Classroom Assessment: Enhancing the Quality of Teacher Decision Making

Classroom Assessment: Enhancing the Quality of Teacher Decision Making

Classroom Assessment: Enhancing the Quality of Teacher Decision Making

Classroom Assessment: Enhancing the Quality of Teacher Decision Making


This book is based on the belief that decision making is perhaps the most critical of all teaching skills and that good assessments lie at the core of good decision making. To become better teachers then, teachers must learn to make informed decisions about both individual students (learning decisions) and about groups of students (teaching decisions). This book gives equal status to both types of decisions and shows how assessment is integral to both. The organization of the book is sequential, mirroring the way in which information should be used to make decisions. It begins with a conceptual framework linking information to decision making, then moves to the design of assessment instruments and the collection of assessment information, then to the interpretation of assessment information and, finally, to reporting the results of both the assessment and the decision-making process. There is an emphasis throughout on linking why teachers assess with what and how they assess. Other key features include: Practical Framework-The book's framework corresponds to the framework that teachers use to grade their students: conduct (classroom behavior), effort (student motivation), and achievement (student learning). Unique Chapters-There are separate chapters on interpreting assessment information prior to decision making and on reporting assessment information to parents, teachers, and administrators. Flexibility-Because of its modest length and price, and its practical focus on the links between assessment and everyday teacher decision making, this text can be used either in full-length assessment courses for teachers or to teach the assessment units in educational psychology or integrated methods courses.


“What makes a good teacher?” This question has been debated at least since formal schooling began, if not long before. It is a difficult question to answer because, as Rabinowitz and Travers (1953) pointed out almost a half-century ago, the good teacher “does not exist pure and serene, available for scientific scrutiny, but is instead a fiction of the minds of men” (p. 586). Some have argued that good teachers possess certain traits, qualities, or characteristics. These teachers are understanding, friendly, responsible, enthusiastic, imaginative, and emotionally stable (Ryans, I960). Others have suggested that good teachers interact with their students in certain ways and use particular teaching practices. They give clear directions, ask higher order questions, give feedback to students, and circulate among students as they work at their desks, stopping to provide assistance as needed (Brophy & Good, 1986). Still others have argued that good teachers facilitate learning on the part of their students. Not only do their students learn, but they also are able to demonstrate their learning on standardized tests (Medley, 1982). What each of us means when we use the phrase good teacher, then, depends primarily on what we value in or about teachers.

Since the 1970s, there has been a group of educators and researchers who have argued that the key to being a good teacher lies in the decisions that teachers make:

Any teaching act is the result of a decision, whether conscious or unconscious, that the teacher makes after the complex cognitive processing of available information. This reasoning leads to the hypothesis that the basic teaching skill is decision making. (Shavelson, 1973, p. 18); (emphasis added)

In addition to emphasizing the importance of decision making, Shavelson made a critically important point. Namely, teachers make their decisions “after the complex cognitive processing of available information. ” Thus, there is an essential link between available information and decision making. Using the terminology of educational researchers, information is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for good decision . . .

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