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Educators remind us that what counts in a classroom is not what the teacher teaches; its what
the learner learns.
-Alfie Kohn

I believe what Alfie Kohn is saying in this quote is extremely important when thinking

about assessment. As a teacher, you are there for your students to learn and that is the most vital

condition in the classroom. If the students are not learning then everything else does not matter.

Assessment is one of the most important tools a teacher uses in their classroom as it is a way for

the both teacher and students to know if the students have learned the material. The primary

reason for assessment is to document student achievement; there needs to be a benefit for the

students education, not just for data collection, and it should not be used as an incentive. There

are many different forms of assessment that can be used in the classroom. They can be used in

different ways, be that diagnostic, formative, summative and even standardized tests can be used

for learning, as learning, or of learning. All have a place within the classroom and serve the

purpose of helping to ensure the student learns and continues to learn. The key to assessment is

that the student learns and keeps learning.

It is important that we, as teachers, are using assessment as a way to see what the students

learned and allow for a variety of different forms of assessment for students to demonstrate their

learning. By allowing for different forms of evidence, Anne Davis suggests that more students

will be able to demonstrate what they learned and ultimately be more successful as learners in

our classroom.1 Assessments should be there to help students grow, rather than to hinder their

learning. This is why I believe that there needs to be an increase in the use of formative

assessment with descriptive feedback and we need to reduce the amount of summative

assessments. Having more formative assessments and providing descriptive feedback allows for

1 Anne Davis, Making Classroom Assessment Work (Courtenay BC: Connent2learning), 26.
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students to be aware of the areas they might need to improve on and the areas where they are

doing really well in.2 Though it might be more work as a teacher to constantly be giving oral or

written descriptive feedback, it is beneficial for the students to have that descriptive feedback.

Formative assessments also eliminate the pressure that comes with summative assessments

because students are able to use the opportunity to grow with their learning rather than worrying

about what grade they will receive on their work at the end of the unit. To provide my students

with formative assessments, I will use a variety of exit slips, conferencing (formal and informal),

and portfolios. Exit slips have been important in my practicum as they allowed me to learn where

my students were with the material and what I might need to spend more time on. They also

helped students to learn what material they were struggling with and to be able to communicate

that. Portfolios allow for students to collect all their work and demonstrate their growth through

the unit and the year. I believe that it is important for assessment to provide learning

opportunities and to demonstrate the areas that students are successful in as well as the areas that

require more work through descriptive feedback.

That is not to say that summative assessment and standardized testing do not have a place in the

classroom: Standardized testing can be very important and relevant if used properly.

Standardized tests can allow teachers to see if students are ready to move forward with new

outcomes or if they need more work on their current outcomes, not to see if they belong in a

specialized class.3 The issue with standardized testing is that they do not allow for students to

demonstrate their understanding in any way but through a typical test format. Some students

2 Paul Black and Dylan William, Assessment and Classroom Learning Assessment in Education:
Principles, Policy & Practice 5:1 (1998), 17.

3 Robert L. Linn, A Century of Standardized Testing: Controversies and Pendulum Swings Educational
Assessment 7:1 (February 2001), 35.
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might not be able to demonstrate their understanding and what they have learned through that

style. Though standardized tests do hold value, they should not be the focus of assessment.

Summative assessments also have a certain place in the classroom and an appropriate

time for their use. Summative assessments need to come after already doing formative

assessments and students have learned the outcome; not before as this can hinder students and

discourage them from learning.4 When providing a grade for a summative assessment, there

should be no surprises for the student because they have been getting descriptive feedback

throughout the learning process that explained in detail where they were with learning the

outcomes. Summative assessments do not leave a lot of space for students to grow, they do not

tell students where they are succeeding, or where they might need to focus more on; summative

assessments give students a letter or a number rather than giving them suggestions on areas to

improve.5 I also believe that it is important to co-construct criteria that you will be using for a

summative assessment with students and to go over this with them so they are aware of where

their grade is coming from and the different components that make up that summative

assessment.6 Doing so provides students with more opportunities to be successful with their

learning.

Another important piece of assessment in my opinion is providing students with opportunities for

self-assessment. Providing students with this opportunity for assessment allows for the student to

4 Alfie Kohn, The Case Against Grades Educational Leadership 69:3 (November 2011), 28.

5 Kohn, The Case Against Grades, 32.

6 Anne Davis and Sandra Herbst, Co-Constructing Success Criteria Education Canada (June 2013), 19.
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take control of their own learning.7 This allows for students to develop autonomy and allow them

room to develop as learners. As a teacher it can be really helpful to know where your students

think they are in their learning and what they think that they need to improve on; this allows you

to be able to shape your teaching around the students to provide them with the best learning

opportunities. Self-assessment can be used for both formatively and summatively as it allows for

students to reflect on their learning and the work that they have produced in a constructive way.

Alfie Kohn says, Educators remind us that what counts in a classroom is not what the teacher

teaches; its what the learner learns, and this is essential to my philosophy. Assessment should

focus on what the student has learned and not what the teacher has taught. Assessment should be

used as a way for students to grow and the best way to provide that is through formative

assessments and descriptive feedback. Summative assessment and standardized testing should

be used after a student has learned something, not while they are still learning because it could

discourage them from continuing with their learning. Allowing students the opportunity to

contribute to their assessment through self-assessments and co-constructing criteria can really

help students with their understanding of the assignment, the content, and where they feel like

they are in terms of their learning. It does not matter how much a teacher teaches, the most

important thing is for students to learn.

7 Keith A. Oldfield, and J. Mark K. Macalpine. "Peer and self-assessment at tertiary level--an experiential
report." Assessment & Evaluation In Higher Education 20:1 (April 1995), 125.
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References

Black, Paul and William, Dylan. Assessment and Classroom Learning Assessment in
Education: Principles, Policy & Practice 5:1 (1998), 7-74.

Davis, Anne. Making Classroom Assessment Work. Courtenay BC: Connent2learning, 2011.

Davis, Anne and Herbst, Sandra. Co-Constructing Success Criteria Education Canada (June
2013), 16-19.

Kohn, Alfie. The Case Against Grades Educational Leadership 69:3 (November 2011), 28-33.

Linn, Robert L. A Century of Standardized Testing: Controversies and Pendulum Swings


Educational Assessment 7:1 (February 2001), 29-38.

Oldfield, Keith A., and J. Mark K. Macalpine. "Peer and self-assessment at tertiary level--an
experiential report." Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 20:1 (April 1995): 125.