Moving to a new community recently, one of the decisions my wife and I was faced with was to decide where we wanted to set up housekeeping. Having elementary schoolage children, it was evident that schools played a factor in our decision. We received information on the many school districts in and around the metropolitan area. Listed in promotional materials were individual schools and school districts, along with average standardized test scores achieved by their students. The realtors we visited with expressed their opinions about what school districts were the "best" based on the reported test scores.
It occurred to me as an educator what impact the process of student evaluation has beyond the classroom; specifically on the surrounding community: property values, prestige, and neighborhood development; as if there was not enough pressure on students and teachers already!
Pressure placed upon student performance on one of the many standardized proficiency exams (ACT, SAT, AIM, etc.) is immense. Not only is the student's educational future determined largely on their performance, but the reputation of the school and community. Students are prone to anxiety (Davis, 1993; McCormick, 1994) when it comes to evaluation.
How about tests and evaluation in general? Does evaluation serve a useful purpose in the classroom? When it is used as leverage to correct student behavior or as punishment, then the process is Viewed with dismay and something to be avoided. If it is such a stressful activity, then of what value is it?
Role of Evaluation
The purpose of a test should be to assess a student's performance against learning criteria, not to provide the instructor with the basis for a grade (Wong, 1998). Tests should be geared toward your learning objectives. According to Davis (1993), testing serves four functions: first, tests assist the instructor to determine whether students actually learned what we expected them to learn; second tests can be used to motivate and help students direct their academic efforts. If a student expects a test to focus on facts, then they may memorize details; should a test require problem solving, then students will work towards understanding and application.
Third, tests can help the instructor determine how successful he/she was in delivering the material; if students do poorly on an exam, do I fault them for not really trying, or is it possible I did a poor job of conveying the information? Did the test actually measure what I intended to measure? Finally, tests can be indicators to students of what topics or competencies they have yet to master and need to concentrate on (Davis, 1993).
Process of Evaluation
Evaluation can be visually illustrated as a cyclic process (see figure one). Educational objectives are recognized as a change in student behavior; what the student knows (cognitive), feels (affective), or can do (psychomotor) post instruction, compared to pre- instruction. According to McCormick (1994), these changes are the "product". The process by which the change occurs is known as the ways and means.
Methods of Evaluation
Incorporate the evaluation process into several different activities. It does not always have to be a pencil and paper test. Provide a variety of activities and methods to evaluate student growth, strengths, weaknesses, and development.
Evaluation should serve to motivate students, not discourage them. Allow students to conduct a self-assessment of their skills along with your assessment so they can compare. This can be easily done with projects constructed or assembled in the shop, lab, or greenhouse. Chances are, the student will be more critical of their own work than you will. They will begin to understand your criteria for accomplishing the task.
Different class sections of the same course may not learn at the same pace. Be prepared to offer different evaluation assignments. …