Measuring assessment

Last week I was having a conversation with a student in my class about measurement or rather different forms of measurement. He commented that measurement had infinite possibilities, because everyone could come up with ‘gazillions’ of ways to measure the same thing.

Recently this comment has had me thinking about assessment for learning.

What is the point of assessment?

I think assessment is intended to be signposting along a learning pathway whose first and foremost function is to support the learner.

I have heard the sentiment among some teachers that “we’re doing … tests because they are fast to administer and easy to mark.” Is this what we really believe is best for the learners of today? Do we want assessment that measures where one is placed within a finite learning continuum in a specified area – a standardised or benchmark system? Yes we need to know where students are ‘at’ but how beneficial is the boxed system? Surely we have all see the limitations. I have seen students with learning difficulties struggle and become disillusioned with learning after gaining such labels. Is is worth it or is there another way?

The Role of Triangulation

Triangulation of information from various formal and informal assessment avenues sheds light on a larger component of a student’s learning. This Assessment Position Paper unpacks this in detail.

I appreciate the balance of both informal and formal assessment in this context but realistically though – how many teachers actually collect at least 4 forms of assessment to make a overall teacher judgement? The lack of student direction in this context also concerns me.


Can we take this a step further? Let’s pop back to the infinite possibilities of measurement idea. In measuring one’s height we deal directly with metric or imperial units, but we have other options. We can state one’s height proportionally compared to one’s height at a previous time, compared to another person’s height or in the number of one’s hand widths.

I wonder if assessment in education can become that divergent. Suppose that students created their learning pathways and are supported to create and reflect on the signposts along the way. Surely that is what student direction actually is, not just making up their own inquiry question. We can provide opportunities for students to collect their own evidence of learning, facilitate feedback mostly in the form of questioning so students can source their own conclusions, reflect and create their own next steps.

I would be interested to find out what this looks like in other teachers’ learning contexts.


5 thoughts on “Measuring assessment

  1. Well done on the start to your edublog. I don’t make postings as often as I would like but it is a good opportunity for reflection. I look forward to reading some more from you. Keep up the good work.

  2. Assessment is sometimes seen as a “roll your eyes” topic, however I see assessment as just one facet of good learning. Effective learners and skilled teachers use assessment as part of what they do. If assessment is used as a tool for learning discussions with students and other teachers, then it becomes a natural part of good practice. What seems to slow things down, irritate teachers and students and confuse a number of people, is the “new” assessments which we are spending hours doing, but not analysing or using the information they give us to the max. Teachers can grapple with doing the “right” assessments without standing back and seeing them for what they are – a tool to help direct learners and guide teachers!

  3. Currently having ERO in the school has given the impetus to reflect on meaningful assessment practises. It has been a year of culling and focusing on tools that give the most valid and usable data.

    For me, in addition to a few of the standardised tests, the most valuable assessments in recent years have been the 1:1 learning conversations and observations. From there the teacher can ask, how does this match with what I know from formal testing?

    Encouraging student voice has been another huge plus for judging next steps…

    If we as educators can move towards facilitating students being able to identify their next learning steps and how to get there, I will as Eric Fraggenheim suggests, enjoy putting my feet up with a good coffee and newspaper(!) while the students take care of their own learning…wake me at 3 guys!!!

    Don’t think ERo will buy it somehow!!!

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