists/surveys, interviews, observations, anecdotal records, research proposal (for feedback), quizzes, homework, assignments, worksheets, performance tasks, essays, observations, questioning strategies, projects, graphic organizers, self-assessments/ peer assessment, collaborative activities, portfolios (collection of student work)

Assessment as learning (formative)

Definition: It occurs when students reflect on and monitor their progress to inform their future learning goals. It is an ongoing process that helps students to self-reflect, monitor their own learning, and adjust their learning strategies in order to achieve their goals and become more self-directed, metacognitive, independent, successful learners.

Purpose: Learning to learn, learning students to monitor their own learning process, to learn metacognitive skills.

It’s about: Self and peer assessment, reflection, students setting own goals, stimulating responsibly for learning

When: During teaching process

Role teacher: Model and teach skills for self assessment; provide guidance for monitoring learning processes and to deal with uncertainty; help them setting goals and develop criteria for good practice.

It needs: Models of good practice and quality work; interaction; safe learning environment and support system.

Examples: Journals, self-assessment, peer-assessment, personal learning log


Assessment of learning (summative)

Definition: It occurs when teachers use evidence of student learning to make judgements on student achievement against goals and standards. It measures what and how well the students have learned at the end of instruction. It certifies learning and measures students’ overall achievement/proficiency. It determines whether learning goals and outcomes have been achieved.

Purpose: To measure and show competency, accountability towards society, keep up standards in academic world, show grade-level, degrees

It’s about: Selection, grading, certification, progression, professional recognition, maintaining standards

When: At the end of a task, unit, program. Interim and final exams. Grades mark transitions in a course and bring closure to it.

Role teacher: Use evidence of student learning to make judgments on student achievement against goals and standards; give grades (accurate, fair, based on valid evidence; important because of the impact)

It needs: Justification for a particular assessment at a particular moment; justification for what you assess, how and how you decide about the grades

Examples: final performance tasks, final papers/written outputs, final oral presentations, standardized tests, end of unit tests or projects, recitals, long exams, periodical tests, final exams

Self-Assessment Questions

Exercise 5.2

  1. Discuss any three principles of assessment.
  2. Describe the three main purposes of assessment.





Hi there! I hope you are having a nice time learning this unit. This is session 3 of unit 5 where the qualities of a good test are analyzed. When a test lack one of these qualities then it becomes questionable as what the test is actually prepared for.



By the end of this session, you should be able to:

  1. Describe at least two qualities of a test



The first important characteristic of a good test is validity. The test must really measure what it has been designed to measure. Validity is often assessed by exploring how the test scores correspond to some criteria, that is same behaviour, personal accomplishment or characteristic that reflects the attribute that the test designed to gauge. Assessing the validity of any test requires careful selection of appropriate criterion measure and that reasonable people may disagree as to which criterion measure is best. This is equally true of intelligence test. Reasonable people may disagree as to whether the best criterion measure of intelligence in school grades, teacher ratings or some other measures. If we are to check on the validity of a test, we must settle on one or more criterion measures of the attribute that the test is designed to test. Once the criterion measures have been identified people scores on the measures can be compared to their scores on the test and the degree of correspondence can be examined for what it tells us about the validity of the test. Only valid test can give useful information about people but the correction coefficients for validity are never as high as those for reliability.

Nature of Validity

  • Validity refers to the appropriateness of the test results but not to the instrument itself.
  • Validity does not exist on an all-or-none basis but it is a matter of degree.
  • Tests are not valid for all purposes. Validity is always specific to particular interpretation. For example, the results of a vocabulary test may be highly valid to test vocabulary but may not be that much valid to test composition ability of the student.
  • Validity is not of different types. It is a unitary concept. It is based on various types of evidence.


Factors that influence validity

  • Test items inappropriate for the outcomes being measured
  • Poorly constructed test items
  • Test too short
  • Improper arrangement of items
  • Identifiable patterns to answer
  • Unclear directions


Reliability is consistency, depend­ence or trust. So, in measurement reliability is the consistency with which a test yields the same result in measuring whatever it does measure. A good test should be highly reliable. This means that the test should give similar results even though different testers administrate it, different people score in different forms of the test are given and the same person takes that test at two or more different times. Reliability is usually checked by comparing different sets of scores. In actual practice, psychological tests are never perfectly reliable. One reason is that changes do occur in individuals over time; for example, a person who scores low in her group at an initial testing may develop new skills that rise her to a higher position in the group at the time of the second testing. If tests with low reliability are used, their scores should be interpreted with caution. To improve reliability, we should ensure that the test is administered and scored by a truly standard procedure.

