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09/08/2019

what are the competencies to develop to do a good job of evaluating students learning?

QUESTION
what are the competencies to develop to do a good job of evaluating students learning?

ANSWER
As a school principal and formerly the district’s program and student evaluation specialist, I’d agree with the previous poster that noted that one has to know one’s subject well. I’d go even further and note that not only does the teacher have to know the subject well; s/he must also know assessment and evaluation well. Generally speaking:

(1) First, you have to have very clear understanding of whatever it is that you expect students to know and/or to be able to do well (that is, what are the learning targets)? If the teacher doesn’t have a crystal clear understanding of what the learning expectations are for his/her students, there is little hope that the students will attain the learning targets.

(2) Second, you have to think about what evaluation methods match well to different learning targets. For example, are students expected to achieve basic knowledge targets, memorizing facts? If so, a selected response (e.g. multiple choice) measure would be a good match. On the other hand, if the target is, for example, that students be able to produce a product (like an essay or a vase turned on a potter’s wheel etc.) then obviously a multiple choice measure would be a poor method of evaluating students’ ability to produce the desired result! Depending on what outcomes you’re looking for, you might use a variety of methods to gather information for the purpose of evaluating students’ learning. You might construct tests; you might have students write essays; you might have students produce a product of some kind; you might conduct oral interviews with students; and/or you might observe students in the natural work setting, taking careful observation notes to indicate what they know and are able to do.

(3) In order for evaluation to be useful for students, they also need to have an active part in the process. Every step along the way, involve students in the evaluation process. Up front, tell them, and show them, what they will be expected to know and/or be able to do at the end of the (day, unit, semester, whatever unit of time). Share the targets in great detail. Have them help you to construct the assessments you use, and teach them how to score their own work. After scoring provisional (early) work, show students how to go back and understand not only what they got right and what they got wrong, but *why* they got something wrong (Did they misread a question? Did they narrow it down to two choices and just pick the wrong one? Did they have no idea and just flat out guessed?). Knowing why they didn’t yet hit a target gives them more control over what they already know and what steps they need to take to get to where they know they’re heading. And involve students in communicating the evaluative results with their parents. Telling their own stories also gives them more power and control over their own learning, and gives back some of the agency that relentless testing seems to take away.

An excellent resource on constructing assessment *for* learning (rather than assessment *of* learning) is Rick Stiggins’ et al’s book, “Classroom Assessment for Learning: Doing It Right and Using It Well,” available from the Assessment Training Institute (see link below).

If you know both your subject and your learning targets well; if you understand basic principles of assessment and measurement; and if you involve students in the process every step of the way; you will be well on your way to successful evaluation of students’ learning.