Methods and Uses of Classroom Assessments Employed in Teaching Grades Three through Five in Five School Districts in the Mississippi Delta

By Burke, Garfield, Jr.; Wang, Ying | Education, Summer 2010 | Go to article overview

Methods and Uses of Classroom Assessments Employed in Teaching Grades Three through Five in Five School Districts in the Mississippi Delta


Burke, Garfield, Jr., Wang, Ying, Education


Introduction

Examined in this study were the kinds of classroom assessment techniques currently (2007-2008) used by mathematics and reading teachers in grades three through five in five school districts in the Mississippi Delta. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the data collected on current classroom assessment techniques including the frequency with which those techniques were used. Open-ended responses regarding teachers's perceptions of the effectiveness of professional development experiences were summarized. The kind of information reported in this study will be of value to elementary teachers, administrators, curriculum directors, and other professionals who are concerned with the use of formative and summative assessment techniques in teaching grades three through five in reading and mathematic classrooms.

According to McNamee and Chen (2005), in order to assess student strengths and weaknesses in daily classroom learning, teachers need to find ways to capture each student's development in relation to standards. This process, known as classroom assessment for learning is an on-going process of collecting information on students on a daily basis. It is a means to gain an understanding of what is going on in the classroom that will help teachers make an informed decision on what to teach and how to teach it. At the same time, students monitor their own progress and make decisions about their learning goals. Consequently it is believed that better teaching and learning outcomes can be achieved.

Teachers may choose their own methods of selecting and using classroom assessment techniques. They may be self-constructed, adopted, or adapted from other sources. Farr (1992) suggested that in a reading class, "different audiences need different information.... The bottom line in selecting and using any assessment should be whether it helps students" (p. 28). Farr recommended authentic and performance-based assessment such as observation, portfolios, and integrated assessment to be used to support the daily instructional decisions that teachers need to make. Classroom assessment may also include talking with students, informal assessments, content area inventories, tests, projects, classroom work (Conley, 2005, p. 125). Of greatest importance is: "to engage in best practices requires a shared understanding of what different assessment practices are, what they look like, and what the critical components are in order to expect outcomes suggested by theory or empirical research" (Frey & Schmitt, 2007, p. 414).

Accurate assessment of student academic abilities is a key factor in raising student achievement. Teachers' training and experiences may positively correlate with the accuracy of assessment. Gearhart, et al. (2006) conducted a longitudinal study on three science teachers who participated in an academy program that was designed to develop teachers' general assessment expertise. Using a case study through a series of interviews and portfolios as documentation, the authors found the teachers grew in assessment planning, implementation, and evaluation. Over a three year program, "the teachers gradually recognized that strengthening their interpretation of student work required integrating new assessment concepts such as developmental appropriateness, as well as improving related components of assessment ..." (p. 259).

In sum, good reading and mathematics teachers are those who systematically evaluate student learning and use learning outcomes to inform instruction. The information gathered has a two-fold purpose: to identify students' strengths and weaknesses, and to inform teachers on curriculum planning and instruction. While teachers are necessarily aware of standardized tests in terms of terminology and interpretation, teachers are more driven to practically apply performance-based assessments daily in classroom settings. Strategies vary based on the teacher's familiarity and knowledge of assessments. …

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