Nature of Reliability

  • Reliability refers to consistency of the results obtained with an instrument but not the instrument itself
  • Reliability refers to a particular interpretation of test scores. For example, a test score which is reliable over a period of time may not be reliable from one test to another equivalent test. So that reliability cannot be treated as general characteristics.
  • Reliability is a statistical concept to determine reliability we administer a test to a group once or more than once. Then the consistency is determined in terms of shifts in the relative position of a person in the group or amount of variation expected in an individual’s score. Shifting of relative position of an individual is related by means of a coefficient of correlation called ‘Reliability Coefficient’ and the amount of variation is reported by ‘Standard error of measurement’. Both these processes are statistical.
  • Reliability is necessary but not a sufficient condition for validity. A test which is not reliable cannot be valid. But it is not that a test with high reliability will possess high validity. Because a highly consistent test may measure something other than that what we intend to measure.



By objectivity of a measuring instrument is meant for the degree to which equally competent users get the same results. This presupposes subjective factor. A test is objective when it makes for the elimination of the scorer’s personal opinion bias judgment. The recognition of the quality objectivity in a test has been largely responsible for the development of an arised and objective type tests. Objective-based tests measure or evaluate the entire human development in three domains that is cognitive, affective and psychomotor. As the name itself indicates they are based on particular objective of teaching and evaluating. They provide proper direction, and thus streamline the whole process of evaluation.



  • Independence
  • Free from bias
  • Present facts
  • It emphasizes facts



  • Time consuming for constructing
  • Client faking responses
  • Unsureness





In addition to reliability and validity good test needs norms. Norms are sets of score obtained by whom the test is intended. The scores obtained by these groups provide a basic for interpreting any individual score. To understand why norms are important, let us imagine a test that does not have any, suppose a person takes a newly developed intellectual aptitude test. Obviously, a score without any basis for comparison is not very useful.


Self-Assessment Questions

Exercise 5.3

  1. Describe any two basic qualities of a good test.





Hello dear learner! You are warmly welcomed to the fourth session of the fifth unit of assessing student learning. I hope you are very much poised to start learning something new about your teaching profession. We have already studied about the qualities of good test.



By the end of this session, you should be able to:

  1. Describe at least three forms of test


Forms of tests

Assessment is doubtlessly a very important part of studies and learning. Assessment is done in order to know what a student knows. This type of information is required for a number of purposes: for the grading of students, for individual attention required by any student, for creating merit and so on. Another advantage of assessing students and their learning is that it tells how to shape the learning methodologies. There are a number of forms of tests that can be taken in a classroom. The core reason behind taking these tests is that they give insight of each and every student of the classroom.


Multiple-choice tests: it is one of the most common forms of tests that are taken in any classroom. These tests are taken in order to assess the complex concepts as well as the simple understandings of the student. Multiple-choice tests are specially designed to determine the readiness of a student in answering a specific question. Since all the possible answers are given, it does not take much time calculating and devising a new answer.


Matching tests: Matching tests are another important form of tests that can be seen in any classroom. Matching tests are designed and taken in order to assess the student’s understanding of relation between events and dates, events and places, and so on.


True-False tests: True-False tests are specially designed to determine the decision of a student on a specific question. This is probably one of the best ways to judge the concepts of a student. Technical terminology is required in order to prepare True-False tests. Most of the true-false tests are timed so that students can take quick decisions on whatever concepts they have. Some true-false tests also include ‘remarks’ or ‘explanation’ column in the worksheet. This allows the student to clear out his/her reason why the answer to the specific question is true or false.


Short-answer tests: These tests include questions, answers of which can be given in two to three lines. These tests are designed to determine the brief but comprehensive answer to any specific question or concept.


Problem Tests: Problem tests are usually prepared in subjects like Mathematics and Sciences. These tests require several types of calculations on the basis of the conceptual framework and learning of the student. A very common concept followed in problem tests is: give student ten minutes to solve a problem which you can solve in two minutes.


Oral Exams: Oral exams are a great way to assess the conceptual framework and learning of a student. Written tests may not give a closer insight of the student’s conceptual framework and learning. But when a teacher hears to the concepts and ideas of student, it gives a clearer result.


Essay Tests: Essay tests, which are also known as assignments are designed in order to assess the student capabilities of interpreting objective, collecting material, sorting material, and finally preparing the conclusion of the assignment.


Performance tests: Performance tests are devised in order to assess the expertise of a student in a specific experiment. A specific time period is given to the student in order to conduct the experiment with maximum proficiency.


Self-Assessment Questions

Exercise 5.4

  1. As a teacher, what are some of the test that you conduct in the classroom



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