Why is assessment in elementary school necessary? Two simple reasons shed light on its need:
- Teachers need data. To teach effectively, teachers need to know if their teaching methods are working and how well their students are learning. By assessing the progress of individual students as well as the class as a whole, a teacher can judge if his or her presentation of the subject matter has been successful.
- Students need data. Students — especially at the elementary level — need to have a concrete, measurable way to follow their own progress. Without the yardstick of assessment, whether it is a letter grade, stars on a chart or simply the opinion of their teacher, students have no way of knowing if they are succeeding or failing. They also have no way to set achievable goals or make plans to successfully improve their performance.
Three tips for quality assessment in elementary school
- Use multiple methods of assessment. The traditional method of using test scores alone not only fails to measure a child’s learning experience, it also often doesn’t give any information about why a child has failed. For that reason, teachers must employ a variety of assessment techniques. Test scores still provide valuable data, but they should be combined with the teacher’s own observations, projects and even careful attention to classroom discussions. All of these methods will not only allow a teacher to assess a child’s progress, but will also offer clues to when and how a learning failure may have taken place, making it easier to successfully adjust a lesson plan.
- Implement alternative methods of assessment. Once a teacher has decided to use multiple methods of assessment, he or she must determine what methods are available. In addition to traditional tools like reports, projects, peer reviews and presentations, a teacher may want to consider alternative methods such as a portfolio which may yield more information about the students and their learning. In a math class, for example, a portfolio could include practice sheets, sketches, and even 3-D representations of geometric concepts. Observing what a student chooses to include in a portfolio can give a teacher valuable information about their learning style.
- Involve the students in the assessment process. Research suggests classroom learning may be directly proportional to student involvement. This involvement can include the assessment process. Teachers can ask their students for an honest evaluation of their own progress, for example. They can also present students with a project rubric and have the students measure their success — or failure — against the rubric’s major points.
An indispensable tool
Accurate assessments are necessary at every level of learning. They provide the necessary raw data that every teacher needs. Quality assessment in elementary school makes the most of the process, involving both student and teacher, evaluating learning and learning styles, and pin-pointing problem areas for the teacher and the individual students, as well.